Partnership with UNC allows Tribune to give away 10 local scholarships
The Greeley Tribune, in partnership with the University of Northern Colorado, recently offered 10 high school juniors scholarships to UNC worth $2,000.
The scholarship winners were chosen by a panel of three Tribune staffers and three UNC employees, and they were chosen based on a variety of factors, including scholastic success, extra-curricular activities and their ability to overcome obstacles.
Winners, all from local high schools, must have a 2.5 GPA upon graduation from high school to qualify for the scholarship, and they must attend UNC.
After reviewing the winners, we decided to tell their stories, and we ran a full Sunday package on those winners on May 27, complete with photos and 8-10 inch vignettes on each winner. Every Tribune reporter contributed to the package.
We chose to go this route because A) Their stories were inspiring, B) This was a first-time program for The Tribune and C) The Tribune is the oldest continuously operating business in Greeley, and is well known in the community.
UNC officials actually approached us with the idea, and we jumped at the opportunity.
There are other newspapers doing this same kind of thing, including our friends at The Coloradoan (full disclosure: my former employer). We wanted the same kind of impact, but we also wanted to do things a little differently.
First, the scholarship goes to high school juniors, with the aim of giving those students a little extra motivation to finish strong.
If our scholarship gives even one of the 10 students that little bit of motivation to push them through to graduation and beyond, it will have been well worth it.
Further, the scholarship’s focus is hyper-local.
Choosing local students to go to the local university, highlighted by our headline, “Staying Local,” I think helps us achieve our mission of bettering the community we cover.
“I thought it would be cool if we benefited our local university and our local kids,” said Bryce Jacobson, Greeley Tribune publisher. “Think about the competitive nature of universities, the aggressive goals UNC has for itself. If The Tribune can support that as well, and try to help them achieve those goals; it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
In the end, we believe the local approach serves our mission to our community.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
1. Brainstorm — Get a group of staffers together to think of 10 ways your newsroom can make an impact on the community (apart from the huge impact you’re already making with your phenomenal work). Narrow those ideas to what’s doable.
2. Think partnerships and expertise — Doing a scholarship program? You might want to contact your local college or university. Doing a big volunteer project? Contact the United Way or some other organization with expertise. How about a benefit concert? Perhaps there’s a promoter or event organizer in your area who can lend help.
3. Think sustainably — Of course you want to make an impact. But don’t you want it to be a lasting impact? Don’t promise your community the world only to pack it up a year later. A full ride scholarship would be amazing, but we wanted to impact more students during a longer period of time. Jacobson said we want to commit until the need is not there. That’s a long time, folks.
4. Tell your story! — Don’t be afraid to tell your community what you’re doing for your community. News matters. Journalism matters. And you matter a heck of a lot to your communities.
A NOTE ON PUSHBACK
There will be pushback, particularly when it comes to covering the cool stuff you’re going to do for your community.
We had it in our newsroom, and that’s a great, fantastic, awesome thing. You should have hard conversations about this stuff.
An example: “We’re dedicating 90 inches to these scholarship winners, even though the scholarship is just $2,000? Where’s the coverage for the organizations offering full rides to students?”
Answer: We believe newsrooms haven’t done a good enough job of telling their own stories, sharing their impact on their communities. As the oldest and longest-running business in Greeley, The Greeley Tribune has name and brand recognition most organizations don’t. Yet most of that local clout goes toward telling other peoples’ stories.
In the end, this package did just that, albeit prompted by a scholarship program The Tribune offered for the first time.
Relationships matter. None of this will be doable if you don’t foster those relationships with key stakeholders in your community. And don’t mistake good relationships for fawning coverage. The Tribune has gone after UNC for everything from its ill-fated bias response team to its failure to hit enrollment goals and its ongoing financial struggles.
“If newspapers can do one thing better, it’s promote themselves,” Jacobson said. “If they can do two things better, it’s have better relationships.”