KCRW receives $1 million grant for new reporting series

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Southern California public radio station KCRW received a $1 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Jan. 20 to fund a multiyear documentary and reporting series.

The new series will focus on issues affecting disadvantaged and marginalized residents of the Los Angeles area.

“Our goal with this gift is to produce important and compelling stories that shed light on the people who find themselves at the edges of our community,” Jennifer Ferro, president of KCRW, said in a statement.

Ferro told Current that the station is still planning the project but that it will be similar to Cargoland, a five-part series that aired on KCRW focusing on the Southern California waterfront. Producer Lu Olkowski spent two years reporting the story as part of KCRW’s Independent Producer Project.

The first larger elements of the new project are expected to launch this fall. Ferro plans to hire three to six full-time staffers to work on the project.

Original reporting and in-depth coverage is a priority for KCRW, Ferro said. “A lot of the stuff on public radio is so fleeting,” she said. “Can we tell stories about these issues and actually pour enough resources into them to make this more than just a fleeting thing?”

She cited Discovery Channel “Shark Week” and the podcast Serial as examples of programs that used time and resources to significantly raise the profiles of their subjects.

KCRW is in the middle of a $48 million capital campaign to raise money for a new 35,000–square-foot facility, to open in 2016, and for programming and technology. It has already secured $36 million in funding.

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