Building Community: RH Reality Check Q3


RH Reality Check continues to learn, grow, and, most importantly, build community. Community building is often unwieldy and always a challenge.

When some people talk about the "sexual and reproductive health community," they are referring to a collective group of advocacy organizations, professional associations, and health providers. Others define community as the membership of those organizations, while some would focus on the professionals working within them. Some include anyone interested in sexual and reproductive health, but might focus on specialty issues to the exclusion of others. And all too often, we still learn lessons of exclusion based on class, access, race, orientation, and geography, even within progressive movements. No doubt about it, community is a challenge, especially online.

RH Reality Check is building a community that challenges many of these notions because our community is premised on promoting access to information, encouraging dialog, and providing a platform where more people can find and contribute to a diversity of progressive ideas about sexual and reproductive health more quickly. Our goal is to counter the glut of misinformation promoted by others by putting a progressive frame on issues, ranging in viewpoint from expert opinion to personal anecdote.

The challenge is not to ideas, to individuals, or to anyone's definition of community. The challenge, and it is one that every issue area faces in this age of new media and new journalism, is how the diversity of ideas often debated privately can move into an age where our ideas flourish publicly, and we can be confident that even when progressives differ, we share information the public needs and can rely on. Each of us is strengthened by ideas of others.

None of us has all the answers and too few have access to the nuance that impacts all of us. But together, progressive ideas brought to light will inform, educate, and win.

With generous support and a commitment to editorial independence from the United Nations Foundation, RH Reality Check has built a platform for this online community to flourish, and, thanks to you, it is.

  • Readership is up 75 percent in the most recent quarter and 140 percent from the start of the year.
  • We are steadily climbing in the Technorati rankings, now in the 7000 range, up from a ranking of 20,000 at the start of the quarter. The rankings are based on links to and from the site in the past three months. The higher our ranking, the more highly ranked our content is on many search engines.
  • We continue to push content aggressively through additional information products, repackaging the content you see and promoting it to other websites and to journalists, opinion leaders and subscribers to our daily, weekly or monthly feeds.

In Q3 2007, RH Reality Check:

  • Kicked off our Election 2008 coverage, featuring information about every candidate, updated with regular posts.
  • Introduced our weekly podcast, RealityCast with Amanda Marcotte, available every Monday. And Amanda's weekly column brings you her fresh, frank, and personal takes on what reproductive justice really means in our lives every Wednesday.
  • Began featuring more regular columnists, including Cristina Page from birthcontrolwatch.org, and Anika Rahman from Americans for UNFPA.
  • Partnered with Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, ISIS, and DoGooderTV to sponsor Fresh Focus: Sex Ed Digital Video Contest to learn what people 15-30 think about the future of Sex Ed. See Amie's post about this contest and the fantastic prizes, and encourage youth you know to enter!
  • Featured new content every day from our Leading Voices, our Global Perspectives writers, and other feminist journalists and commentators on our front page. We are deepening our connections to seasoned reporters who bring you the latest, most accurate news, with more analysis and information on reproductive rights than you'll see in the mainstream media.
  • Built our relationship with the progressive blogosphere, having a presence both on DailyKos and at the Yearly Kos Convention and welcoming progressive bloggers to our site. We believe more needs to be done to elevate sexual and reproductive health issues in the progressive blogosphere, and with your ideas on RH Reality Check, we will.
  • Introduced Talk Back, featuring the most recent comments on the front page, and adding a "Most Popular Discussions" tab at the bottom of the front page. By clicking the Talk Back headline, you link to the 30 most recent comments on our site, making RH Reality Check even more interactive. Use your real name to comment, or a screen name that allows you to speak more freely. Unlike many socially conservative web sites, we welcome all respectful voices on our site, and encourage the community to use comments to respond, debate, inform and educate. You may not win over an opposition commenter, but an open-minded reader who sees your civil arguments will benefit from your truth.
  • Changed Breaking News from using only the Kaiser feed, to bringing you the latest headlines from original sources via Google News, selected by RH Reality Check editorial staff. Again, clicking on the orange Breaking News headline takes you to all the recent news. As with all our content, it is available in an RSS Feed, allowing you to manage all your content from your favorite sites.
  • Expanded your ability to contribute to the site via RH Wiki. Just like at Wikipedia, at RH Reality Check you can submit content to several sections of the site, providing the latest studies from your organization, your favorite Reckless Rhetoric from the opposition, and more. The benefit, in addition to community participation, is that the information you provide will be linked to more sites, and will appear ranked higher in search engines as a result of the work RH Reality Check is doing. If you are interested in volunteering to be a community Wiki Editor, we'd love to hear from you, but you don't have to be a Wiki Editor to share the good information you have access to with the larger community. More links to and from your site and RH Reality Check lifts all sites, getting more eyes on your information.

Finally, in Q4 2007, watch for:

  • Reader Survey. As we grow this community, we want to hear from you. In late October we will conduct an online survey, and we hope you'll share with us what works best about RH Reality Check and what more we could do for you.
  • Improving "Page Two" features. After our front page, every page you jump to is page two to us — so watch what happens in the right hand column over the next few weeks and months.
  • Off site organizing. RH Reality Check is working with others to more effectively coordinate and elevate the promotion of sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as feminist ideas, throughout the blogosphere. Many progressives still want to downplay these issues … we won't let them! United we win!

Thanks again for reading, commenting and writing. We encourage you to submit not only comments, but your own writing. RH Reality Check celebrates ideas, especially yours!

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To schedule an interview with Scott Swenson please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.