The Memphis Flyer
is working with media colleagues at MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, High Ground News, and Chalkbeat Tennessee to serve as a community resource. Understanding that many in the Memphis area, particularly more vulnerable Memphians, have questions and concerns about managing the practical aspects of Covid-19, the media collaborative has launched an SMS (text messaging) system to serve as a guide to food, jobs, housing, health, safety, schools, and more.
“The focus will be on ZIP codes that have the lowest broadband internet access and residents’ responses will be used to guide reporting,” said Wendi C. Thomas, editor and publisher of MLK50.
Funding for the project comes in part through a grant MLK50 received from the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Relief Fund.
The text-messaging model is based on a service launched in Detroit in 2016 by Sarah Alvarez of Outlier Media. Candice Fortman, CEO of Outlier, commented to MLK50, “Providing residents, especially those most underserved by traditional media, with direct access to high-value, fact-checked data allows newsrooms to redistribute some of their watchdog function and then focus scarce reporting resources on the accountability projects likely to have the most community impact.”
Reporters from the Flyer, MLK50, High Ground, and Chalkbeat will work together to address community concerns and questions. Listening to the community’s needs is especially critical during a crisis such as Covid-19, these journalists believe. MLK50 managing editor Deborah Douglas said, “We want folks to experience being seen and heard, so we can produce the kind of journalism and community engagement that will make a difference in their lives.”
To participate in the text-messaging project, locals may text the word “MEMPHIS” to 73224.