Today, in the first of a series to highlight interesting local projects, we hear from Mike Bauhof of KETC in St. Louis about their multi-platform project, Facing the Financial Crisis:
Please describe "Facing the Financial Crisis".
"Facing the Financial Crisis" began early last summer when KETC was approached by
As we addresses the crisis and listened to our community partners and the community at-large, it became clear that the mortgage crisis was morphing into the larger financial crisis we are all experiencing right now, so we broadened the scope of our work to address issues and resources beyond foreclosure prevention.
What station or community need are you fulfilling with this project?
For our community, we wanted to address the need of providing a TRUSTED source of information about the crisis. In talking to our community partners we found that one of their challenges was in informing people in need of assistance that help was available to them, and in getting them to make the call to get in touch with a counselor or organization that could help them address their problem in a way that made sense for them. Because of the trust people have in public media, we could play the role of convener in an impartial way. Our community partners were willing to work with us for that same reason.
For us as a station this project has been part
of expanding our service to our community. Because of the huge amount of
information about the crisis available the community needed a source to provide
context and some clarity to the issues. We've been able to do that on-air,
online, and in the community.
Generally, describe the resources it took to create "Facing the Financial Crisis", and the resources required to maintain it.
From an online sense we made the decision early on to utilize existing tools to create an online space that would be interactive and portable. This was a decision based on a need to get the project up and running quickly, and based on have few resources in the area of manpower and budget. This also allowed us to be flexible. We are currently on the third iteration of our site I think.
If we had
more resources (both in terms of personnel or budget) we could have perhaps
done things with more sizzle, but we wanted to make this project about the
content and the crisis, and not about the technology.
And it took the effort of staff from the entire station to make this project a success. Our producers obviously tackled the task of creating the content that is the centerpiece of the project. Our community engagement staff forged and have maintained the partnerships that have informed our work every step of the way. Our marketing and branding staff did their part. I'm sure I'm leaving people out. We worked hard as an organization to communicate with each other and to move in a unified direction.
How can this project be adopted by other stations?
We are actually in the process of replicating our "Facing the Mortgage Crisis" project in the 25 hardest hit markets with funding from
What sage words or wisdom do you have for other stations who may want to put in motion something similar? Also, what is the most important thing you learned NOT to do?
You can't treat a project like this as a broadcast project, or an online project, or an education project. At some point during one of our project meetings someone said this project was like a stool with many legs; without all of them the stool would fall. Someone else noted that it was really more like a beanbag chair; we had become so entwined that we were all a part of the support, everywhere.
As to what not to do, don't let yourself over-think.
Sometimes you've just got to learn to get out of your own way.
Was the project fun?
That's hard to answer. There were times when it was incredibly rewarding. And it was fun to see how we could pull it all together. But there were also times when it was frustrating to know what you wanted to do, but you couldn't quite get there. We'll, I couldn't quite get there, anyway. There were times when I wished I was just that much smarter...
But on the whole it has been a project where we were willing to push the envelope of what public media can be to a community. That has been fun. And it's fun to think where this might lead us.
What do you feel is the next big thing in the online media realm?
I think in this world where everything is available to everyone, providing some meaning to parts and pieces of that "everything" is going to be important. And I think public media can play an important role there. We just need to figure out how. So if anyone knows please give me a shout!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Mike! If you have questions for Mike, please post them below.
If your station has an interesting project you'd like to share with the system in an upcoming post, or you've stumbled on something on another station's site that you'd like to know more about, shoot us an email! We hope to make the station spotlight a regular feature on the SP&S blog.