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Creative Midwest Media Cohort Meets in Minneapolis

People sitting at long tables listening to speakers.
Photo Credit: Mia McGill
The Creative Midwest Media Cohort during a two-day gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

These media professionals spent time getting to know each other, learning from their peers in the Twin Cities area, and reflecting on different models of working.

Media professionals from across the Midwest gathered in Minneapolis from May 8-10, 2024, to connect, learn from Twin Cities peers, and explore different working models.

Hosted by Arts Midwest, the in-person gathering of the Creative Midwest Media Cohort brought together over 20 individuals representing organizations including Barn Raiser, The Buckeye Flame, Buffalo’s Fire, Detroit Metro Times, Dovetail, Hola Iowa, Input Fort Wayne, Project Optimist, Sixty Inches From Center, and SDPB. These participants shared stories from their newsrooms and communities, engaging in discussions with Twin Cities-based guest speakers and facilitator Carl Atiya Swanson.

Meet the Cohort

Cohort organizations are creating diverse projects such as podcasts, multimedia series, social media videos, print publications, and a writers’ residency program. These initiatives will prominently feature and engage Native artists, creatives of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and individuals in the rural Midwest.

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Photo Credit: Mia McGill

Our goals for this convening were to build connections among diverse media-makers and storytellers in the Midwest, and to encourage learning and knowledge-sharing.

We kicked off day one with a presentation from Nora Hertel (Project Optimist) on solutions journalism. She talked about this global shift in journalism, and its focus on reporting on how people are trying to solve problems and what we can learn from their successes and failures.

The next day, Katharine DeCelle (WFNU Frogtown Community Radio), Jaida Grey Eagle (Freelance Documentary Photographer), and Ryan Stopera (Public Functionary) joined the cohort to share their multimedia media work and practice. The discussions covered practical photo, video, and audio techniques, and dove deeper into the significance of relationship building.

Later that afternoon, we were joined by Georgia Fort (Center for Broadcast Journalism), Michael Tortorello (Sahan Journal), and Keith Harris (Racket) for a conversation on scaling and sustainability. They discussed how their organizations maintain momentum and what intentional growth looks like.

A person of light skin tone and dark short hair wearing a green jacket stands by a wall with bright post-in notes and gestures.
Photo Credit: Mia McGill
Carl Atiya Swanson of Cast Consulting facilitating the Creative Midwest Media Cohort gathering.

On our final day, we welcomed Anna Claussen (Voices for Rural Resilience) and Joua Lee Grande (Independent Filmmaker, Producer and Director) for a discussion on Community-Oriented Arts Coverage. The panelists discussed their work in BIPOC and rural communities, and the approaches they take to respectfully share these stories.

Throughout the sessions, the Creative Midwest Media Cohort connected and conversed about pressing challenges and new opportunities. Themes emerged: seeing the human behind the story, showing up as your full self, and creating new models outside of the framework of legacy and mainstream journalism.

As the gathering concluded, cohort members expressed feelings of hope, reciprocity, mutuality, and exchange. One participant noted, “This work can feel very isolated, so hearing what others are doing and meeting them is invigorating.”

We are grateful for the generosity of each participant, panelist, and facilitator. Energized by what we learned, we’re excited for the innovative work that the Creative Midwest Media Cohort will create and share!