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How LA journalists used snail mail to reach audiences without internet during the pandemic

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: KPCC-LAist used direct mail distribution to send thousands of kid-friendly mailers to L.A. families without internet to share COVID-19 resources

When news of the coronavirus started to pick up in late January, KPCC-LAist invited community members to send questions via a Hearken embed. In March, they saw a surge in questions (at one point receiving nearly 10 questions per minute). As of mid-May, more than 3,000 people had sent in COVID-19 questions, and the newsroom had personally answered more than 2,500 of them.

Throughout all of this, though, they knew that plenty of people in Los Angeles—including 250,000 families with school-aged children—don’t have access to broadband internet and a computer at home. That’s why they teamed up with a local designer to make kid-friendly mailers that they hoped would catch the eye, while also containing crucial information on testing and local resources. They added a phone number that readers could text to ask questions, developed a Spanish-language version, and sent out the mailers to more than 12,500 families in zip codes with low-levels of internet access. (You can download copies in English and Spanish at the link.)

This is KPCC-LAist’s third—and biggest—experiment with direct mail distribution since redesigning its early childhood education coverage through human-centered design and identifying paper distribution as a critical method for reaching parents and caregivers in L.A. County.