Welcome to NC Talks, a new feature from Carolina Public Press! NC Talks will appear both in an upcoming new newsletter product we’re working on and in a featured spot on our website. The mission of NC Talks is to highlight diverse community perspectives on public interest issues that are important to North Carolinians. We invite you to submit columns that reflect your point of view, that can be fact checked and that are in your own voice. NC Talks will also include essays from CPP staff, such as today’s essay from Lisa Lopez.

I attended the Knight Media Forum, an event where leaders in philanthropy, journalism and technology convened to explore ways to strengthen local, state and national news coverage. I found the session “Racial Healing and the Media” to be inspiring. The session featured a panel discussion with Emma Carrasco, NBCUniversal Media, Michael Murphy and Stephanie Dukes, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The discussion highlighted the yearlong media partnership between W.K. Kellogg Foundation and NBCUniversal News Group to promote dialogue around racial equity and advancing racial healing. The initiative, “Changing the Narrative,” was a 14-part digital series exploring the central themes of racial healing. The project allowed NBC journalists to travel to four communities — Buffalo, N.Y.; Battle Creek, Mich.; New Orleans and Selma, Ala. — to learn what racial healing means to different communities and how residents are working in the communities to change the narrative. The series culminated in two town halls, which were streamed on MSNBC and Noticias Telemundo on the National Day of Racial Healing on Jan. 17. 

I was interested in learning more about how the partnership formed and how two very different organizations worked together to make it happen.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation is known for its commitment to racial healing as a pathway to racial equity. In 2007, the board of directors made a commitment to being an anti-racist organization. In 2017, the foundation launched the National Day of Racial Healing, which is held on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kellogg works extensively with community organizations that are at the forefront of racial equity and community healing. NBCUniversal Media is also committed to building a diverse workforce. NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde has challenged his division to have a 50% diverse workforce.

As the panelists explained, there were lessons learned, including the importance of leaning on subject matter experts and managing expectations, especially around deadlines. W.K. Kellogg staff discovered that “moving at the speed of philanthropy is different from moving at the speed of cable news.” The panelists agreed that the cornerstone of the successful partnership was trust and truth telling. 

The project had a tremendous impact. W.K. Kellogg said the first hour of this year’s Racial Day of Healing virtual YouTube stream garnered 785,000 views compared with 5,000 views last year. The foundation said the increased views directly stemmed from its collaboration with NBC. Not only did viewership increase, but the number of community events increased this year by 147%. NBC said the initiative deepened its commitment to racial equity and inclusiveness. All the panelists agreed this initiative speaks to the power of community and media partnerships. 

During this panel discussion, I was reminded of the ways Carolina Public Press has amplified voices throughout North Carolina. For example, CPP’s Faces of Hunger project was a yearlong journalism and community dialogue initiative that focused on issues of hunger and food insecurity in rural North Carolina. Through in-depth multimedia reporting, resource sharing and free community events, CPP spotlighted the issues and systems contributing to hunger and food hardship.

Additionally, our Seeking Conviction series was a collaborative investigative project spanning 6 ½ months and included 11 news organizations, analyzed statewide court data and conducted extensive interviews with sexual assault survivors, victim advocates, medical professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors and state officials across the North Carolina. This reporting led to legislation that reformed North Carolina’s sexual assault laws, extended the statute of limitations for civil suits against perpetrators of child abuse and included a number of other safety protections for children.

Whether the collaborative initiative is national, statewide or local, we are reminded of the vital role journalism plays in our society — telling stories that have broad implications and might otherwise go untold. 

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to news@carolinapublicpress.org.

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Lisa Lopez is the Development Director for Carolina Public Press. She oversees fundraising development for Carolina Public Press across North Carolina.

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