Partnerships are powerful in the new media ecosystem
Dear Beaconites -
Among news organizations, competition has always been king. But in the new media ecosystem, collaboration can be more powerful. Three Beacon projects this week show how working with partners produces an impact greater than the sum of our separate efforts.
Power Players, Jason Rosenbaum's look at money in Missouri politics, kicked off a national project of the Investigative News Network. The work began weeks ago with two watchdog organizations, OpenSecrets.org and Followthemoney.org. They crunched federal and state campaign finance numbers from the 2008 and 2010 campaigns, setting the stage for further reporting by nonprofit news organizations in several states.
Jason's reporting yielded new insights about spending patterns in Missouri -- patterns that were murky at the time but look clearer in retrospect. His first story profiled Missouri's top 10 donors with particular attention to Rex Sinquefield, by far the state's largest political funder. Using an app developed by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Jason presented details of each donor's contributions. Jason also analyzed spending on ballot initiatives. Though intended as an expression of grassroots democracy, many initiatives have been heavily bankrolled by a small number of interested parties.
Explaining past patterns in Missouri political funding sets the stage for reporting on this election cycle. It also holds lessons for the nation. Because Missouri has had no donation limits for several years, our experience previews what might happen this year when limits elsewhere are being widely circumvented through donations to Super PACs.
A second Beacon collaboration, this one with the Nine Network, was in the spotlight this week through the debut broadcast of Nine's "Homeland: Immigration in America." Beacon reporter Kristen Hare and Washington correspondent Rob Koenig helped research the issues in this three-part documentary, which has been years in the making. As the series airs, Kristen is catching up with some of the immigrants featured in it. Justin Semahoro fled ethnic cleansing in Congo when he was 15. Now 29, he plans to be married in August and hopes eventually to bring his bride home to St. Louis.
A third Beacon collaboration is just getting underway this week. "7 Nights in July" is an experiment on several levels. As Nancy Fowler's story explains, the project centers on the power of art to instigate conversations. The focus is the musical "Dreamgirls," starring Jennifer Holliday at the Muny in what may be her last performance in her signature role as the singer who gets left behind.
We anticipate that the show will start discussions about race, gender and Muny history, among other themes. We want to encourage and capture the conversations. In addition to Nancy's stories, the project will include video and photo essays from several producers, including the Higher Education Channel and the Missouri History Museum. Sponsors include an unconventional (and growing) list of individuals and organizations interested in exploring how the show and the larger themes resonate among St. Louisans.
A fourth collaboration also got a start this week. The Beacon and FOCUS St. Louis, the civic leadership organization, will be working together to foster discussion of regional issues. In addition to organizing events, we're producing a series of discussion guides and will encourage less formal conversations.
We'll keep you posted as activities ramp up. We'll keep you informed as we continue to explore how collaboration can strengthen the Beacon's journalism and help power a better St. Louis.