With the launch of a community listening pilot project in northwestern Vermont, VTDigger is making strides to deepen and sustain relationships with the communities we serve. VTDigger’s Libbie Sparadeo (née Pattison) is filling the organization’s new role of director of community engagement and strategic partnerships.
Readers from across the state are invited to participate in the online community listening survey, which will inform strategic decisions around future resource allocation and coverage.
Why community listening?
Since the start of the pandemic, VTDigger has heard more from Vermonters than ever before and readership has doubled. The newsroom has fielded urgent tips, questions and concerns, and the organization has adapted to meet these demands with new editorial strategies.
Over the past 15 years, the nationwide decline of traditional newspapers dependent on print advertising revenue has left many communities in Vermont without reliable, rigorous local news. Since the 1990s Vermont has lost over 100 journalists. Recently, the experience of Covid-19 has demonstrated both the importance of trustworthy, local news and the precariousness of Vermont’s news landscape.
“It is critically important to ask ourselves what topics we are covering, who we’re relying on as sources, and what factors drive these decisions and why,” said Anne Galloway, founder and editor-in-chief of VTDigger. “The field of journalism has much to grapple with, but we can never lose sight of why we do this work — and that is to educate, inform and engage each other in making the world a better place. VTDigger has always relied on reader tips and they’ve steered us to our best investigative work. I’m eager to bring more community influence into our editorial decisions.”
Why northwestern Vermont?
The need for community engagement and responsive news content that serves real people has never been more clear. As VTDigger increases reporting capacity in Vermont’s most populous region, the community listening pilot project will help to direct the new northwestern bureau's coverage.
VTDigger plans to bring community listening to other regions of the state next year. The online survey will help us jumpstart these conversations. VTDigger invites Vermonters from all over the state to participate in the online survey now.
What will it look like?
The community listening activities include one-on-one interviews, focus groups, in-person events and surveying. You can read more about the project here.
Libbie Sparadeo, the Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships, will prioritize equity, diversity and inclusion in new organizational initiatives focused on listening, understanding and responding to the information needs of people across the state. A lifelong Vermonter, Sparadeo has a master’s degree in human rights and brings a background in qualitative research, community health and advocacy to the role.
In a time when local news is literally saving lives and our readers are shaping our coverage in new and powerful ways, VTDigger is committed to continually evolving our decision-making processes about what to report on and how.
So, what’s missing, Vermont? We want to hear your voices.
If you have ideas about how VTDigger’s reporting could better serve you and your community, please share them with Libbie Sparadeo at [email protected].