CPB grant seeks to foster diversity in public radio newsrooms

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Four public broadcasters will work together on a CPB-backed project to increase the diversity of their news coverage, audiences and staffs.

The stations will share a $450,000 grant to support the hiring of four reporters, one at each station, and a lead editor based at St. Louis Public Radio. The journalists will “engage with diverse communities through events, social media, listening posts and/or podcasts,” according to CPB. Over a 27-month period, the reporters will deliver in-depth stories and team up on projects pitched for national distribution.

The reporters “will be expected to bring awareness of diversity in the broadest sense into audience engagement, other beats in their newsrooms as well as within the collaboration,” according to CPB spokesperson Tracey Briggs.

The stations involved are St. Louis Public Radio; KCUR in Kansas City, Mo.; WNPR in Hartford, Conn.; and Oregon Public Broadcasting. The funds will also support newsroom and news management trainings.

Station representatives had been in discussions for more than a year with Keith Woods, NPR’s VP for diversity in news and operations, about the challenges public media faces in diversifying its staff and audience, according to CPB spokesperson Tracey Briggs. Woods connected the stations, and St. Louis Public Radio took the lead on developing the plan for collaboration, Briggs said.

The “immediate focus” for participating stations will be to examine public radio’s recruiting and hiring processes “to see if there are things the public radio community can be doing to improve diversity in the recruiting, hiring and on-boarding process at our organizations,” said Tim Eby, GM at St. Louis Public Radio.

“We recognize that to report on and truly engage with our increasingly diverse communities, we must have a staff that reflects and connects with those communities,” Eby said in a press release. “We’re pleased to be part of this collaboration to develop innovative solutions.”

The diversity the grant aims to foster is “broadly defined” and includes race, age, gender, viewpoints and geography, Briggs said. Stations will document their work and report best practices for the public media system.

“These stations will help the public media system to identify and develop solutions that can be replicated and adapted elsewhere,” added CPB Chief Content Officer Joseph Tovares in the release.