Lawrence is Growing, Lawrence, KS 2001
J-W Web Works
With "Lawrence is Growing," the partners helped citizens of the university town, long polarized on the issue of growth, find common ground and make concrete proposals to public officials on how to manage growth.
The six-month project began April 15, 2001, with a three-week series about the history of growth in Lawrence, alternatives for future growth and how other communities had managed it. Stories appeared daily in the paper and on TV, while the Web site offered content from both as well as interactive elements including bulletin boards for comment and a clickable map showing how Lawrence had grown over the years and various scenarios for future growth.
Reporting tools for the series included small group discussions with citizens and a poll of 528 adults in the area. At the conclusion of the series, the partners hosted a 90-minute town-hall forum, broadcast live on cable channel 6, that drew more than 200 people to discuss growth issues, hopes and concerns. Dozens more called or emailed with questions for the panel of stakeholders the partners assembled. Acting on suggestions from participants, the partners held a series of six public forums over the summer, each on one of six key growth issues citizens identified: schools, traffic, transportation, open space, business and economic development and "social capital," the value of people knowing one another and working together. Each one drew 30 to 50 people.
In the fall, the partners held another town-hall forum to develop a final report on growth issues. The eight-page pull-out tabloid, "Common Ground Found," was delivered to city, county, school and university officials in Oct. 21, 2001.
PO Box 888
Lawrence, KS 66044-0888
Phone: (785) 832-7194
Manhattan, KS 1995
The Manhattan Mercury
The partners in "The Public Mind" project took a civic approach to exploring one local issue a month in depth and inviting citizens to discuss possible solutions. The series began, May 7, 1995, with an exploration of teenage binge drinking. In June, the topic was neighborhood associations; July, the student rental housing market and in September, a look at child care.
In the first week of the month, the Mercury devoted a page to a status report on the issue; in the second week it gave experts' perspectives; the third week it published case studies of individuals affected by the issue and the fourth week it invited the public to address the issue in a community forum, usually attended by six to 10 people. Follow-up stories explored solutions that were suggested.
The Manhattan Mercury
318 N. Fifth Street
Manhattan, KS 66502
Phone: (913) 776-2300
Tapping Civic Life, Wichita, KS 1993
The Wichita Eagle
The Harwood Group
This groundbreaking project created what might be called the infrastructure of civic journalism - a set of tools for uncovering the civic life of a community and tapping into it. The Eagle set out with no less a goal than improving the quality of civic life in Wichita by strengthening and promoting public dialogue and better reflecting that dialogue in the newspaper's pages. It asked The Harwood Group (now the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, of Bethesda, MD) to help it identify the origins of public discourse and determine how journalists could use the information in a meaningful way.
Harwood developed five steps for finding civic spaces and coined the term "mapping" to describe how newsrooms can use these steps to enrich their reporting. The idea is that a newsroom can create a roadmap for how different areas of a community's civic life work and how journalists can connect with those areas.
A team of Eagle reporters and editors tried out the materials in reporting on two very different Wichita neighborhoods. Their experiences were captured in a workbook, "Tapping Civic Life: How to Report First, and Best, What's Happening in Your Community." The Pew Center distributed the book to thousands of reporters and editors across the country. Civic mapping became a key tool in the efforts of many newsrooms to practice civic journalism. The book was updated in 2000 to reflect those efforts and was used to guide a series of seminars on civic mapping that involved 24 U.S. newsrooms.
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