Eyes on the Rise

eyes-on-the-riseEyes on the Rise is a project of the Sea Level Rise: South Florida initiative, which is largely funded by a Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education grant. The grant was awarded in Spring 2014 to Robert E. Gutsche, Jr., Kate MacMillin, Susan Jacobson, and Juliet Pinto – all professors in the newly named School of Communication and Journalism at Florida International University. Eyes on the Rise aims to raise awareness and educate South Florida communities about the impact, challenges and threats of sea level rise, to create solutions for a sustainable future. Click here to see their site, which including the EyesOnTheRise app and Report-A-Flood form!


Project Goals

The initial goal of the project Screen-Shot-2015-03-29-at-3.16.42-AMwas to produce participatory “crowd hydrology” and community journalism related to sea level rise and its effects on South Florida infrastructure, environments, and lives. The main goals of Eyes on the Rise include:

  1. Improving Curriculum: creating an environment for collaborative journalism-education that engages students, educators, professionals, and citizens in meaningful and measurable outcomes related to environmental journalism.
  2. Increasing Collaboration: producing a replicable model for community-engaged journalism that can help other communities dissect, explain, and address their unique needs related to sea level rise.
  3. Building Community: identifying innovative tools and approaches, including “crowd hydrology” — in which citizens crowd source images and data related to water — and other forms of community engagement and education, including the use of sensors and other technologies, to increase viewership of local news media and public participation in reporting about social and environmental issues related to sea level rise.
  4. Conducting Measurements: assessing and measuring the effectiveness of journalistic and educational outcomes as a means to further develop sustainable initiatives in South Florida that span the national conversations about sea level rise, innovation in journalism, and citizen involvement in creating public policy and contributing to the future of a free (and engaged) press.
  5. Securing Sustainability: identifying possible means of funding and leadership that will promote a sustainable future for sea level rise journalism in South Florida.

Project Approaches

To meet its aims, the project focused on three veins of engagement:

  1. Citizen Science: citizens should be at the center of discussions about their environments. Citizen science puts tools and data in the hands of the people — not just the policymakers. Public participation in creating data visualization tools in our web GIS courses and through “crowd hydrology” will help citizens better understand sea level rise and impacts.
  2. Personal Stories: storytelling is vital to understanding our communities. By working with local citizens, journalists, and scientists, our project’s unique news and interactive databases — such as flood risk maps — place people at the center of explaining sea level rise in real-time.
  3. Citizen Empowerment: building understandings of sea level rise through journalism that surrounds citizen science and citizens’ stories represents a form of citizen empowerment in shaping policy and approaches related to sea level rise.

Measuring Outcomes

The curriculum applied in this project and its related journalism were assessed in the following ways:

  1. Citizen Science & Journalism Engagement: EyesOnTheRise measured the interest, participation, and reaction of participants who attend public workshops related to educating the public about sea level rise. Participants, including K-12 students and educators, also used sensors and other technology to perform citizen science, while journalists guided the efforts to collect — and measure — the public data to assign meaning.
  2. Metrics & Audience Analysis: Students used qualitative and quantitative research methods to examine the types of journalism related to sea level rise being produced locally and to measure audience reaction and interest. Metrics related to content were distributed on the project’s website, its app, and on our partners’ news outlets.
  3. Advisory Board: Local citizens, experts, journalists, and educators operated as an advisory board to comment on the project’s mission, activities, and journalism. The board helped implement efforts and approaches to make meaningful journalism.
  4. Research & Public Scholarship: Content and textual analysis, as well as methods such as auto-ethnography, conducted by students, educators, and citizens placed scholarly meanings to journalism related to sea level rise. This work was presented at academic conferences, in academic publications, and as public scholarship in popular magazines, on blogs, and in newspaper editorials.