April 25, 2022

ASU storytellers connect to serve, shape the public conversation

In matters of mathematics, cross-multiplication is used to find common denominators, transform fractions and accelerate problem solving.

In manners of mass communication, ASU Media Enterprise is fast becoming a common denominator, a cross multiplier of audience fractions and an accelerator for transmedia storytelling.

Reimagining the models of journalism and mass communication is the nexus that brings together the parts that compose ASU Media Enterprise. A growing collection of media properties committed to driving conversations that matter, ASU Media Enterprise is convening to scale ASU’s covenant to advance research and discovery of public value and assume fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.

Under the leadership of Mi-Ai Parrish, managing director of the Media Enterprise and former publisher for The Arizona Republic, representatives from several ASU-affiliated media properties recently gathered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix to combine resources and establish a foundational framework to move forward as a collective. 

 ASU Media Enterprise

Mi-Ai Parrish

“One of the things we are trying to do is make the most of all this talent, give connections that amplify the content and the message of all the wonderful things we do while still making sure each entity remains special,” Parrish said at the March 31 gathering, which included representatives from Arizona PBS, Future Tense, Global Futures Productions, Global Sport Matters, Indian Country TodayIssues in Science and Technology, Leonardo, Transformations and Zócalo Public Square.

Tracking the growing inventory of ASU media assets and channels, ASU President Michael Crow sees power in numbers and potential in the crossover opportunities ASU Media Enterprise aims to provide.

“We have an opportunity here to innovate, to problem-solve on a national scale,” Crow said. “We can build on successful models, add opportunities, explore partnerships and collaborate on innovative experiments through the Media Enterprise.”

A media state of mind

The like media minds are already in a problem-solving “State of Mind” — a collaborative project led by Future Tense, the online magazine partnership of Slate, New America and ASU that focuses on emerging technologies, public policy and society.

“State of Mind” is bringing contributors together to share wide-ranging perspectives on the subject of mental health, the yields of which will include science policy viewpoints on mental health systems from Issues, the award-winning policy journal co-published by ASU and the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine; conversations around the impact of mental health on high-performing athletes from Global Sport Matters, the multimedia platform of the Global Sport Institute at ASU; and personal narratives around mental illness through Transformations, the online magazine portal to ASU’s narrative storytelling initiative — all illustrative of how the engines of ASU Media Enterprise can and are mobilizing media to widely articulate and address big issues in society.

Unique collaborations are also emerging from the diverse and burgeoning Media Enterprise landscape. A new partnership between ASU-owned Arizona PBS in Phoenix and Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit creative unit of ASU based in Los Angeles, is one such collaboration that shows the enterprise’s function as a cross-multiplier at work.

With ASU as a common denominator, Arizona PBS and Zócalo found a collaborative solution for their content and distribution needs in late 2021. The broadcast partnership now channels content curated from Zócalo’s almost 20-year archive of recorded events to viewers of the Arizona PBS World channel and is reaching new audiences outside of Los Angeles for Zócalo as a result. 

Moving its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to ASU’s Cronkite School in 2019 has also resulted in production expansion and new audience reach for Indigenous-focused Indian Country Today. The digital news publication is enjoying gains in content reach beyond the print medium with the production of a weekday news show that began airing on Arizona PBS in 2020.

Patty Talahongva, host and executive producer of Indian Country Today, says the partnership is also helping public TV stations increase their coverage of Native American communities, adding that viewer response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“People have contacted me from across the country, and they always start out by saying, 'I’m not Native but I like your newscast,' and sometimes they say, ‘Is it OK if I watch?’” Talahongva said. She said that her response is always “yes” and “please tell all of your other non-Native friends to watch.”

Cross functional channels

Some ASU media collaborators are also forging partnerships with external media outlets, like the partnership that has evolved between Zócalo and the Los Angeles Times. Zócalo, working with Times opinion editors, is now producing op-ed content for the Times to distribute as exclusive first publications in print, online and additional formats.

Transformations also holds independent publisher status with the Los Angeles Review of Books and recently signed a partnership with Temple University Press to publish books along the themes of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, according to Steven Beschloss, Transformations’ executive editor.

Beschloss says Transformations literally has been transformative for ASU scholars and others looking to share their research and perspective through the personal narrative format that drives the channel.

“The successful ones are always embedded in a larger social, political, economic, cultural context,” Beschloss said. “A lot of people from ASU, but also faculty and academics from elsewhere, oftentimes have no experience writing narrative and no experience thinking about what you need to write a narrative, which is about observations. But that door opens, and suddenly you find really interesting people who have something really interesting to say when they let themselves go there.”

Highlighting her enterprise’s growing suite of media platforms that also includes engagement with MIT Press, Diana Ayton-Shenker — CEO of ASU-affiliated Leonardo/International Society of Art, Science, Technology — said she was open to engaging with and supporting the efforts of ASU Media Enterprise to grow the interests of the growing collective.

“We are focused on the arts, science, technology,” Ayton-Shenker said. “So interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, creative, forward-looking, outside-the-box, blow your mind — imagine what that could be.”

Global rise and reach

What ASU Media Enterprise could be is a lot of things, in addition to growing individual media channels into the best versions of themselves with the support of the larger enterprise, according to Parrish.

She says collaborating as a collective is an important starting point in the Media Enterprise’s aim to elevate storytelling and create a content pipeline across the ASU network to provide information to the public and scale channels for narrative research in the ongoing global effort to solve for “x.”

“We want to develop programs that really support the economic, social, cultural and overall health of people and communities,” she said. “We want to create connections, whether that’s using existing media properties, using ASU spaces or through live and virtual events. The Media Enterprise, with all of these connected media properties, can literally help us expand knowledge across the country and around the world.” 

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

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