News you can use: Inside WHQR’s people-powered elections coverage (page 2)

Part II: The plan

WHQR, like many community-based public radio stations, has a wealth of volunteers. They come in to support us during pledge drives, run the phones at our front desk during the day, and help our development team package gifts and mailings when we ask. These volunteers seemed like a tremendous asset for us to run the Community Agenda. So we spent less than $200 in trade to print a large sign, created an online survey form, and designed a printed version to use in person.

In early July, I trained volunteers on the concept of Community Agenda project, as well as how to seek feedback from community members in a compassionate and neutral manner. They shared ideas for places to table and agreed to sign up for tabling events.

We created a webform with an attached FAQ, and a printable form for tabling events.

Starting in July, we began pushing out our online survey to WHQR listeners, through our website and on the airwaves. I created a spreadsheet to share with our trained volunteers, and they began signing up for events. I called dozens of venues and organizers to get permission to table, and included all of WHQR’s community outreach events on our spreadsheet. We also reached out to partner media organizations in the community: Port City Daily, a local online outlet, and WECT, a local television station.

And then we launched!

A note on language

WHQR decided to call our efforts the “Community Agenda” rather than the “Citizens Agenda.” We wanted to hear from immigrant communities and non-voters as well as voters, so we went with Community to be all-encompassing. Participants could be as young at 16, and we included Spanish-language printouts when we tabled at the Cape Fear Latino Festival.

Allowing non-voters to participate in the Agenda helped our efforts to match the diversity of our community, particularly because non-voters skewed younger than voters. We also allowed participation for those within the Cape Fear Region, but outside the city itself, because city decisions impact the entire metropolitan area. Our survey included demographics questions for gender, age, race, zip code, and elections participation so we could track how accurately we represented the community. At the end, nearly 600 respondents were voters, and those voters skewed older and whiter than our overall respondents. Priorities also differed very slightly among voters and non-voters, with the top 1 and 2 issues switching places for the two groups: Housing Affordability and Development. This seems to reflect the more conservative nature of the outlying county and region compared to the more liberal city residents.

Next chapter

"News you can use: Inside WHQR’s people-powered elections coverage" table of contents

  1. News you can use: Inside WHQR’s people-powered elections coverage
  2. Part II: The plan
  3. Part III: Surprises and Modifications
  4. Part IV: The findings
  5. Part V: Lessons for Next Time
  6. Part VI: Building a collaborative future
  7. Resources