A coalition of four local news outlets has launched a new text messaging system to find out what information residents need to survive and thrive during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Memphis Media Collaborative project begins as the Memphis area gradually reopens after staying “Safer at Home” since mid-March. But plenty of uncertainty remains as the community navigates the resulting problems.

What are your most pressing concerns about health and safety? Schools and your children? Going back to work, paying your bills, having enough food? Are you trying to figure out if information you’ve heard is accurate?

The collaborative is here to help. Text “MEMPHIS” to 73224 to take a brief survey. The responses will be used to inform future stories.

The Memphis Media Collaborative is a partnership between MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, The Memphis Flyer, Chalkbeat Tennessee and High Ground News. Over a series of Zoom calls during the past several weeks, journalists at these publications agreed they can better serve the city by pooling resources to meet this challenging moment.

Earlier this month, MLK50 received a $72,420 grant from Facebook Journalism Project’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund, a portion of which will be used to support the collaborative’s work.

Starting May 11, the collaborative began to distribute the SMS survey to cell phone owners in ZIP codes with the lowest broadband internet access.

The SMS system borrows from the successful Outlier Media model, which allows users to connect directly with reporters and provides important accountability to policymakers.

The project, which was founded in 2016 by Sarah Alvarez, “will bring to Memphis the service journalism approach Outlier has used to decrease information gaps and increase accountability in Detroit,” Candice Fortman, CEO of Outlier Media, told MLK50 earlier this month.

The survey builds on MLK50’s reporting on living through the pandemic and efforts to strengthen connections in local media.

In partnership with High Ground News, we’ve published first-person essays from workers struggling to make ends meet, including a new mom and fast food worker, a pet sitter, substitute teacher, home health aide and restaurant server. Joint reporting efforts also include an analysis of hospital capacity with the Memphis Business Journal and The Commercial Appeal, and a look at COVID-19 racial disparities with The Commercial Appeal.

From our Memphis Media Collaborative partners:

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy, Southern Documentary Project at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the American Journalism Project, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, and Community Change.

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