Public radio stations in Ohio explore launch of statewide news collaborative

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Three public radio stations in Ohio are in the planning stages of starting a statewide radio and digital news collaborative early next year.

Martin

Ideastream in Cleveland, which will lead the effort, received a $70,000 grant Thursday from the George Gund Foundation to start the process with a feasibility study.

The collaborative also includes Cincinnati Public Radio and WOSU in Columbus as anchor stations. Ideastream CEO Kevin Martin said he hopes that it will “ultimately involve all of Ohio’s NPR stations.”

One reason to start a collaborative is that Ohio has no other daily statewide radio or digital news service, Martin said. “We think that’s significant,” he said. “It really points to a need.”

Stations are coming together to coordinate resources “so that we’re not all sending reporters to one area where we think there is a particular issue,” Martin said. “We think we can get a lot more news and make sure that we talk to a lot more people and engage with them from all over the state with more coordination.” Combined, the stations have more than 50 news staffers.

The collaborative will help formalize “editorial coordination but also delivering a product and service that we can all kind of stand behind and focus on,” Martin said. Its output could include daily newscasts, a radio program, a website and a daily newsletter, made available to all stations.

Anchor stations will invite the state’s other public radio stations to help develop the collaborative’s guidelines and bylaws, said Richard Eiswerth, GM of Cincinnati Public Radio. Eiswerth said he expects the collaboration will “improve and enhance” his station’s news coverage and pointed out that local news in the city has suffered as the Cincinnati Enquirer has laid off staff.

The idea of deeper collaboration on news has been “bubbling around in Ohio for years,” Eiswerth said, and stations have taken part in a statehouse news collaboration since 1980.

Ideastream will complete the feasibility study within four months, Martin said, which will include measuring “Ohioans’ desire for this type of information.” He hopes the collaborative will begin by early next year, ahead of the presidential election.

Martin said he has been talking with colleagues at stations in Texas and California that are collaborating on news “so that we don’t recreate the wheel.” Texas is the site of NPR’s first journalism hub, and stations in California are also working on a hub with NPR.

Becoming another NPR hub is “certainly a possibility,” Martin said. But for now, he said, the stations are “focused on the first steps, which is coming together and understanding how we can uniquely serve Ohioans.”

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