WCPO asked their users what they wanted to know from candidates ahead of their elections reporting.”Usually, the journalists are the ones who ask the questions. Especially during election season, when campaigns often tell constituents what the campaigns want to tell them, instead of what the constituents want to hear,” senior reporter Larry Seward wrote in a column about the station’s efforts. “So that’s why we want to flip things around this year. We want to know what YOU want to know. We created the form below so that we could build an engagement map for how our viewers want these campaigns covered.” Seward said the public responses brought up questions for candidates the reporters wouldn’t have otherwise asked.
Themes:

Newsroom:
WCPO created an Elections Guide that contained all the basic election information in one place, including how to request a mail-in ballot, how to register to vote, and key dates to know ahead of the election. By providing easy-to-find answers to basic election questions, you can build trust with your users and maybe even pick up new ones.
After facing viewer questions about political ads, WCPO’s general manager Jeff Brogan wrote a column explaining how political advertising works for broadcasters. In the column he explains the FCC rules for political advertising and how the station is legally not allowed to edit or alter ads ads they recieve from candidates. “WCPO 9 and our parent company, E.W. Scripps, support the freedom of speech principles of the First Amendment, which emphasize a robust and open debate about the political process,” Brogan writes. “Although some of today’s political action committees might use aggressive tactics during the campaign season, their ads fall under free speech and have a right to be on a broadcast.”
In the midst of covering protests in Cincinnati, WCPO director Mike Canan wrote a column reminding their users of their journalist’s dedication to providing fair coverage for their community by discussing how they were putting themselves in the middle of it all — risking danger from protests and the police while also facing the danger of contracting COVID. “At the same time, the middle is where we have to be. We need to be out there reporting,” Canan wrote. “But we also need to be showing both sides. We need to accurately and fairly reflect what is happening in our community.”
During an on-air broadcast, WCPO News Director Mike Canan responded to a few complaints that said the station replayed the video footage of George Floyd’s being killed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer too many times. “We generally avoid sharing the last moments of people’s lives. In the instance we would use it, it is to establish a key moment … You can make that point by sharing that video one time, not four times,” Canan said.
Do your readers understand how and why you use national reporting from wire services like the Associated Press? During an AMA on WCPO’s Facebook page with their editor Mike Canan, a commenter was making accusations that the paper didn’t have original reporting and was not fact-checking national stories. Canan responded, explaining the station’s policy for using wire stories: “We fact check local stories. We rely on news partners like the AP for national and international stories. We have an entire team of hard-working, real journalists. Our job is to cover the local news. So we focus our journalists on those tasks and rely on our news partners for coverage that is outside of our area.”
WCPO decided their newsroom would severely limit the number of crime mugshots it used on its website. Director Mike Canan wrote a column explaining the change, specifically addressing how mugshots often disproportionately represented people of color and people with mental health issues while rarely added to the value of the actual reporting. The station also explicitly listed its new protocol for how it would use mugshots, inviting its audience to hold them accountable to their own standards. “We think it is ethical and responsible without harming our commitment to accurate journalism,” Canan wrote.
While other news sources were reporting the names of those who were violating Cincinnati’s stay-at-home violations, WPCO Senior Director Mike Canan took the opportunity to differentiate his newsroom’s approach from the competition. Instead of publishing specific names, Canan said he “challenged our team to do more. I wanted context on how law enforcement was making these decisions and what the data was showing. Ultimately, one person’s name is less important to the community as the pattern of behavior,” Canan wrote. “What we found is that mostly the people involved committed other crimes and police simply tacked the stay-at-home violation on.” Canan shared this information in a series of tweets while linking to the story.
WCPO launched a new series called Act of Kindness to highlight positive things happening in Cincinnati during the coronavirus outbreak. “When I am out speaking in the community, I tell people every corner of our community is neither all bad or all good. Our job as journalists is to paint that picture accurately,” news director Mike Canon wrote when speaking to the station’s breadth of coverage. “That remains true when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. There’s a lot of darkness out there. But there are also everyday people doing heroic things to help their neighbors. We have a responsibility to tell you those stories — in addition to the stories about the virus’s impact.” By highlighting the positive stories they cover, it helps the station remind their audience that they do more than just report on negative news.
WCPO in Cinncinati wrote a column explaining how they were adjusting their programming so their journalists could practice safe social distancing. The column made clear how it would affect the work of their employees and the programming the audience would see. “Some of these changes might impact the quality of our newscasts or online news sources. They might not look as polished as they normally do, and we would always rather interview people in person,” the column read. “But we are willing to make these sacrifices because we feel strongly that we need to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep our employees healthy.”
Themes:
Newsroom:
Taking the time to respond authentically to comments, especially when people take time to offer real suggestions, can build trust. In this example, a commenter suggested that improvements were needed in how the station chose sources for stories about firearms. When the editor offered his email address and asked for suggestions, a thoughtful and fruitful email exchange resulted.
Facebook comments can be an effective way to say directly to your community that you value their trust, then invite and answer questions. WCPO editors did just that. In the comments that followed, some commenters complained in general about bias in the media and fake news. An editor replied by inviting specific examples from their coverage. Not only that, he included his own email address. That shows that the station is open to feedback, but it also keeps the conversation focused on their own coverage, not the media overall.
WCPO discussed the impact their corporate office has on their news decisions. They wrote, “that’s one of a few basic creeds of journalism ethics, and we claim it proudly. At WCPO-9 On Your Side, our journalism decisions – what we decide to cover and how we tell our stories – begin and end every day right here in our Cincinnati newsroom. Our corporate parent, The E. W. Scripps Company, is just a mile away, but our company leaders make it a point to stay out of our local journalism decision-making. They focus on running a strong and secure business; we focus on bringing you the news. You can trust us on that.”
