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The coronavirus outbreak has pushed scores of community radio stations to fast-track things they did not think they needed so soon. Automation systems, remote work, labor law and at-home production are among the subjects NFCB has been tasked with researching and presenting best-practices for member stations.

This emergency situation may also prompt a lot of soul searching for community radio leaders. Are we serving our communities as well as we think we do? How quick were we to spring into action? Are we educating the public and providing them what they need to stay safe and sane at this intense time?

On the bucket list of many community radio stations is serving diverse communities, including multi-lingual programming and services to those for whom English is a second language. The Center for American Progress notes diversity in rural America is growing. And many stations like KVRU-LP are utilizing this moment to engage these local constituents. How might more stations work with local partners to do the same?

More, as ReThink asks, “How can we use this trigger event to build – and keep – sustainable trust?” It is a question not without complications.

While every town is different, and engaging diverse communities and multi-lingual content varies by local conditions, these reads may help you frame your local endeavors:

  • “Find out where your community is communicating now,” recommends Carrie Brown. “Even communities that primarily interacted face-to-face are now gathering online as much as possible.” However, she points out that people in poverty or who have experienced discrimination historically are particularly at risk. Radio may be a way to reach them, but ongoing interaction to find out where and how they communicate will prove valuable in your station’s efforts to work with diverse communities. Brown offers several case studies for reaching people.
  • The Radio and Television News Directors Association recognizes trust is key to serving diverse communities. Showing who you are, how you work, and your values is key to fostering better relationships with your community. RTNDA shares many actionable and easy steps to make it happen.
  • Earning trust may also lie in understanding what diverse communities in your region are facing. Teaching Tolerance presents post-coronavirus narratives that may help you get a sense of where fear and mistrust come from. While it is impossible to completely understand an audience’s individual histories and worries, these stories and recommendations may help your station better engage communities of color.
  • How might you take this time to engage diverse communities around issues relevant to them? News Voices suggests talking about the digital divide amid COVID-19. Access to information is increasingly moving online. In some instances, public services have moved fully to the web. And, while changed since it rose to prominence decades ago, the digital divide remains persistent. News Voices’ tips may offer your station some new pathways to help diverse communities in your city.
  • “Times of disruption often create confusion, prompting the public to actively seek more information than usual,” says the Distributed Newsroom Playbook. “They have questions, they need clarity and a trustworthy source to turn to for guidance, and sometimes reassurance. Think how to make yourselves audience driven so that you can provide them with the answers they need.” The guide is filled with ideas to help your station internally and externally respond during a crisis.

Not every community radio station has the people or means to provide health information in a situation as we are experiencing. However, the coronavirus has prompted new conversations about how community radio can be engaged in emergency preparedness and public education. Such service may also encourage you to think about multi-lingual service during times of need. Follow us on Facebook for more studies on this and other subjects.