Voting with a purpose: Inside the upcoming, first-ever Word in Black virtual event


By Steve Baron • LMA Chief Strategy Officer

Publishers of 10 leading Black newspapers in America have joined with Local Media Association to form a group known as Word in Black. The group is already producing articles together about the impact of COVID-19 on education using a solutions journalism approach, and is preparing to host its first virtual event ahead of the fall elections.


Here’s a look at what it takes for a newly formed group like this to get started in the growing area of virtual events.

Set goals and agree on them

Working in any large group can be complicated, and in this era of remote work and collaboration, things are more complex than ever. When the idea of a virtual event focused on voting with purpose in the upcoming November election surfaced, everyone supported the concept. Still, no one was sure what to do next.  

One of the founding principles of Word in Black is, “Solutions to racial inequities in America should start with the Black press.” With that in mind, the group decided the virtual event would consist of a live panel discussion mixed with several pre-produced videos addressing critical issues related to voting with purpose in Black America.

Find experts to help

The entire concept of virtual events is relatively new, and with publishers just getting started producing them, there’s not a great deal of internal expertise in general on the subject. When asked if I knew anyone who could help, two of my favorite experts in the field came to mind; Nzinga Christine Blake and Erik Niewiarowski.

Blake and Niewiarowski led a Google-funded diversity, equity, and inclusion project at Tribune Media, which resulted in dozens of impactful stories from traditionally underrepresented groups running on broadcast and digital platforms in 40 American cities.  

Here’s a clip that Blake and Niewiarowski worked on as part of that project, which aired on KTLA in Los Angeles.

In this world of Zoom meetings, Blake and Niewiarowski met with the Word in Black team, heard participants’ thoughts and goals, and rapidly turned around a live event proposal incorporating live and pre-recorded video, interactive elements panel discussions.  

They also suggested a partner who could power this event and make it feel “more important than just another Zoom meeting.”

Bring in the Megaphone

Enter Megaphone TV, a 12-year-old company billing itself as “the industry’s leading Viewer Engagement Platform.” Megaphone TV partners with news organizations, broadcasters, and streamers worldwide to create interactive storytelling moments and transactional ad campaigns through live polling, trivia, and social integration. Companies such as ABC, AMC, Bravo, CNN International, MTV, Rogers Sportsnet, and TEGNA are frequent Megaphone TV users.  

Megaphone TV demo:

 

Megaphone TV brings in tools and technology for this event which otherwise would be out of reach. It has the technology to allow panelists to join in a ‘broadcast style’ event from their webcams and includes a professional technical director and graphics to make virtual events feel like broadcasts.

The event will also feature live polls, which viewers will take part in via mobile devices with results reflected in real-time on the live stream.

The hard work begins

With about a month to go before the event, the team is now in high gear, working to secure sponsorships, confirm participants, and begin to gather assets for pre-produced videos.

In a world not long ago, a team such as Blake and Niewiarowski would hop on a plane and visit 10 cities in five days, gathering all the video they would need for an event like this. Expenses aside, in the current climate of social distancing, travel isn’t feasible, so now everything will be done remotely. Fortunately, the quality of iPhones and other readily-accessible gear makes this practical, if not the preferred method, for events like this going forward.

With that, it’s up to each publisher to provide video, photos, and other material that Blake will use to create scrips, and Niewiarowski will use to make finished video-on-demand clips.

The October 20th virtual event will stream at 6 p.m. ET on WordinBlack.com, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms and is free to view. Register for email updates about the event


If you’d like to participate or be a sponsor of this event, please let us know.