Improving Engagement

  • More pointed social media
    • To me our social media presence seems neutered in a way. Trying very hard to be hyper professional but in a boring way
    • Try to have more of an edge, though in what way I’m not sure
  • Improve video
    • These also tend to be edited in what’s trying to be hyper professional but often seem kind of boring
    • This seems harder since there are less in person events to video, and I don’t want to see zoom recordings ever
  • Including sound bites from interviews on the website
    • Just like Professor Meyer suggested, and this should be easier than normal because interviews over zoom can be a lot easier to record than in person with background noise
  • Meme Edition
    • Agree with Cassidy on a Comedic Edition
    • I was a big fan of the Black Sheep and they went under, maybe we could have a regular section in our paper that is satirical in some way. it could be something interesting to push in our social media as well

DI Improvement Ideas

  • Create an(other) app
    • Allows people to submit events they’d like us to cover, businesses they’d like us to feature.
  • Find ways to include quizzes on the website
    • What UIUC location are you?
    • Answer these questions and we’ll predict your major
  • Create some sort of website where people can leave anonymous reviews on housing?
    • Could be an interesting way to get the tea on what places are bad to live, what places have bugs, what places have poor management, etc. This could allow us to get more information about the places in town and perhaps get in touch with people who live in these places (I know this is a bit of a stretch).
  • Could perhaps put on some sort of show (post-COVID, for sure)
    • This could be something for buzz. Like a talent show/house show of sorts. Could give out a cash reward but maybe charge for entry and have our photographers/writers cover it.
  • It could be cool to have our own photographers/writers travel to cover big events so we’re not just taking submitted photos all the time
  • There’s a school paper that does a joke paper once a year. I feel like it could really up engagement to do something like that maybe once a semester. Something where there’s joke articles, or photos. It could be a meme edition, if you will.

Want to win $10,000 for the DI?

Saturday is the deadline for entering this year’s Student Innovation Competition, sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Perhaps we should take this week to think about ways to increase audience engagement for a special class of extremely challenged news organizations — student media. If we can collaborate to come up with some interesting ideas, perhaps we could write up a plan we could submit by Saturday in hope of becoming a finalist and earning a grant to help implement the plan at the IMC.

Below is the official announcement of the contest. Before class Friday, see what inventive ideas you might have to offer to include in a proposal to the contest judges. Post your ideas and comment on others’ ideas in the Responses:Engagement category.

Here the submission link.

Reynolds Journalism Institute’s 2021 Student Innovation Competition

News organizations are struggling nationwide for many reasons. Whether it’s that subscriptions have dropped, trust is low or corporations are buying them and chopping them down to their bones – no one problem is the cause of current struggles, nor will one solution be the saving grace. One unfortunate result of the challenging environment: newsrooms are finding it harder to stay connected to their audiences and communities. We want to help news organizations find new methods of engaging with their readers and viewers. Research regularly shows that news organizations are critical to the vitality of the communities they serve and critical to all aspects of democracy. So, this year’s challenge is a two parter:


Research a local news organization and come up with a new way for them to engage with their community. The outlet can be any type – TV, radio, newspaper, non-profit, weekly, online only, monthly, etc. And your engagement idea can be anything! Be creative and think outside the usual avenues for that outlet, brainstorm with them to see what they’d be interested in trying with you.

Create a plan on how you would work with them to implement your idea over a three-month period. You will need to detail the necessary steps, milestones and how you plan to measure success at the end of your three months. Submit this idea below by October 31, 2020.

If you need help finding a news organization to pair with please email Director of Innovation, Kat Duncan  before September 10th and she will help you reach out to possible partners. 

Our selection committee will pick finalists from the submissions based on the strength of planning, potential for success and creative out of the box thinking. Those ideas will then move to the next phase.


If selected as a finalist, you will have 3 months to implement your idea with the news outlet before creating a google presentation detailing the idea, the implementation and results. Your team will present on Zoom in front of a panel of judges and the public on February 26th, 2021.  


First place: $10,000

Second place: $2,500

Third place: $1,000


Part 1 ideas must be submitted through the form below by October 31, 2020 to be considered. Late ideas will not be considered, no matter how amazing they are.

If your team is chosen as a finalist you will be notified by November 13, 2020 giving you ample time to implement your idea before presenting. 


  • A team can be an individual or up to 4 people. 
  • At least one person on each team must be a journalism or communication student. 
  • Presentations must be in English. 
  • The competition is open to all U.S. undergraduate and graduate college students. All team members will need to verify their enrollment status if chosen as a finalist. 
  • If you are here on a student visa, please note that your winnings will probably have to be distributed as a scholarship. We will require you to plan ahead and make the necessary arrangements with your university or college for us to transfer your potential winnings. 


Projects will be judged on four main criteria:

  1. Idea: Did the team look at the history, audience and abilities of the news organization they partnered with to create a new, innovative idea to help them connect with their community? 
  2. Implementation: Was the pilot implementation successfully launched? What was learned from the results? What would next steps be for the idea?
  3. Engagement: Did the project actually help the news organization engage with people in their community and how well? 
  4. Reach: Is this idea something that could be implemented at other news organizations and be successful in aiding them too? 

This year’s judges

Julia Chan

Adriana Lacy

Forrest Milburn
Miami Herald

Hannah Wise
NY Times

Training New Staff

  • Think Visually
    • Sometimes stories can be developed greatly with the use of photos. Be thinking about them early and often
    • Communicate more with photographers from the beginning of stories. Instead of filling out a form and hoping the picture is taken, have a conversation with the photographer
    • In what ways could an infographic add to your story? How can you best display the information compared to a graphic
    • Develop relationships with people in visuals. Learn what they think about the stories you are writing and vice versa to get a better grasp on how you each want the final product to turn out
  • Separate Daytime and Weekly Stories
    • These two responsibilities should not be worked on in the same way. They should be written differently as well
    • We need more communication between editors here and reporters on shift. Maybe more assignment based than letting them get to pick what they work on
    • Daytime is communal, and must be talked about between reporters for the best stories. Interview times must be shared with the whole group
    • Don’t worry about writing very short pieces. The goal here is to get the information out in a timely manner, and not add unnecessary detail. If it is necessary, we can add it later in a full story
  • Time for edits
    • Deadlines might need to be shorter for certain stories to allow editors to make real changes in the work of the reporter. Allows editors to ask for extra interviews and information, rather than checking mostly for grammar
    • I’d like a closer relationship between editor and reporter when working on a story. Editor should be more involved with the day to day of stories