Announcing Hearken’s Champions of Curiosity Awards

Julia Haslanger
Dec 21, 2016 · 9 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Hearken’s partner newsrooms have produced some spectacular public-powered journalism over the past year. We want to give them all the high-fives and thumbs-up emojis✋ 👏 👍 🙌 , and we also wanted to share their successes with you so that you, too, can be as inspired by their work as we are.

Our newsrooms had the opportunity to nominate their own work for these awards, and our engagement consultants (previously titled community managers) also nominated some of the best work they’ve seen from our partners. The judging committee gathered in early December, and here are this year’s winners:

Newsroom award: Champion of Curiosity

Australian Broadcasting Company

ABC used Hearken for two initiatives this year: Curious Campaign which, in a matter of weeks, gathered more than 2,400 questions that their audience had about the Australian elections, and Curious Canberra, which focused on answering questions from and about Australia’s capital city. The response from the people of Canberra and the reporters was excellent:

“We received a staggering 930 questions this year — directly from you — and answered one every week. Most months you helped us decide which stories to cover by voting for your favourite questions.”
Curious Canberra newsletter, December update

The ABC newsroom tackled a huge variety of questions, from what’s the best place in town to be during a zombie apocalypse to how much the government subsidizes the public buses, and produced so many of the answers with the inclusion of the question-asker. They used social media extensively and smartly, and even have a Facebook album of photos of question-askers!

Image for post
Image for post

In total, the newsroom answered more than 60 audience questions in 2016.

Question-asker awards

Best participation in the reporting process

  • Australian Broadcasting Company viewer Ali Mountifield
Image for post
Image for post
Mitch Dane on the hunt for tunnels. | Photo: WPLN: Tony Gonzalez

Mitch Dane asked Nashville Public Radio’s Curious Nashville: “I’ve heard rumors of a mysterious tunnel system winding beneath downtown Nashville. Is this true?

Reporter Tony Gonzalez spent many weeks digging (sometimes literally) for an answer. On one reporting outing, Mitch even tagged along to explore basements for signs of a tunnel system.

Image for post
Image for post
Booth operator Tony with Ali Mountifield and her triplets | Photo: ABC News: Sonya Gee

Ali Mountifield asked ABC’s Curious Canberra about parking booth operators, and one operator in particular who had served her for close to a decade. From the reporter, Sonya Gee: “To answer the question, she brought her triplets to visit him at work. It was the most heartwarming participation from the year.”

Ali’s triplets helped perform the interview, taking turns asking Tony (the parking booth operator) questions about his life and job.

The heartening story: Meet Tony Jones of Tuggeranong

Best ongoing relationship formed with a question-asker

“Why, oh why, did T.W. Garner quit making Texas Pete Chili Sauce? And why didn’t they give us any notice!?” Wendell Burton asked WFDD’s Carolina Curious. Reporter Eddie Garcia hunted down the answer, and Wendell was very appreciative.

According to WFDD News Director Emily McCord: “After the story aired, Wendell has been giving the station his own collection of homemade hot sauces and, just for fun, farm fresh eggs. He also gave Eddie two cans of his personal stash of Texas Pete Chili Sauce, as well as upped his membership. All-around fabulous listener!”

Story awards

Favorite story that wouldn’t have been assigned in a more traditional editorial process

Best investigative story prompted by a question

Best public service story prompted by a question

  • WFDD’s Carolina Curious looked into “Why are there so few bus shelters in Winston-Salem?” and in the process of reporting found that the city planned to spend “approximately $1.2 million to improve hundreds of stop locations throughout Winston-Salem, including new bus stop shelters, benches, and signage.” From WFDD’s nomination of this story: “We would not have learned about the new public transportation initiatives had it not been prompted by a listener to ask.”
    Reporter: David Ford | Question-asker: Dean Franco

Hearken-powered story that had the biggest impact

ABC Action News had a parent reach out to them through their “Good Question” prompt with a question about a dance studio that abruptly closed. The “I-Team” began investigating, and found the dance studio owner had skipped town and reopened in a nearby state, and parents couldn’t get ahold of her to get refunds for camps, classes and materials that the studio didn’t provide.

Because of the investigation, “some families told us that they eventually received refunds,” investigative reporter Adam Walser says. “After the story ran, we were contacted by even more parents who had similar issues. We were able to forward the dance instructor’s contact information to them, so they could also pursue refunds.” Others in the community also stepped up after hearing the story: “The new tenant of the dance studio ended up offering free dance classes to the girls affected by the abrupt closure and the county recreation center in that community offered rent-free space for dance classes,” Walser says.

This story clearly had a positive impact on the lives of many families, who came to the station after they were unable to resolve the issue through law enforcement.

Best myth-buster story

Most fun story to report

Most creative approach to answering a question

Story with the most transparent process

Most public-powered reporting process

Image for post
Image for post

Best collaboration on a story (or stories) between organizations

“Best use of…” awards

Best use of audio

Best use of photo

Best use of video

Image for post
Image for post
Lucas Waldron/KQED

Best use of social media

Blockbuster awards

Blockbuster story

Blockbuster prompt

  • KQED’s Bay Curious asked its audience what questions they had about homelessness, and more than 1,300 questions flooded in over just a couple of weeks. After devising a strategy for how to handle such an large, unexpected volume of questions, Bay Curious tackled nine questions in its first answer piece, with an eye toward myth-busting.

A deep thank you to all of the Hearken newsrooms (more than 60 around the globe!). We are so inspired by the top-notch journalism created by all of you in service to and in deep collaboration with your audiences. 🙌

— Ellen, Summer, Julia and Jenn

Not a Hearken partner yet?
Here’s how to get in touch: wearehearken.com/join

Want to learn how to better engage the public? Download our free engagement checklist guide.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and…

Thanks to Jennifer Brandel, Ellen Mayer, and Hearken

Julia Haslanger

Written by

Journalism nerd exploring audience engagement, analytics and newsrooms. My path so far: WI ▹ Mizzou ▹ CO ▹ DC ▹ NYC ▹ Chicago. Engagement consultant at Hearken.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and tech. Hearken means: to listen. We believe that listening to your audience first, not last, makes for better everything. We're here to help: http://www.wearehearken.com/

Julia Haslanger

Written by

Journalism nerd exploring audience engagement, analytics and newsrooms. My path so far: WI ▹ Mizzou ▹ CO ▹ DC ▹ NYC ▹ Chicago. Engagement consultant at Hearken.

We Are Hearken

The Hearken team's thoughts on journalism, engagement, and tech. Hearken means: to listen. We believe that listening to your audience first, not last, makes for better everything. We're here to help: http://www.wearehearken.com/

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store