WHYY’s N.I.C.E. partnership amplifies underrepresented community voices

The effort is a collaboration with producers, publishers, journalists, artists, and laypeople who help connect our audiences to diverse communities.

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Pictured are Eric Marsh Sr, WHYY N.I.C.E. and Saj “Purple” Blackwell of PQ Radio 1 during a community event. (Photo courtesy of N.I.C.E)

There’s nothing like talking to people who are rooted in their neighborhood. It’s like sitting on the stoop with them or being led to their favorite places and getting the inside scoop on what matters in their community.

WHYY’s N.I.C.E. partnership brings together the voices of people throughout Philadelphia that don’t often get amplified in mainstream media. N.I.C.E. stands for News and Information Community Exchange.

WHYY’s Eric Marsh Sr. is spearheading the exchange, a collaboration with producers, publishers, journalists, artists, and laypeople who help connect our audiences to diverse communities. “Morning Edition” host Jennifer Lynn spoke with Marsh about N.I.C.E. He says it’s all about storytelling.

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One of the things that I think is common is this idea of a storyteller, people who share the stories of their community, of their culture, of their neighborhood. That’s one of the things that I really love about N.I.C.E. The idea behind N.I.C.E. is that we’re looking for and connecting with people who are the storytellers of their communities. And it really provides a richness and a depth to the storytelling from both the audience perspective and also the folks who are the subject of the story.

Well, you and I have talked about the expression “parachuting in,” where a journalist, maybe me, I have a story idea and I approach a certain community, a certain person. And I’m in, I’m out, I’m done. But with the community journalism that we’re talking about here with this collaboration, that parachuting isn’t happening, there is much more connection, right?

It’s much more connection. And it’s a greater sense of respect for the community. It’s not to say that there isn’t a level of respect that exists for reporters that come from outside of the community. But there’s a different level of understanding, a different depth of connection and relationship. And so community members and neighbors, when you’re talking to them and being interviewed, they know that you have their best interests at heart because you come from that community or there’s a preexisting relationship.

Eric, one of my favorite N.I.C.E. projects is radio- and web-based and supported by PlanPhilly, which is known for its in-depth original reporting on Philadelphia neighborhoods. And it’s called the 47 Bus.

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We have listened to this PlanPhilly series in the last year. It’s a wonderful series. It takes us up a bus route, the 47 bus SEPTA route into communities. A lot of them are Latino communities.

I love the idea of using the Route 47 because it literally connects communities together in a range of socioeconomic conditions. I think it’s brilliant, and that’s just one of the examples of what N.I.C.E. partners bring, this ability to see the everyday common thing in a different way.

And the other example of someone who I think our listeners are getting more and more familiar with is P.O.C., Proof of Consciousness. She’s a local audio producer. Let’s listen to some of her project, “Mad or Nah.”

P.O.C. comes with her own style, and there’s just a richness and a rhythm to it. And many people have said, like, they’ve never heard anything like this on public radio, a voice that is inherent to Philadelphia.

Eric, N.I.C.E. is really opening doors.

It is. Many years ago … maybe about three or four years ago, WHYY did an internal audit of its newsroom and the diversity of the organization in general. And to WHYY’s credit, they saw that they were lacking in many areas before this became a national conversation. And so the move towards opening the doors and being more inclusive and more community oriented, it’s really starting to pay off.

Most definitely. N.I.C.E. putting an underscore under the word public in public media. Thank you so much, Eric Marsh Sr.

Oh, thank you, Jennifer. I really appreciate our time together.

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