By MeLinda Schndyer - Photography by Kacy Meinecke
Do you remember hearing in 2015 about a report on Wichita’s future? The Wichita Community Foundation commissioned James Chung, who grew up in Wichita and now leads a strategy firm based in New York City, to provide a point-by-point data analysis of Wichita’s ability to weather recessions and to grow.
His multiple-year study resulted in a series of presentations the foundation called Focus Forward where Chung shared four challenges Wichita faces today: business cycle, human capital, entrepreneurship and perception.
The report took a hard stance that if Wichita doesn’t start tackling the issues around these four challenges and making real progress, we could reach the point of no return. It was a very sobering moment for many, including members of the Bastian family, best known as owners of Wichita’s second largest locally owned financial institution.
“As lifelong Wichitans, as business owners, as engaged community members, as people who have children and grandchildren growing up here, Clark, Clay and Aaron are very passionate about this community,” said Katie Grover, marketing director at Fidelity Bank.
They listened to Chung’s presentation and knew immediately they wanted to do something to help the city make progress on these challenges.
“It would be easy for James to come in and provide this diagnosis to our city and for everyone to say, ‘This stinks,’ then go about our day and not think about it again. Out of sight, out of mind,” Grover said.
In 2012, Fidelity Bank had launched its “Bravely Onward” campaign that features marketing aimed not at opening checking accounts but sharing the fourth-generation banking family’s vision for the future of the city. The Bastians decided, with the help of Brothers & Co., the advertising agency behind “Bravely Onward,” to continue that same style of authentic messaging and compelling storytelling by creating and funding The Chung Report.
The Chung Report (TheChungReport.com) is a website with a mix of short reads, long-form articles, infographics and videos all tied to one of the four challenges Chung identified. James Chung is not associated with the website, though he is aware of it, approves of it and his work is referenced often. A team of eight individuals research and create content that focuses on making Chung’s data and challenges impossible to forget.
“This isn’t a Fidelity Bank initiative, this isn’t self-serving, there isn’t a hidden agenda,” said Grover, who also serves as an editor of The Chung Report. “The Chung Report is built around the idea that Wichita is home for all of us and it’s our responsibility to make it better. By continuously creating content around the challenges, we are helping people to think about and to engage with the challenges, and hopefully offering a point of inspiration or at least starting a dialogue about some tough topics. The more we can do that, the better off we’ll be as a city.”
Consume the content
Following The Chung Report is as simple as going to thechungreport.com, clicking on the “receive updates” button and entering your name and email address. You’ll receive two to four emails a month, at the same time a new article or video is posted on the website.
The project does not make a profit so there is no advertising to wade through when consuming The Chung Report content. The website is not set up for comments, so online discussion around the topics happens on social media. From thechungreport.com you can link to the project’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts.
“If people like what they see, one of the most powerful ways they can amplify that is by sharing it with others,” said Shawn Harris, a lifelong Wichitan who works for Brothers & Co. and serves as creative director for The Chung Report. “Forwarding the email or sharing a piece through Facebook or Twitter is how we can get more people seeing, talking and engaging with these issues. The more people we can reach, the more chance of change happening.”
Content topics have ranged from celebrating successes to confronting tough topics, like the loss of Boeing or transportation concerns. Some pieces are one-offs, others are part of an ongoing series. Power Breakfast offers short video segments showing candid conversations between two Wichita influencers, folks that most of us don’t have access to. Its style mimics comic Jerry Seinfeld’s popular web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” In Focus profiles people “leading the push toward a better Wichita. Some you will know, others you won’t. Either way, these people deserve our attention.” Reality Check is a series of articles that reexamines the data from the original Focus Forward report along with recent survey data to show tangible progress, how far we still need to go and what’s at stake.
The team encourages readers to reach out with ideas on topics and people who should be featured.
“We need the community to weigh in and tell us more about the things that they see,” Harris said. “We have to keep the momentum going as a collective. The people who are making an impact are going to ebb and flow as life changes, but there’s always someone else to step up.”
The team behind The Chung Report hopes that by dissecting what can look like overwhelming, complex issues and showing how others are making an impact will inspire readers to get involved.
“We try to help people understand that you don’t have to be a business owner and you don’t have to have millions of dollars to make a difference in Wichita,” Grover said. “We did a piece on neighborhoods that showed there are opportunities in your backyard if you just step out and take a look. Meet your neighbors, be a good neighbor, visit a food truck, go to a museum, catch a show, shop local. There are ways for every person in this community to step up and make a difference. It doesn’t take a mountain of money, it just takes being aware and being willing to do something new. We are challenging people to take a hard look in the mirror and think about what they can do.”