Google announces funding for R-J Latino reporting initiative

The Record-Journal is expanding its Latino Communities Reporting Lab with newly announced support from the Google News Initiative.

The local company was selected among 18 media organizations in the U.S. to receive funding for projects as part of the Google News Initiative’s 2021 Innovation Challenge. 

Google announced its selections this week.

The Latino Communities Reporting Lab, created by the Record-Journal earlier this year, will add a full-time bilingual editor to oversee the current team of three local reporters, while launching a yearlong, in-depth listening, engagement and data gathering project in partnership with the New Haven-based non-profit DataHaven.

Beyond expanding the Latino reporting lab’s capabilities and increasing public access to valuable data, the Record-Journal’s selection highlights on a national scale the importance of listening, community engagement and inclusive reporting, according to Publisher and Executive Vice President Liz White Notarangelo. “We are thrilled to do this important work with and for our community,” she said.

The new data-gathering project builds on a five-month listening tour conducted by the Record-Journal with more than 80 Latino community stakeholders prior to the launch of the Latino Communities Reporting Lab. 

“Our local Latino communities want their voices heard, their inequities brought to light, and more local, fact-based news in both English and Spanish that they can trust,” said team leader Assistant Managing Editor Richie Rathsack. “These are some of the many important insights we learned during our five-month listening tour.”

In addition to findings reported by the newsroom, DataHaven will compile a comprehensive report working with a new part-time Record-Journal project coordinator. 

The report will be made available as a resource locally and statewide shared through a Community Partner Network built during the course of the previous listening tour. 

Network members include the Meriden and Wallingford public schools, the Spanish Community of Wallingford and Casa Boricua de Meriden, the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford, St. Rose of Lima Church in Meriden, and several more.

For more than 25 years, the public service non-profit DataHaven of New Haven has partnered with local and state agencies, academic and health care institutions, foundations, and community organizations to collect, share, and interpret public information about Connecticut.

"DataHaven is thrilled to partner with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab,” Executive Director Mark Abraham said. “We believe that information is as vital to communities as any other infrastructure, especially high-quality information that is meaningful to local residents and developed with their input.

“Kudos to the Record-Journal [and Google Innovation Challenge] for working to ensure that people of all backgrounds in Meriden and Wallingford have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in community information, and that they have the tools they need to advocate for improved equity and well-being,” Abraham added.

Project findings will also guide the new brand and product format for reporting lab content.

“Through listening and data gathering, the community will help us determine what the next phase of the Latino Communities Reporting Lab brand and formats will be, whether it's a website, app, print product, social site or something else,” Rathsack said.

A Community Advisory Board of local Latino leaders and other stakeholders also launched last month to help guide lab content, increase listening and ensure responsiveness to community needs.


The goal of the Innovation Challenge is “to fund projects that inject new ideas into the news industry,” according to the Google News Initiative.  

A key component of the Record-Journal project is creating an engagement and listening playbook that other media groups nationwide can use as a blueprint for shaping and implementing more inclusive reporting strategies.

“We heard on our listening tour that Meriden can be seen as a microcosm because the shift in demographics of Meriden becoming increasingly Latino is similar to the shift that has occurred throughout Connecticut, New England and the United States over the last few decades,” White Notarangelo said. 

Latinos represent 29% of Meriden’s population overall and 59.9% of the student population, according to the most recent data. In Wallingford, Latinos represent 8.4% of residents and 19.4% of students.

“So we feel that the reporting will resonate and have a broader impact by bringing to light the contributions, needs, resources, and challenges of Latino residents and how we can all respond to strengthen our community,” White Notarangelo said. “The Playbook will serve as a blueprint for other media outlets on how to engage and serve Latino residents as the similar demographic shift takes place across the country.”

Once completed, the playbook will be shared nationally through industry partners, the Local Media Association, a trade group dedicated to sustaining local media companies, and Hearken, a national community engagement technology provider. The partnerships offer a window for explaining strategies developed and implemented locally to the wider industry, as well as further innovation.

Other U.S. organizations receiving Innovation Challenge funding this year include Univision Los Angeles, Louisville Public Media, the Texas Tribune, Newsday Media Group and Wick Communications in partnership with Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

Overall, 227 recipients were selected worldwide representing 47 countries.

"We are thrilled to do this important work with and for our community."

-Liz White Notarangelo
"We believe that information is as vital to communities as any other infrastructure."

-Mark Abraham

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