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    PRSANE Programming: Connecting to a More Just Future Through Content & Storytelling

    What is community-engaged journalism? The August PRSA Nebraska virtual program welcomed Dawaune Lamont Hayes, Founder/Director of NOISE Omaha as he spoke about “Connecting to a More Just Future Through Content Creation & Storytelling.” Hayes is a 2016 Creighton University alum where he studied journalism and media with a focus on public relations. Founded by Hayes in 2018, NOISE stands for North Omaha Information Support Everyone. “North Omaha is our context, information is our service and supporting everyone is our goal,” said Hayes.

    His interest in founding NOISE Omaha began when he was the Communications Manager at the Union for Contemporary Art and was involved in the interviews for the 2017 North Omaha Information Ecosystem Assessment. NOISE came out of an effort to take time to step into a community and just listen.

    NOISE Omaha is a platform prioritizing web and social media while supporting coverage with radio, print, SMS alerts, and events to make news and information more accessible within North Omaha. NOISE is part of the American Journalism Project, a new-venture philanthropy organization providing transformative grants and close support to local, nonprofit and civic news organizations to ensure sustainability.

    “When was the last time you visited North Omaha?” Hayes asked the group of virtual attendees and shared that his Zoom background was an image of the Summer 2018 mural called “The Ancestor, The Identity, and The Seed.” The mural is located at the intersection of North 24th and Ohio Streets (on the north wall of Styles of Evolution). After gathering neighborhood input at three public meetings, lead artist Reggie LeFlore designed the mural, inspired by the three colors of the Pan African flag and the heritage and future of the North Omaha community. The North Omaha Mural Project connects local artists and communities to collaborate on public art that represents the spirit of the neighborhood.

    When asked how individuals and organizations could support NOISE and North Omaha, his answer was simple: come visit. Taking in the art and culture at the Great Plains Black History Museum and enjoying the food at area restaurants are a couple of examples he listed. “Be present. Visit North Omaha. Get familiar with the history of Omaha,” said Hayes.

    Hayes shared the significance of visual storytelling and meeting community members where they consume news for two-way conversations. Hayes explained that he used Ekran font as the initial font for NOISE and Norwester as a secondary font to create the brand for NOISE, but NOISE’s storytelling has always been more than words on a page. NOISE consistently uses graphic art, images and video to bring news and information to life.

    Additionally, Hayes said that going behind-the-scenes is beneficial to the community to show how things are created through videos, campaigns, or even entire organizations. It helps grow NOISE’s ecosystem of content and storytelling.

    Hayes posed another question: “When you think of North Omaha, do you think of the area geographically or socially? It's important to talk to your community – find out how they'd like to receive news and encourage them to share their stories.”

    His recommended insights to consider for increasing community-engaged journalism:

    • How do you get your news? (word-of-mouth) How would you like to receive it? (print, digital) What you would like to know more about? (personalized information)
    • Invite community members to share their stories. Work to train and convert them to contributors. Share on platforms that the community deems relevant.
    • The future of journalism is two-way communication. Dialogue with audiences is where the most impact happens.

    “Journalism today is accessible and ready for new voices and faces,” shared Hayes. Since its beginning, NOISE has engaged and trained community members as news correspondents as another way to increase community involvement.  

    As another tactic to grow its audience, NOISE has partnered with The Omaha Star, the longest-running newspaper in the nation that is owned and managed by black women, as well as the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation and Mind & Soul 101.3 FM. 

    In the future, NOISE is working on developing more structure with more direct engagement, events and door-knocking to let the community know NOISE is here to stay.

    PRSA Nebraska is grateful to Emspace + Lovgren for being our August virtual program sponsor. You can connect with NOISE on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

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