Every Voice, Every Vote launches Philly’s largest journalism and community engagement collaboration

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(City of Philadelphia)

Just as candidates are emerging vying to be the next mayor of Philadelphia, the largest journalism and community engagement collaboration the city has ever seen is launching to prepare residents for the election in November 2023.

Every Voice, Every Vote is a coalition of 52 media and community organizations that will share resources to discover what topics are most important to residents in this election, and to report deeply on those topics in various media outlets.

There are 25 collaborating media partners, including WHYY, Billy Penn, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Tribute, WURD, Al Dia News, Grid Magazine, and Philadelphia Gay News.

A full list of Every Voice Every Vote partners can be found online.

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There are 27 community partners, including the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Project HOME, and PA Youth Vote. Materials and events will be presented in 13 languages.

“The idea is that it is inclusive. Through this initiative we are touching just about every section of the city,” said Shawn Mooring of the Lenfest Institute, which is spearheading the initiative. “The comprehensiveness speaks to our effort to make sure that no community, no voice is left behind.”

Mooring said all forms of online reporting and journalism will be made available for free. No online paywalls will be applied to Every Voice Every Vote content, across all of its media partners. The Lenfest Institute site will host a central digital hub for all content and events: everyvoice-everyvote.org.

Sarah Glover, WHYY’s vice president of News and Civic Engagement, said she will be altering the radio station’s newsroom infrastructure as part of this project.

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“WHYY News is thrilled to be co-producing a mayoral forum on public safety as part of the Every Voice, Every Vote news project,” Glover said. “WHYY News will collaborate with other news partners to serve the citizens of Philadelphia by amplifying city issues and reporting on public safety, the arts and the economic impact of the business community.”

About $1.5 million is being distributed to the partners as grants ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Along with the Lenfest Institute, which primarily supports journalistic efforts, Every Voice, Every Vote is funded by the Wyncote Foundation, the Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, Peter and Judy Leone, and the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation. The lead sponsor is the William Penn Foundation.

In 2015, a similar but smaller collaborative project was made around the mayoral election, called the Next Mayor project. Mayor Jim Kenney won the election that year.

Every Voice, Every Vote is much larger, involving more partners representing a broader range of Philadelphians.

“The potential impact of Every Voice, Every Vote is significant,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, a community partner. “Too often, the voices of communities with low-to-moderate incomes and BIPOC communities are drowned out in the din of partisan politicking, silenced through marginalization, or not even sought out.”

“We are super excited to be a part of this because there’s such a need in the city of Philadelphia for the community’s needs to be met,” said Lauren Settles, a producer and reporter with We Talk Philly, a radio show on WPPM, 106.5FM. “We feel like we are the voice of the community, able to amplify marginalized voices and give them an opportunity to speak up.”

Started in 2017, We Talk Philly is a Black news and entertainment radio show, among the first programs that launched WPPL, the community radio station operated by PhillyCAM. It also has a YouTube channel and news website.

For the EVEV project, We Talk Philly will create journalism content as well as host community events that engage their audiences directly.

“When it comes to journalism, especially in the African-American community, the Black community, they tend not to trust the media because for years they haven’t been portrayed in the best light,” Settles said. “We have that relationship with the community to get them to open up and trust us to be the mouthpiece of the community.”

The first phase of Every Voice is research. Earlier this year Temple University’s Institute for Survey Research convened focus groups of 58 people from 26 zip codes across the city to identify topics of concern.

“Out of that came five key areas that folks felt were important,” Mooring said. “Crime, public safety, and gun violence topping that. Education and school safety. Affordable housing, homelessness and lack of community. And then employment opportunities. And also untreated mental health.”

From there, the survey and market research firm SSRS will develop a survey that will be sent to approximately 2,400 households. The results will be shared with all the EVEV partners to inform their reporting and community outreach.

“Most of the things that you see on television talking about topics or candidates, there tend to be either the politicians or the academics,” said Charles Gregory, the founder of We Talk Weekly. “You have people within a community listen to what’s being said and don’t have a clue as to what they’re talking about. One thing that We Talk Weekly has been successful with is actually conveying a message that’s easier to understand. We’re not talking over anyone’s head.”

Every Voice, Every Vote plans to produce 29 different voting guides, tailored to 29 election perspectives.

“Some of them will be general for the candidates,” Mooring said. ”Some of them will be council focused. Some of them will be specific issue based guides, whether it be folks reentering community from prison, or youth, or LGBTQ+ focus guides…It’s an extremely comprehensive effort.”

Mooring said distribution of the grant money to the partners is being finalized now. Community events and news reportage are expected to ramp up shortly, appearing on the central website everyvoice-everyvote.org.

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