Letter from the executive director: Announcing ‘Local that Works’ finalists

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What makes your station unique and essential to your community? How much does your content look and sound like the place where you live and the people who live there? Just how local is your public service?

These questions are the driving force behind Local that Works, our collaboration with the Public Media Futures Forums to spotlight local initiatives that are innovative, multiplatform and replicable by stations of all sizes.

This summer, we received 122 submissions to our second annual Local that Works contest. Forty-one percent came from public radio stations, 28 percent from public TV and 22 percent from joint licensees. The rest were from nonprofit (non-broadcast) news organizations.

We evaluated each of the projects and narrowed the field to 23 semifinalists. Then we asked our panel of judges to select four projects that they believe deserve wider attention and adoption in some form within public media.

Selecting the finalists was no easy task. There’s a lot more going on in public media than meets the eye or the ear, and many initiatives are ripe for you to copy or iterate — if only you knew about them. That’s why Current will be reporting on finalists and semifinalists in coming weeks and months. (Time to subscribe if you haven’t already!)

The four finalists for 2018 are:

  • Alaska Public Media in Anchorage for “Community in Unity” — a solutions-based journalism project that convenes face-to-face conversations between people who would normally never interact, such as incarcerated people and those who’ve never been in a prison.
  • KALW-FM in San Francisco for “The Intersection” — a radio series that documents the social, demographic and economic changes in Bay Area neighborhoods through the voices and stories of people who live and work near a specific intersection or corner.
  • PBS Charlotte for “3D: Dreamers, Doers, Destiny” — a multiyear, multifaceted initiative to engage and uplift public high school students and young adults through career development, leadership training and coaching in public speaking.
  • North Country Public Radio in Canton, N.Y., for “North Country @ Work” — a partnership with local libraries to collect historic photos of upstate New York residents at work, record stories about the changing economy and celebrate local history.

These finalists will present their projects at the Public Radio Super-Regional Meeting in October. The winner, to be selected by votes of conference attendees, will receive a $5,000 prize and a Universal subscription to Current for their station.

We want to thank our judges for their time, insights and thoughtful perspectives: Bill Siemering of the Wyncote Foundation, which funds Local that Works; Deanna Mackey of the Public Television Major Market Group; Shane Guiter of PublicWorks; Jeff Ramirez of KERA in Dallas; Tracy Wahl of Arizona State University; Adriana Gallardo of ProPublica; and Erika Howard of POV.

Wahl, a longtime public radio producer, commented on the Local that Works submissions, noting that “Public media is in such a different place than it was even three years ago. The ambition for engagement on a local level is super-exciting, and I’m very hopeful about the innovation happening out there.”

Ramirez added, “I am amazed how local stations are making the most of the credibility and trustworthiness that they earned in their communities over the years.”

Siemering, a founding father of NPR, said the finalists were “dealing with very important topics outside of the news cycle. We are caught up with responding to extraneous stuff in the news, and we can be a leader in addressing the underlying issues.”

Howard, who has worked in public media for only a year and a half, said she was inspired by the semifinalists’ entries. “What is happening in public media is the best-kept secret in America. Stations are amplifying under-covered stories, seeking solutions and doing a good job with limited resources. We have to shout from the rooftops how public media is improving people’s lives.”

Hear, hear.

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