On Saturday, April 9, 2022, the entire Decibel team along with the help of a few other Austin PBS employees, ventured out to Pflugerville Public Library to host our first listening session in Pflugerville. In addition to being the first listening session for the community, it was also the first time Decibel was safely able to conduct an outreach event in-person without the obstacles that come along with virtual meetings.
This past February, Austin PBS’ Community Advisory Board voted for Decibel to cover Pflugerville in our next year-long project and for the past few months we’ve been laying the groundwork to foster various channels of continuous communication with the community. We started our outreach work by creating a Pflugerville Information Needs Assessment Survey that we’ve been using to gain preliminary information about people in the area. The assessment provided us with valuable information including ideas on where we should host our first listening session. Overwhelming, respondents suggested we host a session at the Pflugerville Public Library.
The Pflugerville Public Library was generous enough to allow our team to occupy two of their meeting rooms, provide seats and tables and also utilize their projector to help facilitate our listening session.
After posting about our event on social media and directly reaching out to individuals in the community, we went into the event with 10 RSVPs. Ultimately, of the 10, 6 people attended our event but this did not discourage us from holding an engaging and worthwhile discussion.
We divided the 6 participants into three tables, which each consisted of two residents and two members of Decibel’s team to help guide the conversation. We also had a coloring table to keep the resident's children occupied while the session was underway. Our Austin PBS team provided refreshments and cupcakes from Suga’s Cakery, a local Pflugerville cake shop, for everyone who participated.
At the start of the event, Decibel’s Executive Editor Samantha Guzman introduced our entire team and then explained our brand of community-led journalism to the group. Guzman then introduced a short montage of Decibel’s past two community-led projects. The first, covering the Asian-American population in Austin and subsequently, the Del Valle community in southeastern Travis County.
After showing the video of our previous work, Guzman elaborated on our unique approach to journalism. She spoke about the types of news packages our team develops and our recent successful experiment creating a resource guide for Del Valle. Then Guzman explained what Decibel wanted to get out of this session. “We really want to walk away with solid story ideas.” Guzman said. “But the ultimate goal is that every one of you feels like we listened to you and you feel heard. We really want to build trust with this community.”
Guzman said Decibel wants our work in Pflugerville to be an accurate representation of the community, its people and its current issues. Decibel’s measure of success is if a year from now, the community tells us we’ve done a good job and have nailed our coverage.
We then polled our participants to see how they felt about the media’s coverage of Pflugerville. They could choose one of five answers to this question: excellent, good, fair, poor, or very poor. One person rated it “good” and when asked to elaborate, this participant said that most news about Pflugerville that he reads is informative, which is useful in his life. Three attendants rated the media’s current coverage of Pflugerville as “fair” and one participant each rated it “poor” and “very poor” respectively. When asked to expand on their reasoning for choosing “fair”, one participant said he sees coverage about Pflugerville being a mixture of positive and negative. Another participant who rated the media’s coverage of the city as “fair” said that it depends on what news organization is reporting and delivering the story. The individual who chose “poor” to describe the current coverage of Pflugerville said that most of the time, the city is lost in the coverage of Austin and other surrounding areas like Round Rock. They also described the challenges they’ve encountered when trying to find reliable information regarding local candidates during election season. The person who chose to describe the media’s coverage of Pflugerville as “very poor” stated that the diversity of the city is not being highlighted as much as it should be and also mentioned that the majority of the coverage of the area is politically motivated. “I feel like there’s opportunities for a lot more resources and good news to be shared,” the participant said.
Guzman then directed the attendants to consider high-level topics that Decibel should focus on in our upcoming coverage of Pflugerville. With a couple of members of our team at each table, we were able to elaborate on this prompt and discuss these topics with the residents in an intimate way. Once we discussed the broad topics affecting Pflugerville, each table shared the most important issues that came up in our table to the entire meeting. Guzman wrote down each topic in large letters on poster-sized sticky notes that were then placed on the walls surrounding our meeting so all could see. The high-level topics that our participants brought up included diversity, transportation, rapid development, education, health care services, business, identity, public safety and affordability.
Next, Guzman guided our participants to use colored sticky-notes as a voting mechanism to signify which topics were the most important out of the nine we discussed. Each participant was allowed to vote three times and when everyone was complete, there were three topics that floated to the top of mind for our attendees. Diversity clearly garnered the most votes, then second came business and third was identity. With a distinct path of topics for Decibel to move forward with, Guzman then asked each table to brainstorm specific story ideas pertaining to each topic, write the ideas down on post-it notes and stick them onto the larger poster-sized topics hanging on the walls. After a short while, there were many pink post-it notes with various and specific story ideas on our big three topics. Guzman went through each one to ensure that our team understood what exactly the writer was thinking when they wrote their suggestion. A few notable ideas drew consensus from our participants such as highlighting the rich multicultural aspect of the city, showcasing some of the important businesses in the area and examining the fact that Pflugerville is more than just a city you pass through on your way to Austin.
This interactive approach to fielding story ideas from the community accumulated more story ideas then any of our previous listening sessions. “I gotta tell y’all, I think this is probably one of the most successful listening events we’ve ever hosted,” Guzman said. “We have never walked away from a listening session with so many story ideas.”
The Decibel team will now begin to hone in on a few story ideas and begin our coverage in the area. Since we spend time delving deep into each story, expect our first few stories about Pflugerville to be published in June. Although the turnout to our listening session was a bit more than a handful of residents, our team was beyond pleased with how the session turned out. The smaller group allowed each resident the opportunity and space to fully share their perspective with us. We are looking forward to holding another in-person listening event for the city of Pflugerville in the next few months. As always, if you have story ideas or want to talk to us about issues happening in Pflugerville, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com or fill out our story submission form.
Got story ideas, advice on how we can improve our reporting or just want to know more about what we do? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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