Communication and Families & Gender (cross-referenced)
Kids in Chaos: A Community Response
News, "Kids in Chaos: A Community Response" In a six-month project
focused on juvenile crime in metro Dayton, the Daily News has
teamed up with WHIO-TV to discern public values and listen with
renewed attention to citizen voices. The initiative included a
series of community roundtables that drew more than 300 groups
into the discussion, an "experts forum" where 200 area leaders
involved with kids and with criminal justice brainstormed effective
responses, and an ongoing series of reporting projects, major
editorials and first-person stories about conditions affecting
kids. Case study plus.
Study Plus: Kids in Chaos: A Community Response
Dayton Daily News
case study by Project
on Public Life and the Press
New York University, Department of Journalism
Project on Public Life and the Press,1994
In a six-month
project focused on juvenile crime in metro Dayton, the Daily News
has teamed up with WHIO-TV to discern public values and listen
with renewed attention to citizen voices. The initiative kicked
off in April with a 1A editor's letter, then encompassed - in
early months - a series of community roundtables that drew more
than 300 groups into the discussion, an "experts forum" where
200 area leaders involved with kids and with criminal justice
brainstormed effective responses, and an ongoing series of reporting
projects, major editorials and first-person stories about conditions
affecting kids. The series will wrap up in the fall with publication
of a special section on juvenile crime, background material for
a series of neighborhood forums on juvenile crime in a collaborative
effort among the paper, the TV station, local universities, the
library system and the Dayton-based Kettering Foundation.
Daily News (newspaper)
46 S.Ludlow St.
Dayton OH 45401
(513) 225-2000 (phone)
(513) 225-2088 (fax)
Cox Newspapers group
Greene and Montgomery Counties
Kids in Chaos: A Community Response
Steve Sidlo, managing editor
Marty Steffens, metro editor
Max Jennings, editor
and how did this initiative get started?
Editors saw an examination of a rising juvenile crime rate and
increasing community alarm as a natural prospect for a public
journalism project: Drawing the public into a major newspaper
initiative and expanding the newsroom's outreach into the public's
concerns and deliberations. Discussions began in December 1993
and included issue-framing specialists from the Kettering Foundation.
are the goals of the initiative?
The ultimate goal, as stated in Editor Jenning's 1A kickoff editorial,
is to establish a network of community-based approaches for "saving
our children." Another goal: to design a model public journalism
project, tapping the expertise of the local Kettering Foundation,
a partner in the Project on Public Life and the Press and specialists
in developing deliberative models for citizen input.
does the initiative entail?
The 1A editorial invited readers to participate in community roundtables
on juvenile crime. Tapping an idea from the Spokane Spokesman-Review
(see separate report- Spokane, "Pizza Papers"), the paper offered
a free pizza to any family or local group who got together to
talk about the issue and agreed to detail their conversation in
a questionnaire developed by the paper. (More than 400 did; eventually,
the paper ran out of money for pizzas.) In May, the paper detailed
excerpts from the questionnaires, while WHIO features broadcast
excerpts of meetings. In both media, the stories ran along with
a major takeout on kids convicted of murder. (Two so far in 1994,
with seven others awaiting trial.)
the May experts' forum. Through summer, both continued to concentrate
on juvenile crime and kids in crisis. The paper began a Sunday
feature with first-person accounts of a response to a child in
trouble. (An example: Mother and daughter wrote columns about
the teen's experience as a runaway.) In July, the paper's editorial
section began a 10-part series on crime, emphasizing "that neighborhood
activism provides a more realistic hope for progress than does
increased attention from Washington or simple emphasis on the
role of family life."
the paper will publish a special section on juvenile crime, which
will include a background book on the topic prepared by the Kettering
Foundation's for its National Issues Forums program. A joint effort
of the media partners and seven community networks including universities,
the library system and the United Way, the forums will attempt
to get a sense of the public's attitudes about juvenile crime
and preferred policy responses.
many people are working on it?
The main team for the project consists of six newsroom staffers,
including reporters, editor and photographer.
does it look like in the newspaper?
Stories related to the project are identified by a special sig.
Major takeouts start on 1A and jump to open inside pages. Editorial
series played on Sunday section fronts, took over editorial pages
for 10 days.
Response to the Initiative
Generally enthusiastic for such a major initiative (reporters
like space and good story play), but the usual wariness that accompanies
public journalism efforts: are we "crossing the line"? Initial
questions about the overall goals of "listening to the public"
are evaporating with experience, and in the face of overwhelming
community response. Some skepticism among Daily News staff for
broadcast partner's role; offset in part by effective reach of
Overwhelming. Thousands of calls to listener response lines, more
than 2,000 total participants among 300 groups in "pizza" roundtables.
Appreciation from the public for being asked (through questionnaires)
their thoughts about the problem. Kettering Foundation specialists
in public deliberation had warned the paper that it was essential
for members of the public to come up with their own ideas, and
essential that the paper not give the impression that it would
do the public's work for it on the issue of juvenile crime. The
paper revised initial plans to consult with the citizens only
after the series was printed.
lessons - success and failures:
The initial plan to consult the public last rather than first
was flawed. The paper organized a trial-run public journalism
project in nearby Xenia, where a team held open-ended conversations
to assess long-term aftermath of a devastating 1983 tornado. Senior
Manager for Reporting Martha Stephens sees the lessons of the
Xenia experience and of the forthcoming juvenile crime project
affecting other news routines, including possible changes in court
and police beats, dovetailing with the major newsroom reorganization
now under way.
on Public Life and the Press
New York University
Department of Journalism
10 Washington Pl.
New York, NY 10003
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