A photo of the front page of the San Fernando Valley Sun. The front page has a large photo of people running on the right center, with white box letter text reading "Pacoima Students are Among LA Marathon's Youngest Runners." Above the photo is a black box with the date, issue number and website. At the top are the Sun's two logos: one in English and one in Spanish. There is also a teaser in the right upper corner and down the left side of the page. The bottom of the page contains a link to the Sun's website in blue.

The front page of the San Fernando Valley sun. Credit: The San Fernando Valley Sun.

How we cultivated interest in and collaboration for a community engagement program for a local newspaper

It takes more than an email to generate excitement and retention

Our partnership with Media in Color and the San Fernando Valley Sun continues to make progress on building a new community engagement model for local news. 

Our model is developing a framework for collaboration between invested Valley community members and the Sun to reinvent how high school sports are covered in the Valley area. 

A screenshot of a Google Forms survey. The background of the photo is light pink. There are two white text boxes in the photo with sans serif text. The top box says "The Sun is looking to expand its high school sports coverage via a community contributor program. The program would recruit community contributors to provide The Sun with immediate information following matches, and act as a contact if the Sun needs additional information." The bottom box asks "Would you be interested in participating in our community contributor program?" with an option for yes and no.
A screenshot of the community contributor survey.

Previously, we discussed our efforts to organize and prepare for creating a community reporter contact list

We are currently working on cultivating interest in our new program. Our first step was sending out our community contributor interest survey. The survey not only gauged the community’s interest in high school sports coverage in the Sun, but also tracked interest in becoming a community contributor. Check out our community contributor survey template here.

A screenshot of a Google Forms survey. The background of the photo is light pink. There are two white text boxes in the photo with sans serif text. The top box says "How often do you read the San Fernando Valley Sun" with options for very often, often, not often, not at all and not familiar with the San Fernando Valley Sun. The bottom box says "How do you feel about the Sun's relationship with the Valley community?" with options for very positive, positive, neutral/no opinion, negative and very negative.
A screenshot of the community contributor survey.

We asked questions that allowed individuals to more thoroughly discuss their current relationship with the Sun and provide the Sun with any relevant information. 

How we did it

Initially, the survey was sent out via email. We began by first contacting athletic directors in our two high school athletic leagues of interest. We started with a limited sample to ensure the quality of the survey, before moving on to school communities and the general population. 

In the first round, the survey yielded a 28% response rate among athletic directors. Those who responded were geographically closest to the Sun’s headquarters, and all of those who responded to our survey expressed interest in participating in the community contributor program. We began importing these contacts into AirTable.

We strengthened our efforts after the first round by contacting school journalism programs in the area. We decided to split up the contacts among our team and begin calling athletic directors. We also called those who did respond to the survey to further deepen those relationships. 

We’re hoping to create a robust community contributor contact list that includes not only athletic directors, but also coaches, parents and interested journalism students. Specifically, we want to have at least one contact per school, so we can begin testing out our process in time for the fall launch. 

We are also offering to create team pages for each schools where we will publish information about where their seniors sign for college. We believe this information will not only provide the programs with additional coverage, but also provide the community with more detailed information about their local sports.  

Our next steps will involve testing out the automated SMS system and online forms, as well as building out the web pages that will host the information.

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