Fred Thys stood on stage and played an audio clip. It was a recording of a man that had been college roommates with a soldier recently killed in active duty. The crowd of over 150 people who had gathered there to listen fell silent.
The friend’s portrayal of the fallen veteran wasn’t consistent with what Thys had heard from the soldier’s family, he explained. Thys, who is a journalist for the VTDigger, was at a pivotal crossroads in his reporting, he had to decide what to publish. The audience wanted to know what Thys would do.
How does a journalist decide what voices to prioritize when contradiction arises during reporting? How does a journalist fact-check? What verification methods and ethical decisions come into play before publication?
These are the questions the sold-out crowd had gathered at a local brewery to get answers to during VTDigger’s rendition of Local Live(s), a live-journalism series that puts journalists on stage to tell the stories behind the story. The goal of Local Live(s) is to build trust between readers and journalists by creating an event that entertains the audience first, then wins them over by peeling back the curtain on the journalistic process, all while staying true to the foundational ethics that journalism is built upon. It’s what Fred Thys did in his performance on October 19th, 2021.
In February 2022 Local Live(s) will launch their second season, teaming up with more than 30 news organizations from around the country. The shows are supported in part by an Impact Grant from Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Enlisted organizations include partners from outlets as large as the Miami Herald to small investigative nonprofits like Oklahoma Watch. The common thread is that every Local Live(s)’ partner aims to capitalize on their return to in-person events and build trust in the communities they are reporting for. The model has already been found to have a meaningful impact.
“It is critical that community members understand who we are and how we operate as journalists,” said Anne Galloway, owner of VTDigger. “Sharing ‘the story behind the story’ through the Local Live(s) events was an incredibly creative and effective way to do that.”
And audience responses back her up. 72 percent of participants polled at the show said that hearing reporters’ stories changed how they view journalism. One respondent wrote, “Yes, just a good reminder that there is a real human behind every story.” VTDigger was also able to use the event as a source of revenue. They traded ads for the venue and sound crew and sold sponsorship for the event.
Local Live(s) Season 2 will launch on February 6th, 2022 and is presented by the Meta Journalism Project. The theme for the first series of events is Power: Stories of Strength, Imbalance and Untapped Potential and will feature the Miami Herald, Buckeye Flame, The Forward, Mississippi Today, and a collaborative event by Jackson Hole Community Radio, WyoFile, and Jackson Hole News and Guide. See the full Season 2 lineup here.
“If you’re lucky enough to have a Local Live(s) event in your area in 2022, I highly encourage you to go. They bring the best of local news together with the best of live storytelling in a unique way,” said David Grant, Accelerator program manager, Meta Journalism Project. “Creative ventures like Local Live(s) are a vital part of the future of local media.”
Follow Local Live(s) on Twitter for updates and announcements about events coming this winter, spring and summer.
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If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting Local Live(s) email: firstname.lastname@example.org