Community partnerships drive better reporting

It’s not a new concept for news organizations to partner with each other on special projects and investigations. And now more than ever, strategic partnerships with other media organizations are crucial to better serve and cover communities.

It’s crucial that audience development strategies involve multidisciplinary community partnerships and collaborations that go beyond simply reporting stories, but also meet people where they’re at.

At The Dallas Morning News, we’re building on the community-based approach with our Education Lab and the recent launch of our Arts Access partnership with NPR station KERA, expanding local arts, music and culture coverage through the lens of access and equity.

Through these partnerships, we’ve been able to highlight and amplify underrepresented communities by leveraging the collective reporting power of both the Morning News and KERA. It’s resulted in Arts Access stories like “Black writers are having a moment with these 3 plays in North Texas,” “This North Texas Author is shining a light on Desi authors from around the globe,” and “A Dallas artist who learned ‘fear’ at a Native American school speaks out.” These stories increase the collective reach and coverage of underrepresented and underreported groups in North Texas across multiple platforms — print, digital, and radio.

Our Education Lab is a community-funded initiative that expands engagement with students, parents, and teachers to help identify how the most pressing issues in education are affecting the community. Among the topics we’ve covered: “Amid teacher shortages, states can’t afford to lose any more Black male educators,” “Texas spends millions on unproven school safety tool few use,” and “1 in 5 new Texas teachers were hired without certification last year.”

We’re just getting started. We are always on the lookout for other partnerships to further expand the depth of our coverage across topics that intimately impact our readers.

I challenge mainstream news organizations to explore deeper partnerships and collaborations with community organizations.

Along with my role at The Dallas Morning News, I’m also the project director of Tayo, a project of the Filipino Young Leaders Program, a nonprofit where I currently serve as president.

Tayo started out in 2020 as a covid-19 virtual help desk for Filipinos, but it is pivoting to become a hub that empowers Filipinx/a/o communities by collecting data, fostering partnerships, publishing culturally relevant insights, and developing leaders to create an equitable and sustainable future.

I’m the only journalist on the Tayo team, and it’s been a learning experience to work with a multidisciplinary team from the community — with professionals from the medical, legal, and technology sectors. Community-driven conversations lead to better understanding of the topics and stories that resonate.

Tayo’s origin story is rooted in the desire to reach the most vulnerable groups within the Filipino community — seniors, frontline workers, and the unemployed. These groups are not a monolith, and we needed a tailored approach to distribute vetted and reliable information about covid-19.

Within these groups, we saw the spread of misinformation, which prompted us to create something that would help combat the false and dangerous information floating throughout the community. We used this culturally tailored graphic in webinars we produced throughout the pandemic:

Using Filipino food as an analogy to explain how covid-19 vaccines are safe, it was a way to present information from official sources, but in a way that would resonate with this community.

This would not have been possible without the direct involvement and collaboration of community members. It shows the power behind diverse teams who bring their shared life experiences to the table. It confirms that this work can’t be locked inside in newsroom silos.

Partnerships and collaboration with both traditional and community organizations are key to building multidisciplinary and intersectional coverage that goes beyond surface-level reporting. They lead deeper connections and relationships with audiences and are true to journalism’s mission of providing readers with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Leezel Tanglao is senior digital director of The Dallas Morning News.