‘We’re Busting At The Seams’: What We Learned From A Del Valle Listening Session

By Kyrios LoNigro | Wednesday, June 9th 2021

Decibel has been reporting in Del Valle for a few months now, so it was time to get some feedback on our work . We held another virtual listening session to get community feedback on the stories we’ve produced so far, and on what to work on next.

We used traditional outreach methods as well as some new ones by partnering with the Garfield Public Library to hold physical space for those who don’t have internet or a computer. We also partnered with the Austin Monitor who helped promote the event and who will partner with us on future stories.

While we had only five members in attendance this session, the small number allowed for all attendees to have an intimate conversation about the problems they face.

We began by screening two stories we have done so far for this project: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind and Returning To Homeroom. After each screening, we had attendees rate the overall storytelling of each piece and had the results lead us into a discussion about each story.

June Listening Session Poll Results

Poll results from listening session.

Both stories received high ratings. We asked respondents to explain their ratings and to tell us how we could improve.

In response to “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind,” a participant said,”The story was actually a really good story.” They said they didn’t know there were people nearby who didn’t have basic necessities. “We should be knowledgeable about what happens in our neighborhoods,” they said, and expressed how hard it is to get information about what is going on in their community.

After screening both stories, we had a broader conversation about what participants would like to see in news coverage of Del Valle. Participants expressed dissatisfaction with existing media presence. One participant said the news media doesn’t come to Del Valle “unless someone gets shot or something bad happens.” All participants expressed how they would like more positive stories about the community to be shared.

Multiple participants cited concern over developers like Tesla and Circuit of The Americas (COTA) moving to Del Valle. One participant said that while developers can benefit the community, the downsides of development are not being discussed enough. They wished that what was being done “for the sake of Del Valle, not an outside force”, like the new library, was given more attention.

Another concern of participants was the lack of public transportation in the area. While new business has the potential to bring opportunities to Del Valle, those without reliable transportation won’t reap the benefits. They’re worried that people from Austin and Georgetown will start working at Tesla, creating “a huge chain reaction” and “huge growth” that will not be mitigated by a local body.

“I can't even imagine once Tesla’s up and running, once ACC is here, once H-E-B is here, how much the property taxes are going to go up,” an attendee said.

Participants were also confused about the complicated zoning in Del Valle.. “I don’t understand that whole, ‘We’re a part of Travis County but some parts are annexed and some parts are part of the city’... It’s too much. It’s not easy for me to understand,” a participant said. They also added knowing “what we have access and rights to versus our neighbors across the street” was difficult to determine.

Each participant expressed they felt overlooked and their community does not have the resources and attention needed in order to gain vital infrastructure and support. All of this feedback will be used to inform future stories we work on.

Having community members rate our storytelling either “good” or “excellent” let’s us know our method of listening first, reporting second is working. All of the ideas for the stories we’ve published so far came from our first listening session. We believe putting power back into the hands of communities is leading to stories those communities can be proud of. We’ll be hosting another listening session in a few months. . If you would like to add to the conversation, have ideas about stories or how we can improve, or just want to chat with someone on our staff, reach out to news@klru.org.

Community journalism doesn’t happen without community support.

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 news@klru.org.

And if you value this type of reporting, then please consider making a donation to Austin PBS. Your gift makes the quality journalism done by the Decibel team possible. Thank you for your contribution.

More in Culture:

See all Culture posts