A new vocabulary is emerging in public radio newsrooms to help journalists communicate and make decisions about online coverage that attracts and builds digital audiences. Developed through the Local Stories Project, an NPR Digital Services initiative that began as a geotargeting experiment on Facebook, the vocabulary includes phrases like “topical buzzer” — a story that provides a unique take on a subject that everyone is talking about — or “curiosity stimulator,” for a piece with a science or technology angle. The concepts are explained in this blog post, “9 Types of Local Stories that Cause Engagement.” As newsrooms around the country adjust to the demands of producing distinctive coverage within their local markets, reporters increasingly are required to serve two news platforms, each with a different audience, without spinning their wheels. “It’s like growing a new arm, while your other arms are busy doing what you do.
A new series from the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting brings extensive investigative journalism to public television in four hourlong episodes. In its short run, Reveal aims to find new and engaging ways to tell investigative stories. Available to stations starting today, the show is presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting and distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association.
An episode of Reveal is composed as a visual counterpart to a newspaper — starting with a topical, longer report, moving on to shorter reports and ending with an informative animation component. In one episode, a story early in the show focuses on a woman from Afghanistan who ran away from an arranged marriage to be with the man she loved, only to be found and sent to prison by her father.
Station managers who worry they can’t afford to do news and public affairs have only to look at Lakeland Public Television in Bemidji, Minn., for inspiration. Since 1998, the station has produced a full half-hour weeknight news program. It currently operates on a yearly budget of just $375,000 to $400,000. Lakeland News is “structured like a commercial newscast, without commercials,” said Bill Sanford, the station’s chief executive and director of engineering. It was conceived after the station secured funding to evaluate how to reinvent itself.
Three years ago, a delegation from Kansas City Public Television, including the board chair, trekked out to San Diego’s KPBS to evaluate how that station’s extensive radio, television and online news operation might be adapted in Kansas City. A few months later, an influential visitor to Kansas City, PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer, urged KCPT leaders to act on their nascent ambitions to develop a locally focused news service for the community. Over dinner at the restaurant Lidia’s, Lehrer “kind of threw the gauntlet down,” recalled Kliff Kuehl, KCPT president, challenging executives to step up the station’s commitment to news coverage. But the proposal to transform KCPT into a true local news hub remained mostly an aspiration until a surprise major grant from the Hale Family Foundation arrived in July 2013. Only then was the station able to turn its ambitions into something substantive and seemingly sustainable.
The Washington Post had a blockbuster front-page investigation with a lengthy Aug. 3 story about an unreliable witness in a Texas execution case. But the story came from a new kid on the block. “The Prosecutor and the Snitch” was the first story to be published by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news site focused on criminal justice reform. The Marshall Project, named after former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, plans to officially launch in October.
A documentary series produced by Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, Calif., focuses solely on issues in the station’s home state yet has attracted attention from NPR and a national audience by creating digital content to accompany hourlong radio documentaries. Launched in 2011, The View From Here comprises two in-depth multimedia documentaries a year. Though the focus is local, the show’s producers choose topics that often transcend California’s borders, such as high-school dropout rates and autism among adults. The most recent documentary, “Who Cares,” examined the physical and emotional toll of caring for parents, spouses and children with disabilities. In addition to a radio documentary, “Who Cares” included photos, videos and a blog, Caregivers Speak, which collects stories about family caregivers.