Founded in late 2015 by Doug Oplinger, the former managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, Your Voice Ohio is a collaboration made up of Ohio news media on broadcast, print and digital platforms, working together to shed light on diverse voices in the community.
In 2016, Your Voice Ohio first came together to share resources and content on election stories and identify top issues using statewide polling. The polling was unique because it didn’t offer people a series of issues to rank, but instead asked them to name the most important issue to them, why it was important, and how they could find a solution.
“That provided a mind-blowing wealth of diversity, which helped us realize that we shouldn’t segment people,” said Oplinger.
After successfully working together in 2016, the group believed they still had potential for restoring their position of trust and usefulness. First, they had to find a subject: the opioid crisis in Ohio was an opportunity to experiment with their model of community focus groups and the sharing of resources across news outlets.
“The opioid crisis was out of control and everything we were doing to cover it was making no difference,” Oplinger said.
It wasn’t easy asking some competing news outlets to work together, said Oplinger, but that changed at a community meeting filled with residents and journalists, where he explained why the newsrooms should collaborate.
“Journalists are working together tonight because they believe 4,000 dying yearly in Ohio is a crisis,” he told the room. “Like you, we believe this has to be fixed. We have to work together to turn this around.”
After that meeting, Oplinger said, “We were able to form collaboratives, find reporters willing to experiment and the goodwill from the public was overwhelming. And that goodwill is critical—that’s our first step to restoring trust.”
And it seems to be working. Participating news outlets have grown in two years from around six to 10 to about 40, and their work has garnered interest and expanded across the Ohio River into West Virginia as well.
Going forward, Your Voice Ohio plans on creating a sustainable organization by finding new ways to understand people through more newsroom collaboration and transparency. And as of press time, Your Voice Ohio is working on a new series exploring the future of work and the economy in Ohio.
“We’re going to discuss envisioning a more vibrant Ohio—how should it look and what should we do to get there,” Oplinger said. “That allows people to define vibrancy as jobs, the economy or something else. Maybe it’s education. Maybe it is quality of life.”
To learn more, visit yourvoiceohio.org.