This is Akron: What's Next?

Apr 26, 2019

One of the things we are constantly trying to do at WKSU is to break out of the cocoon that ideas for news coverage can only come from the newsroom. After all, we’re trained journalists. We know what our audience needs to know. We are the experts. We are the only ones who truly know the coverage they want. Right?

Wrong.

Community members discuss ways to improve Akron at a This Is Akron session at East Community Learning Center on April 11, 2019.
Credit Doug Oplinger

Over the past several years, WKSU has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring our audience into the reporting process; from our year’s worth of community conversations covering our 22-county broadcast area, our early involvement in the media collaborative that’s grown to be Your Voice Ohio to our new project this year, “OH Really?”, we’ve recognized that we need to listen to our audience, not just talk at them. Being part of #ThisisAkron and the four recent public conversations with the Akron Beacon Journal and The Devil Strip was a continuation of that sincere desire and belief that our audiences should be included in the reporting process.

WKSU's Andrew Meyer talks at a This is Akron session at East Community Learning Center on April 11, 2019.
Credit Doug Oplinger / Your Voice Ohio

I attended all four of the recent meetings. I was encouraged by both the size of the turnout and by the people who came to talk, the challenges that they shared about their communities and the expectations they have about the city’s future. I heard first-hand accounts of issues with crime and safety, of schools that need to better serve their students and of the need for more accountability among the owners of the city’s rental housing. At the meetings at the Buchtel, East, Jennings and Innes Community Learning Centers – I heard stories of issues that were both distinct to the neighborhood and common to the city as a whole.

Some meetings were more skeptical about the possibility of change. Others grew hopeful over the course of the conversation. Regardless of the tone, I took note of the pride expressed when it came time for the participants to list the strengths, resources and assets their city has to offer. I came away from each of the meetings feeling tremendously appreciative of the people who were willing to take a couple of hours of their time to share their concerns and their hopes for the city they call home.

These conversations are important, but they are a first step. Next up is an opportunity for WKSU, The Devil Strip and the Beacon Journal to participate in a Facebook Live broadcast, and we’re hoping you’ll tune in and be part of that. It’s Monday at 2pm.  You’ll find the broadcast at https://www.facebook.com/thedevilstrip. We’re going to be talking about what we learned from the meetings, where we go next and your participation is important to us. Over the coming months, WKSU’s reporters along with our counterparts from the Devil Strip and the Beacon Journal will start to dig into some of the issues raised.

The journalists at WKSU both need and want to be part of these conversations going forward, and we embrace the idea of collaboration with our colleagues from the Beacon Journal and the Devil Strip. We realize by setting aside misplaced and dated notions of competition, we can collectively better serve our respective audiences. There are more neighborhoods to connect with, more stories to hear. In doing so, we can continue to be better in touch with the issues that affect the city and better serve the people who live, work and play in Akron.