Another week, another wall

Oct 08 2015

Mariah writes down ideas as we brainstorm about what concerns constituents in our area have.

Mariah Barksdale writes down key points about our publication idea before a practice pitch. Photo taken by Caroline Lamb.

This week was definitely a tough one in the Lab. The constant rain in Chapel Hill, coupled with short but seemingly never-ending time until fall break, has taken its toll on everyone, leaving our group at a slight loss. We were greeted by the same looming question we faced a couple of weeks ago: Where do we go from here?

Throughout the week, we had obtained some great feedback that gave us a lot to go on. UNC School of Media and Journalism professor Paul O’Connor was able to shed a lot of insight on how we should design the web component of our idea in order to cater to constituents fully. He suggested we add a page to our layout that featured elected officials in North Carolina and a blurb about their role in government. He also pointed out that adding a small search box where visitors to the site could enter their address and receive the names of the officials in their district would also be helpful.

One government official we talked to reinforced our confidence in our idea, stating that she thought it would be an innovative way to connect elected officials and community leaders with their constituencies. In addition, she added that expanding the idea to be a two-way communication channel may also be beneficial. She believed that writing informed articles that included public opinion information, commentary and analyses would be considered credible in the political sphere, suggesting that we assign certain journalists to certain topics depending on their area(s) of expertise.

Others also liked the idea. Another government official gave us feedback on our proposed idea of an online “dropbox” for constituents to submit their concerns, particularly for the web-driven younger generation. However, he also suggested that we consider having locked dropboxes that use comment cards for citizens that aren’t as involved in the technological world. Placing them in convenient county buildings would ensure that this sect of the population would have equal access to a system in which they could submit their questions, comments and concerns. A quick follow-up system for our dropbox idea would ensure that responses to these submissions would be done in a timely manner, signifying to community members that their input is a high priority to our publication.

Overall, the productive input we received this week shed light on how practical our idea is and how to further proceed with it. After speaking with John Clark, the executive director of the Lab, and Sara Peach, the associate director of the Lab, we established that we need more feedback from government officials, as they’re our target audience and the people who would most benefit from our publication. Our plan for the next week is to reach out to at least five elected officials, each by Monday, ensuring that we cast a wide net and obtain as much feedback as possible in a timely manner. Setting goals and deadlines is helpful in ensuring that we’re making progress, and, despite hitting a bit of a wall, we’re all excited to see what happens in the coming week.


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