Nate Hegyi produced this story for the Mountain West News Bureau as part of the America Amplified: Election 2020 initiative, using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism.
Read more about what Hegyi learned in this Q&A:
Q: What did the people you talked to say about the experience of being interviewed for public radio?
It depended on the interviewee. Some were happy to chat about Sandpoint's politics. Others were more uneasy and did not trust both local and national mainstream media, including public radio. I found that, specifically, cable news' blending of fact and opinion has done a lot of damage to media credibility.
Q: What surprised you about this type of community engagement?
Once I was able to get someone on the phone, I was pleasantly surprised with how open and candid everyone was. I was also pleased to hear there was some agreement from folks on both sides of the divide--that the perceived anonymity of social media stokes partisan divides.
Q: What lessons do you have for others who want to do the same?
Be very aware of confirmation bias. Everyone--including journalists--has their personal viewpoints but we must be diligent in making sure our perspectives of others or the information we choose to read isn't informed by confirmation bias. Also, realize that this is an ongoing conversation. I want to hear from the people I interviewed about how they perceived the article and radio story. Did I misstep in explaining something? What am I missing? What did I do well in explaining? I hope that goes a long way to garnering trust with the community.
Q: Do you plan to go back to this group for more conversations? When and how? Yes. For the next seven months we'll be producing a series of stories about how the nation's political divide is playing out in Sandpoint and the surrounding area.