In the fall of 2015, multiple cases of racist incidents occurred on the campus of the University of Missouri. In early November, MU student Jonathan Butler announced his hunger strike, demanding UM System President Tim Wolfe to resign from his position. Protesters gathered near Tiger Plaza to support Butler, and to ask the university administration to address racism on campus.
This quickly became a breaking news event and gained national attention. Seeing that the event may continue to escalate, the Intersection team set up a plan of coverage. As always, we wish to bring in-depth coverage (not breaking news coverage) on the situation for our listeners, but this time we wanted our coverage to reflect the viewpoints and experience of the local community. Moreover, we want to spot what kinds of information our audience need regarding the issue, so we can give the topic proper attention in the future.
The game plan mainly consisted of two parts:
1. Establish effective channels for community input
2. Social listening: learn about what people are saying about the situation on social media and in person
I considered many ways to establish active channels for community input. One going out and talk to people about their viewpoints on the situation, and learn about what do they want to know. Another being an online questionnaire about race and diversity on MU campus. The responses we received provided us with some insightful questions and comments from our community, which could guide our future work.
Social listening has also provided significant help to our work. Through social listening, we were able to find out what areas on the topic lack coverage and what information people are dying to get. For instance, through social listening, I found out that people define terms like "racism", "diversity", and "equality" differently. So in our latest episodes, we talked with many people (from interim UM system president Mike Middleton to diversity peer educators) about what diversity means and how the university could achieve it.
Although we weren't able to fulfill the curiosity of all of our audiences in a short timeframe, their inputs have influenced our work significantly. Not only did the local community offer their life stories regarding the subject, but they also provided valuable insight on what we should cover next.