Three weeks later and the grand-idea factory that was New Story 2016 is still churning out proposals big and small to create new media initiatives that help change the narrative in West Virginia.
The latest piece of good news to emerge from New Story is that the creators of Weelunk (Wheeling), Elkinite (Elkins), MiBurg (Martinsburg), Huntiful (can you guess?), and the coming-soon Synergetic (New River Gorge) community news sites will launch a Morgantown site in the next few months. Sweet. Count me in.
But there’s another idea floating around that really intrigues me, too.
In the days following New Story, Kristian Thacker, a Pittsburgh-based photographer whose beautiful work is featured above (and who will be moving to West Virginia in the coming weeks. Score.), emailed me with a spark of weird and beautiful genius. The best kind.
Kristian had been inspired by hearing about Reinvent Wheeling’s Show of Hands initiative, where people with a great idea for a new business pitch their idea to a big crowd of locals, each of whom has paid 5 or 10 bucks to be there. The winning pitch takes home the kitty, which they use to get their business started.
So, Kristian says, “what if we…” well, I’ll let Kristian take it from here.
“Show of Hand’s method for funding small projects in Wheeling gave me the idea for a similar entity that could fund long-form storytelling in West Virginia. I know there are grant opportunities for this kind of thing, but it’s often a slow moving process and I think that grant writing scares away those that aren’t familiar with that process.”
Kristian goes on to qualify all this with “look, I don’t come from a journalism background so I really have no clue as to how the news media works outside of my limited exposure via the editorial pieces I have shot…”
But hear the man out. Often the best ideas come from the outside.
“Here’s a rough, rough idea of what I’m thinking. A group of people in West Virginia, photographers, radio journalists or citizen journalists, see a story that’s being told but not in depth, or it’s a one-sided report done by someone that’s parachuted in from the national media. They see a story from their perspective that isn’t being told, but none of the organizations they work for have the resources to tell the story.”
“So, they do some research, maybe create a treatment that outlines the basic story idea, and present it at a public event similar to Show of Hands. Attendees vote for what they think would be the most successful story or pitch.”
The winner gets the money, does the story. Perhaps the traditional media outlets then get the chance to run the finished product. Maybe they are sponsors of the events, because they know what they are actually buying are great stories that the public has already told them they are interested in? Hmmmm. Smart all round.
“I do have concerns about how voting to select stories may be problematic. But I think the community involvement aspect would be essential in getting local citizens to engage.”
Personally, I think this could just work, and it might just be terrific.
Would you buy in? Are you willing to contribute some steam or additional suggestions to build on this idea? Or know someone that might?