Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts about inclusive journalism — journalism that is done with communities not for communities. | Follow the conversation here.
The Salt Lake Tribune covers religion more frequently, and in more depth, than many news outlets. So they immediately knew they had to jump into action to cover the LDS Church’s policy change about gay families. But, they wanted to make sure they heard directly from Mormons themselves on how this policy impacts them or their views of the Church.
They quickly posted a query, which garnered almost 500 responses within a week, most of them from Mormons. From these responses they gained insight into how to cover this unfolding story. They also hosted a packed town hall to hear from churchgoers what the affect of this policy change has been, if any.
Peggy Fletcher Stack, the Tribune’s long-time religion reporter, had this to say about utilizing PIN while covering this specific topic: “In our coverage of the LDS Church’s recent gay policy, which dubs Mormon same-sex couples are “apostates” and bans their children from baptism and other rites, we had plenty of quotes from observers, leaders and experts. But PIN helped us find Mormons across the nation, whose thoughtful opinions, perspectives and questions we could not have found on our own. It has really enhanced and enriched our religion coverage, the beat I know best, beyond my imagining.”Matt Canham, an investigative reporter, shares how their coverage and event has transpired over the last month.
What was the project and what was your role in it?
Where did the idea for this topic come from?
Religious issues are big news in Salt Lake City and this policy change resulted in an explosion of conversation on social media. We knew we needed to host a town hall to gather churchgoers for their perspectives and learn from that community first-hand.
What communities or groups did you focus on engaging with? Why?
What we wanted to explore was how active church-going Mormons were wrestling with this change. PIN allowed them an outlet to collect their thoughts. The Tribune received hundreds of responses and a high percentage of them were thoughtful and interesting.
How did you engage with your audience around this topic? What did they find compelling about these stories?
We used the PIN responses in a variety of ways. First, we used some of the comments as quotes in regular news stories. Second, we had a quote rail of some interesting responses. And third, we used them in a town hall meeting, as both a slideshow and as an audio element. We asked a few respondents to record their comments for us.
What are you hoping the impact of this project will be?
The point was to immediately take the emotional temperature of Mormons and the larger community and after that, we used it to track changes in thought. We wanted to be inclusive of a variety of viewpoints and PIN made reaching that goal far easier than it would have been otherwise.