New Mexico News Port launched in September with funding from the Online News Association's Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. Since then, Michael Marcotte, visiting professor, UNM Communication & Journalism, and others, have rolled out a series of profiles introducing candidates for state and federal office in New Mexico.
'We quickly followed with data-driven stories, featuring charts and graphs, on campaign finances, polling and other metrics of campaign activity. Then we focused firmly on issue-oriented reports, poking into the many concerns at stake for New Mexicans in the elections."
The project generated more than 100 online stories, about half of which were picked up by their print partner. "We also built an active social media effort, including an experimental 'Twitter Town Hall Debate' in one of our congressional races," he said, adding that it all culminated in a big effort for Election Day, much of it reported in real-time, involving some 50 students from six C&J classes. Results included team-reporting packages, photo galleries, a Spanish language page and live audio/video feeds from the Daily Howl, KUNM and NM PBS.
"We are compiling data, doing surveys and assembling our 'lessons learned'. After all, we’re a lab and labs look for what does and doesn’t work," he said.
Spring Ahead: Curious New Mexico
News Port leaders Marcotte and Kate Nash met with their partners – KUNM, NM PBS, Daily Lobo and New Mexico In Depth – and with faculty collaborators, to choose a new project focus for 2015: Curious New Mexico.
"Curious New Mexico experiments with public engagement throughout the reporting process. The public raises questions and we pursue the answers. We are transparent in reporting along the way and invite the public to help inform that reporting. The idea is adapted from Curious City at Chicago Public Media, which is advising us," Marcotte said.
He added, "As of today, we have over 160 questions from New Mexicans - everything from why are the White Sands white to what’s up with those underground nuclear warhead repositories? - and some 85 student reporters in at least five classes on the beat. Stories are underway and will begin appearing soon."
2015 Legislative Collaboration: People, Power and Demcracy
Meanwhile, the New Port is lending a central role in high-level coverage of the 2015 New Mexico State Legislature. Working in partnership with KUNM, NM PBS and New Mexico In Depth, Marcotte helped land a $12,500 grant from the Thornburg Foundation to help pay multi-platform reporter Gwyneth Doland to spearhead coverage focused on the role of money in politics. "KUNM is contributing around $5,000 to the project; NM PBS is contributing $15,000; and C&J is adding $5,000 to support a squad of students interns," he said.
They call this body of work, “People, Power and Democracy,” and it is appearing on radio, TV and online between January and April. Marcotte was quick to thank Tom Glaisyer at the Democracy Fund for his guidance in this project.
A Future in Fundraising
Marcotte said that they are working with the UNM Foundation and others to seek sustaining support for the New Mexico News Port. "We’ve submitted a request for funding to the highly-respected Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation based in Oklahoma. Our proposal seeks $90,000 to fund a second year of activity in which we would create two advanced minority fellowships to help run the port. We are in the process of writing grants to more foundations we’ve targeted as likely allies in our innovation efforts." He added that they've established a fund for individual donors to contribute.