If one of your journalists writes a book about a story they have been working on or produces a documentary, highlight it. Two of WCPO's journalists were involved in publishing a book about "Fiona the Hippo," a local zoo animal that has gone viral. The news organization held a book signing and invited their users. More than 100 people attended the event.
If one of your journalists writes a book about a story they have been working on or produces a documentary, highlight it. Two of WCPO’s journalists were involved in publishing a book about “Fiona the Hippo,” a local zoo animal that has gone viral. The news organization held a book signing and invited their users. More than 100 people attended the event.
WCPO created a pro/con pull-out box on their website for a story to clearly show users both sides of a tax issue. By making it look different on their website they were able to drive users attention to it. The story outperformed in metrics compared to normal metrics for stories like this.
WCPO created a pro/con pull-out box on their website for a story to clearly show users both sides of a tax issue. By making it look different on their website they were able to drive users attention to it. The story outperformed in metrics compared to normal metrics for stories like this.
While working on a long-term investigative project about local law enforcement, WCPO thought about how their users may respond to the story once it was published. They realized they may get pushback for investigating police officers and decided to publish a story explaining why they are holding law enforcement accountable. They also highlight how being a watchdog is part of their mission as a news organization. The news team said the explainer story helped keep the focus on their reporting and what they uncovered instead of anti-cop rhetoric they were anticipating.
While working on a long-term investigative project about local law enforcement, WCPO thought about how their users may respond to the story once it was published. They realized they may get pushback for investigating police officers and decided to publish a story explaining why they are holding law enforcement accountable. They also highlight how being a watchdog is part of their mission as a news organization. The news team said the explainer story helped keep the focus on their reporting and what they uncovered instead of anti-cop rhetoric they were anticipating.
WCPO wrote a web article explaining the important role trust plays in their relationship with their community. The article discussed their participation in the Trusting News project and highlighted how they are going to try to be more trustworthy. The web article also invited feedback from users.
WCPO wrote a web article explaining the important role trust plays in their relationship with their community. The article discussed their participation in the Trusting News project and highlighted how they are going to try to be more trustworthy. The web article also invited feedback from users.
WCPO discussed their core beliefs as a news organization while updating their "about" page on their website. They told users they loved their city, discussed how they strive for accuracy and said one of their goals is to be transparent with users. The post was also shared on Facebook where it received hundreds of comments. The news organization said the post worked well and "people seemed to relate, ask questions and respond" to them.
WCPO discussed their core beliefs as a news organization while updating their “about” page on their website. They told users they loved their city, discussed how they strive for accuracy and said one of their goals is to be transparent with users. The post was also shared on Facebook where it received hundreds of comments. The news organization said the post worked well and “people seemed to relate, ask questions and respond” to them.
WCPO shared a Washington Post article about President Donald Trump on Facebook and added a note about how they choose to cover the president and politicians. They wanted to highlight how they hold people in power accountable because of how it impacts the public.
WCPO shared a Washington Post article about President Donald Trump on Facebook and added a note about how they choose to cover the president and politicians. They wanted to highlight how they hold people in power accountable because of how it impacts the public.
WCPO published a story explaining how the editorial board and process works at their news organization. The story discussed what topics they will focus editorials on and their policy when it comes to endorsing candidates.
WCPO published a story explaining how the editorial board and process works at their news organization. The story discussed what topics they will focus editorials on and their policy when it comes to endorsing candidates.
Screenshot from WCPO's website, showing a post with the headline: "WCPO leadership makes decisions about what stories the station covers every day"
WCPO talked directly to their users about their story selection process. In a post on their website, they talked about what types of questions are involved when they make decisions about what to cover and what not to cover. Included in the note was mention of their approach to stories involving suicide and their approach to covering car accidents. The news team also shared the story on Facebook and received over 100 comments from users.
Screenshot from WCPO's Facebook page, showing an article where they asked for reader feedback.
WCPO followed the lead of ESPN and reported that an NFL player would be leaving the Bengals. Turns out it wasn’t true. WCPO addressed the mistake head-on by writing about how the mistake happened on their website. They shared their step-by-step reporting process, which involved relying on ESPN’s citing of anonymous sources. This led them to share their anonymous source policy and ask their audience for feedback. “Should we publish and air stories from other respected news organizations citing anonymous sources,” they asked. They then shared the article with a call for feedback on Facebook.
Explaining why you're covering a story can help readers understand your motivations. WCPO used language like "we wanted to better understand communities that often are in the news only when crime has occurred there" can speak to those who assume journalists only want to drum up controversy and negativity.
Explaining why you’re covering a story can help readers understand your motivations. WCPO used language like “we wanted to better understand communities that often are in the news only when crime has occurred there” can speak to those who assume journalists only want to drum up controversy and negativity.
When WCPO reported on a public official's improper--but not illegal--behavior, they anticipated that readers might question their motivations. So, the news organization published a separate story explaining why editors found the behavior to be newsworthy and how the incident related to larger issues in local government. A call-out reinforced WCPO's commitment to transparent coverage and invited feedback.
When WCPO reported on a public official’s improper–but not illegal–behavior, they anticipated that readers might question their motivations. So, the news organization published a separate story explaining why editors found the behavior to be newsworthy and how the incident related to larger issues in local government. A call-out reinforced WCPO’s commitment to transparent coverage and invited feedback.
WCPO addiction story
WCPO highlighted their commitment to their community in a Facebook post when they shared a link to a story about heroin addiction. They focused on how this particular story is one of hope.