Public Herald Project Summary: A Nationwide Road Trip

This group of journalists and artists work with communities facing challenging conditions to tell their stories through engaging online journalism and multimedia projects.

Public Herald will undertake a screening and discussion tour of its investigative documentary ‘Triple Divide’ through several key areas where hydrofracking is proposed across the US – Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, California, Michigan and key areas in between where onshore unconventional oil and gas development via fracking is being planned or is in initial stages.

Triple Divide, narrated by actor Mark Ruffalo, is the result of an 18-month investigation into negative impacts from fracking in Pennsylvania since 2008 and how those impacts are handled by regulators and industry. These tours have increased Public Herald’s member base by over 220% in just 11 months.

Each event will consist of a screening of the film and discussion with local groups, elected officials, media and the public. Also, each community will be introduced to Public Herald’s new open source #Fileroom project, making otherwise invisible data about citizen reports of fracking impacts available to the public as digital files organized by state, country and township.

The team also plans to cross the nation in a zero emissions vehicle and share the experience as a test drive and rolling review on their website. Each forum will also provide information on Public Herald membership to attendees. It includes monthly updates and exclusive benefits.

What knowledge will be gained from this experiment?

Even though reporting since 2011 has been focused in Pennsylvania, the issues presented (fracking, accessibility to fresh water, human rights, environmental planning, accountability) are globally relevant, demonstrated by the fact that ‘Triple Divide’ has already been viewed in 23 countries despite Public Herald staff spending zero time on overseas promotions.

Therefore, it is anticipated that the successes experienced in expanding and engaging audiences through screening and discussion events in Marcellus and Utica Shale states can be reproduced in key states where fracking development is in its early stages.

If indeed Public Herald can replicate its current success with tours, the members and audience gained will be incorporated into ongoing membership engagement. The anticipated increase in membership will also be used to demonstrate Public Herald’s long-term viability to foundations and major donors.

Reviewer comments were enthusiastic. It was one of the few well-researched proposals which shows that content can drive audience. In terms of its organized planning process, and previous success in Pennsylvania with that 220% gain in less than a year, we feel it is a good experiment in how documentary film can lead to increased audience engagement and paying memberships.