Community Engagement Reporter Brit Harley Looks Forward to Second Year at WBGO

Jul 18, 2020

WBGO Community Engagement Reporter Brit Harley speaking to Newark residents at one of her "Meet and Greet" events

WBGO Community Engagement Reporter Brit Harley is now in her second year at the radio station.  After a successful first year through a Dodge Foundation grant-funded News Voices Fellow, Harley has big plans for year two at WBGO.

Harley's role was created in partnership with the Free Press to bring WBGO News and the Newark community closer together.  She joined WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to talk about her upcoming plans.

Brit's background as a creative strategist, movement builder and youth organizer played a big role in her selection as a News Voices Fellow.  With her successful growth in the WBGO News Department during her initial year, she became WBGO's Community Engagement Reporter earlier this year. 

She had to quickly pivot from several of her planned events in Newark due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Suddenly, she had to use her online and social media skills to bring people together while working from home.

"I was very intentional about how to reach out to residents and hear their stories and hear what they're dealing with and with their permission sharing those things in our newscasts that run throughout the day. I thought it was a great opportunity to amplify voices of folks who are dealing with different circumstances that were really hard during these times"

Community Engagement Reporter Brit Harley leads a discussion about the needs of Newarkers
Credit WBGO

Some of her events were designed to find out what residents would like to hear in our news coverage and what their different information needs are.

"That was a big part of the (News Voices) Fellowship.  With COVID, it was an opportunity to understand the types of information that Newarkers needed and how WBGO could not only amplify these community voices but also have news coverage that was relevants to their needs."

Prior to the pandemic, Harley organized a "Meet and Greet" event that prompted discussions and ideas from concerned residents of all backgrounds.  She thought it was a great icebreaker for the radio station and Newarkers.

"Our "Meet and Greet" with our newsroom is something that newsrooms typically don't do. The "Meet and Greet" was super successful when it comes to thinking about cultivating community partnerships and what that can look like.  Really what was impacted by COVID was our Community Listening Tour.  We were going to go within the different wards here in Newark and capture their stories and experiences and different creative ways to share this through WBGO's platforms."

Harley, who was born in Newark, has established a community reporting team.

"Although COVID impacted the timeline for community reporters, I have definitely learned a lot around online engagement, training online and really thinking about how to give community members the tools they need to tell their own stories"

Brit Harley with NEA Jazz Master and WBGO's legendary Dorthaan Kirk outside the radio station on Park Place
Credit WBGO

Why is this so important to her?

"For me personally it was understanding a lot of the harm that has been done Newark and cities like Newark by media which would typically be about violence and not about great things that were happening in the community. I believe what's possible when you can equip folks who already have talent with the tools that they need to do whatever they do, anything is really possible no matter what space you're in."

That has led to the creation of the Community Storytelling Lab were those selected with learn more about journalism and have an opportunity to put together features for WBGO and other outlets.

"So the Community Storytelling Lab will really be an extension of the work we've been doing for the past couple of months with our community reporters and community members will have an opportunity to apply. These will be a stipended positions so community members will be paid."  

Harley praised the mentorship and guidance from the Free Press, particularly James Thompson early on and News Voices Director Mike Rispoli.  

Brit is also excited about a new podcast that's in the development stages right now and will be unveiled soon.

Click above to hear more about her goals as Community Engagement Reporter.