WITF: A Healing Digital Dialogue

WITF: A Healing Digital Dialogue

Public media stations have a long history of creating dialogue in their communities — among residents, local businesses, and community leaders. Public media has also been a leader in bringing innovation to online and other digital media platforms, including mobile and tablet applications, user-generated content, and interactive, educational games.

In April 2011, WITF in Harrisburg, Penn., partnered with WellSpan Health, PinnacleHealth, and Lancaster General Health to create Facing Cancer Together (FCT), a multi-media community partnership designed to improve knowledge and change behaviors about cancer.

According to Interactive Producer, Katie Carpenter, education fueled the initiative. “It was an important goal for our FCT team to educate the community about the many cancer resources that are ‘close to home,’ accessible right here in our community. For anyone facing a diagnosis, we provided access to tools, resources, and hope, which are key to making empowered decisions in this journey.”

The initiative includes digital tools, coupled with traditional media and community partnerships, to create a dialogue about this disease within the community.

Facing Cancer Together is WITF’s most ambitious community education partnership to date. The strong commitment from our news and content teams, our hospital partners, and multiple other non-profit organizations makes Facing Cancer Together a model for community engagement,” says Cara Williams Fry, Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer of WITF.

Facing Cancer Together creates dialogue through original content created for television, radio, print, and the Internet. WITF’s Nell McCormack, host of Smart Talk, leads televised community forums, featuring both personal and expert perspectives. The in-depth forums focus on topics including: breast cancer, technology, and treatment options. On Radio Smart Talk, Scott LaMar provides opportunities for listeners to engage in discussions with experts on topics ranging from prevention, caregiver concerns, and the financial impact of a diagnosis.

Cancer Roundtable

To reach more patients, families, and experts, Facing Cancer Together created a website with original content that includes blogs by experts from the partner hospitals, as well as patients and their family members, information on treatments, advice from caregivers, and videos produced by the WITF news staff to help patients stay informed about their health.

The site also lists upcoming events, such as community forums and classes, as well as Twitter chats with medical experts. In a recent Tweetup, the Centers for Disease Control discussed cervical cancer, giving participants the opportunity to ask about the best ways to help prevent cervical cancer, symptoms, risk factors, and survivorship.

Another digital tool helping to create dialogue is the interactive cancer quilt. The quilt is modeled after a handmade quilt, where every patch is unique and tells the story of a survivor, patient, family member, friend, or medical professional —anyone who has ever been touched by cancer. The quilt includes audio, video, and text tools making each one-of-a-kind story engaging.

Cancer Online Quit

The success of combining digital with traditional media to create dialogue has been overwhelming. To date there have been almost 60 million visitors across all of WITF’s different media platforms.

The community response to Facing Cancer Together was so great and the partnership between WITF and WellSpan Health, Pinnacle Health and Lancaster General so successful, the initiative was expanded to become Transforming Health. The educational partnership focuses on the changing healthcare landscape and healthy lifestyles. To learn more visit www.transforminghealth.org.

WITF and its three community partners were honored for Facing Cancer Together by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with the 2012 Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Community Service. Facing Cancer Together also received the 2012 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Audio News Series from the Radio Television Digital News Director Association, two Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association Awards, and the American Cancer Society Division Citation Award.

WITF-TV began broadcasting November 22, 1964, with WITF-FM going live on April 1, 1971. In March 1979, the radio station provided extensive coverage of the disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, with Cokie Roberts reporting live for NPR from the WITF-FM studio. In 1998, WITF-TV launched Pennsylvania’s first digital television channel and was one of seven public broadcasting pioneers in the U.S. to transmit digital programming.

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