Friday, August 19, 2011

Updated: Working As a Source for the Public Insight Network

Preface: This is officially my first attempt at a shared blog post, with contributions by myself and Nick Blumberg of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk. After initially saying that it sounded like a great idea and would be easily accomplished, I realized that writing in such an organized format might prove challenging to me, despite my periodic aspirations to try and become a journalist (a career choice that no journalist I know would recommend). Upon committing myself, I immediately encountered the kind of writer's block that only a brief bout of insomnia and a glass of wine could resolve. This is despite the fact that Nick gave his assurance that he will give a bit of direction. So here we go....

From Patrick:

My last post, "Thoughts about South Phoenix", was prompted entirely by a questionnaire that a friend forwarded from the Fronteras Desk's Public Insight Network. My completion of the questionnaire prompted a call from Nick Blumberg, who was working at the time with KJZZ's Steve Goldstein to produce a weeklong series focused on various facets of the city of Phoenix, titled "Finding Connections in Phoenix's Directions". This series aired last week, with my contribution to the South Phoenix story airing last Friday morning at 6:33 and 8:33 AM (listen here).

When Nick contacted me, I was initially surprised -- thinking that perhaps he was more interested in other contacts I had recommended as potential sources for his story. But he invited me into the studio to speak with Steve and him about Laveen, and how it fits into the big picture for South Phoenix and the city as a whole. I was honored, to say the least, that I would be included in their project -- still a little doubtful that anything I said would make it onto the air -- but I agreed to stop in at the studio and go on the record just to see what would come of it.

Given that this was a few weeks before my son, Tighe, started at daycare, I was left with no choice but to bring him along and hope that he would behave himself (he's just over two years old). At this point, I'm fairly certain that the surprise was on Nick and Steve.... They really should have considered contacting sources other than this part-time stay at home dad with a son who loves almost nothing more than audio equipment and buttons. Needless to say, this was not a working formula, despite their efforts to make it work. I couldn't help but be both embarrassed and humored by my naiveté, followed by a great deal of appreciation for Nick and Steve's insistence that we figure out something more workable.

While we did record a few bits of arguably usable content in the studio (which was not ultimately included in the aired interview, likely because of the toddler contribution), we all agreed to reschedule and change the venue to somewhere closer to my home. This made things much easier and it is how we ultimately ended up at a chain coffee shop in a relatively new big box shopping center, which almost seemed more apropos to the content we covered -- namely, the types of growth we had seen and expected to see for Laveen and South Phoenix. While I admit that I was a tad distracted by all of the commotion and perhaps rambled on more than necessary about several topics, we managed to have a great conversation. There were even a few useful sound bites as a  result of the interview, so I think we all left feeling relatively pleased with the results.

I have to admit that the whole experience left me feeling excited, both that I had contributed to something worthwhile and that I would thoroughly enjoy listening to the finished product. It didn't hurt that I was one of a select group of fellow Phoenicians, many of whom I know and respect a great deal. The series began with Mayor Phil Gordon, followed by downtown movers and shakers like Sean Sweat and Stacey Champion, along with business leaders like Kimber Lanning (a long-time influence, by the way) and columnist Jon Talton (a more recent influence). If you haven't already, I suggest following the above link and listening to all of the segments for a great deal of insight. My only wish is that the series continues, offering greater depth and more personalized stories about our home. I now look forward to Nick Blumberg's reaction.

From Nick:

It was, indeed, a suprise when Pat showed up in the studio with his (ahem) energetic son in tow. Despite our best efforts to otherwise engage Tighe, he felt fairly certain that his voice ought to be heard too! That aside, it was wonderful to get some perspective on Laveen. Although it's not part of any traditional definition of South Phoenix, it is technically in the south part of this city. It really interested me to look at Laveen in the story, both because it's an emerging area, and because I liked that it gave us an "in" to get at the concept that some parts of Phoenix (Laveen, Ahwatukee) that seem a lot more like suburbs than neighborhoods.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think I would have come up with the idea to include Laveen in the South Phoenix story had Pat not contacted me through the Public Insight Network. That's what's so cool about the PIN--it not only provides KJZZ and our regional Fronteras project with a great database of sources we can reach out to for specific stories, it also creates a new way for stories to come in to the newsroom. Journalists come upon stories in a variety of ways, and PIN creates just another opportunity, one that's perhaps more accessible for so-called "average" people to tell us about what's going on in their community and whether the media are or aren't covering the story.

We want to get as many and as wide a variety of people to join our network as possible. If you're interested, you can tell us what you know more about than most people ( or what story we're missing ( And if you want to talk with me more about what the heck this all means, or who, exactly, a source is, you can reach me at nblumberg (at) kjzz (dot) org.