Part 3 Eight Categories of News Events
When you see something working for one news organization, it is tempting to replicate that in your own newsroom. But if you duplicate a model wholesale, you risk trying something that does not fit your organization or community.
Much attention has been paid to the ways journalists use events to diversify their revenue streams and engage their communities. But events are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, analyzing how different newsrooms implement event strategies reveals that the most successful events are uniquely positioned to leverage newsroom strengths and meet community needs.
Looking at the field of news events, there is an astounding diversity of models to explore — ranging from serious political debates to social meetings. Below is a breakdown of news events into eight categories, with examples of each. This is part of a larger project to surface best practices and create templates for local newsrooms to use in planning and developing their own event strategies. See Appendix Two for more information about the events discussed below.
These events convene leaders in industries the newsroom covers and often focus on panels and interviews paired with elements of a trade show or demo session.
- TechCrunch holds a number of these convenings under its “Disrupt” brand.
- Re/code, building on the success of the All Things D conference, has held major news-making events in the tech sector.
- Technica.ly Philly is a great model of a local newsroom pulling together tech leaders around Philly (and the nation) at Philly Tech Week.
These events tend to focus on big social or political ideas and issues, bringing scholars, innovators, activists, and professionals together for debate and discussion.
- The Atlantic’s Aspen Ideas Festival is one of the longest-running examples of this model, but it is just one of roughly 100 events that AtlanticLIVE
- The Texas Tribune modeled its successful Texas Tribune Festival after the New Yorker Festival.
Like the “Ideas Festivals” above, these events seek to tackle timely issues of public concern, but often with more of a political focus. Rather than a multiday festival, these events are smaller 1-3 hour panels and discussions.
- NJ Spotlight holds a series of public roundtables on current issues such as water quality, healthcare, and state infrastructure.
- The Texas Tribune’s TribLive events are held across the state, featuring intimate and focused conversations with policymakers and other political figures.
Not all events have to be serious affairs about critical community issues. A number of news organizations are building community and connecting reporting to people’s lives through fun social gatherings like trivia nights, ping-pong, and singles meetups.
- WNYC hosts singles nights in its theatre and Technical.ly Philly hosts networking meetups and job fairs.
- GeekWire hosts a summer bash and ping-pong tournament and Politico Pro hosts trivia nights.
- Brooklyn Based sponsors a pub crawl.
These are big-budget events, like trade shows, that bring together businesses from across the region, or even the country, to serve a need in your audience. Events like bridal expos or home and garden shows dovetail with wedding announcements and real estate, which are still popular sections for many news organizations.
- The Chattanooga Times Free Press holds a series of lifestyle events — for example, bridal expos and kids expos. You can see their full range of events here.
- The New York Times hosts a travel expo called the TravelShow.
Tapping into the cultural energy and passions of a local community can be a powerful way to bring people together. Events like film festivals, food festivals, and theatre and music performances can draw revenue from both ticket sales and sponsorships.
- Hyperlocal site Morristown Green organizes a yearly film festival.
- Chicago public radio station WBEZ throws chef battles and drive-in zombie movies.
- Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bites hosts the Taste of Sheepshead Bay.
- The New York Times’ TimesTalks events bring together celebrities from a wide range of disciplines.
Galas and Awards
More formal events, often organized around a dinner or reception, with awards and presentations from the stage, have long been a staple of many nonprofits and associations.
- The nonprofit MinnPost, seeking to avoid the earnest charity event model, decided to hold a political roast dubbed MinnRoast.
- Smithsonian Magazine holds an annual American Ingenuity Awards ceremony. (Hat tip to Jan Schaffer for pointing this out.)
Education and Training Workshops
Education events fit very well with the mission and goals of many news organizations and play to their strengths. These vary from small-scale workshops to huge lectures.
- Brooklyn Based runs a series of classes focused on everything from crafts to cooking.
- Andaiye Taylor of Brick City Live has been running digital marketing classes for local businesses.
Listening and Community Events
A number of newsrooms have held listening events to either convene important community conversations about local issues or to provide feedback to the newsroom about its own work.
- Carolina Public Press is holding listening sessions all over North Carolina.
- Chalkbeat hosts reader listening sessions
As with any categorization, there are some events that fit in multiple categories. This outline of models is intended to help newsrooms organize their planning and better define the kinds of events that they might pursue. Many newsrooms host a mix of events, depending on their market, the expertise of their staff, and the needs of their communities.