Local that Works contest opens with bigger cash prize, database of ‘ideas worth stealing’

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What would your station do with $20,000? This isn’t a theoretical question. Twenty thousand bucks is the grand prize for the 2020 Local that Works contest. It may not sound like big winnings for a big station, but we know that especially in this COVID-fueled economic crisis, a chance to win 20 grand is exciting!

For newcomers to pubmedia ­and those who aren’t “keeping Current,” here’s the backstory of Local that Works. Since 2016, Current has partnered with Public Media Futures on a project to collect, share and reward the best examples of ways public broadcasters are strengthening their local service. LTW is funded by the Wyncote Foundation. Last year, Greater Public joined the partnership, and we cast the net wider to include the growing nonprofit news sector. In previous competitions, the cash prize was $5,000. So, the award’s jump to 20 grand may be the best news of 2020.

What do we really mean by Local that Works? It’s the things you do to let audiences know that you are more than a destination for NPR or PBS programs. It’s how you hold a mirror up to your community, bring people together and foster a sense of place or pride. It’s what you are doing to meet specific community needs through information, arts and culture, or events. It’s multiplatform journalism, town hall meetings, user-generated content, concerts, hackathons, clever fundraising or engagement strategies, and partnerships with other local media and organizations. Check out the beautiful, new database of 362 entries from the past three years!

We’re looking for entries that are innovative and original, beyond that legacy daily radio talk show or weekly TV panel discussion, more interesting than photo ops with PBS Kids characters or events with NPR hosts. And we’re looking for initiatives that smaller and medium-sized media organizations might be able to scale, iterate or replicate. We’re looking for “how I did it” stories that can inspire us all. You know: ideas worth stealing.

The annual Local that Works contest typically receives more than 100 entries. First, we narrow that field to 20–25 semifinalists. Then a diverse panel of judges is charged with reviewing those entries and agreeing on the top three or four finalists. That is no easy task!

In the past, the finalists presented their projects at the annual Public Radio Super Regional conference in October, where attendees voted on the winner. While there are representatives of joint licensees at that meeting, PBS stations have been somewhat at a disadvantage.

This year will be different and, in my opinion, better. With conferences canceled, we will host a virtual event that enables a broader swath of the public and nonprofit media world to engage with Local that Works and weigh in on who has the most impressive, ambitious and replicable project.

So, what’s your Local that Works? How are you being more local? Which initiative will you submit to the contest this year? While you are thinking about that, let me suggest you search the LTW database for previous semifinalists, finalists, winners, so you know what kinds of projects have risen in the past. Then, confer with your colleagues, choose the initiative you feel most proud of and decide who will submit the entries this year. Please enter initiatives that you have done or are still doing, not plans or projects that haven’t yet launched. Save those for next year! And get that entry in before the Aug. 20 deadline!

Perhaps this is the year to tell everyone what your organization has done to welcome and serve new, more diverse audiences.

We can’t wait to hear from you. Keep up the great work.

One thought on “Local that Works contest opens with bigger cash prize, database of ‘ideas worth stealing’

  1. Hi Julie,
    This sounds exciting!
    One small redundancy in the info:
    “choose the initiative or initiative you feel”

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