As 2012 gears up to be a politically charged year, Political Fiber is working on keeping young adults up to date on issues that affect them. The site politicalfiber.com
launched Feb. 1.
The media project is led by Pam Fine, University of Kansas journalism professor and Knight chair in News, Leadership, and Community. Using money from the Knight chair endowment, Fine hired several recent KU graduates and current students to work on the site, including an editor, two full-time reporters, a part-time marketing director, a part-time Web editor, and a humorist.
In 2010, Fine co-created the Midwest Democracy Project, a political coverage initiative with the Kansas City Star
and the University of Missouri, where college students were offered fellowships with the Star
. She said the project inspired her to “create something with a longer shelf life and that could be engaged in classes.”
During her research, she came across a 2008 media study from Northwestern University that stated there was an unmet need among young adults for political coverage.
“Besides MTV and Jon Stewart, there was no place where serious issues were being covered (for young adults) that were being written and edited just for them,” Fine said.
Politicalfiber.com aggregates links from news sources such as The New York Times
and their own college newspaper, and also provides original content covering issues that range from health care to student loan debt.
“It’s for young people from young people,” said editor Brianne Pfannenstiel. “We try to produce news in a way that’s easy to digest, like our infographics. A lot of young people are disillusioned by politics, but we try to make it about the issue.”
Pfannenstiel, 23, graduated from KU in 2010 with a journalism degree and worked on the Midwest Democracy Project with Fine. She said her goal is to see more people become engaged with the site in order to start conversations.
“Our biggest challenge is getting out there,” she said. “But social media has been a huge driver in that.”
Fine said most readers are being pulled in from Twitter, and analytics show their Facebook page receives 2,000 hits a week. The site also has a mobile application.
Even when this election year comes to an end, Fine said she would like to see the project continue by working with professors in other departments, such as health and business, and experiment with the site by incorporating other topics and marketing strategies.