State of Opportunity was a special, longitudinal reporting project by Michigan Radio, the public radio station at the University of Michigan, and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The overarching goal of the project was “to harness the powers of public media and community outreach to drive public conversation and change for a better future for vulnerable Michigan children.”
Throughout the project, State of Opportunity journalists engaged in producing meaningful, exciting, and challenging journalism that explored the barriers to achieving success for children of low income families in Michigan. Staff were also very active in Michigan communities by holding community events, developing partnerships with social service organizations, and building relationships with individuals.
The fifth and final year of the project concludedin April 2017; however, the journalistic content will live here on the State of Opportunity website for the long term.
Over the course of the five-year project (May 2012 – April 2017), State of Opportunity journalists produced 255 radio feature reports (weekly), 19 hour-long radio documentaries (quarterly), and 20 hour-long radio specials (quarterly), which together totaled approximately 60 hours of public radio programming. All of the radio content was also posted to the State of Opportunity website in addition to 790 exclusive online posts.
Thirty-one in-person events were also held in communities throughout Michigan. These included community discussions held in libraries, pubs and other community spaces, KidSpeak and youth-led candidate forums in partnership with Michigan’s Children, storytelling trainings for youth, a volunteer “Day of Opportunity,” and much more.
Listen to this hour-long special on Michigan Radio’s newsmagazine program, Stateside, to hear State of Opportunity journalists, Dustin Dwyer and Jennifer Guerra, reflect back on their time working on the project. You can also check out this post to learn what Dwyer and Guerra will be doing next.
Each weekly State of Opportunity feature report reached upwards of 99,700 unique radio listeners and each documentary and discussion program reached 60,000 unique radio listeners (Fall 2016 Nielsen survey, persons 18+) via Michigan Radio’s three broadcast stations, WUOM 91.7 FM Ann Arbor and Detroit, WFUM 91.1 FM Flint, and WVGR 104.1 FM West Michigan.
The State of Opportunity website garnered over 1,625,000 pageviews over the course of the five-year project period. In addition, project content was shared on social media via Michigan Radio’s Facebook page (over 45,500 followers as of 8/2017) and Twitter page (over 37,700 followers as of 8/2017) as well as on dedicated State of Opportunity project pages (Facebook, “State of Opportunity,” and Twitter, “@StateofOpp.”
In a final research evaluation completed by Jacobs Media, it was found that nearly 70% of people who listened to State of Opportunity reports took some action as a result of listening, such as discussing the issues with family or friends, contributing money to a charity or organization, or attending a community meeting or group.
And, although more difficult to measure, anecdotal evidence of the project’s impact was also experienced. For example, on multiple occasions, listeners heard project reports of children and families and stepped forward to offer assistance to them, like paying for childcare; the State of Michigan responded with help for former foster care youth after a report on difficulties for these youth when signing up for Medicaid; reporting and data analysis of housing in Grand Rapids helped change the public conversation about development in the city; high school and college educators use State of Opportunity stories and documentaries in their classrooms; and much, much more.
Michigan Radio earned 27 local, state, regional, and national journalism awards for its State of Opportunity project. The awards were granted by the following organizations: National Association of Black Journalists (2), Scripps Howard Foundation (1), Association for Women in Communications (1), Radio Television Digital News Association (5), Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (1), State Bar of Michigan (1), Michigan Associated Press (6), Michigan Association of Broadcasters (9), and the Young Nonprofit Professional Network of Greater Grand Rapids (1). Click here for the complete list of awards.
Please direct questions, comments, and requests for more information to Vincent Duffy, Michigan Radio news director, at vduffy[at]umich.edu and/or Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio program director, at zoeclark[at]umich.edu.
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