Ohio stations move forward with news collaborative

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A group of public radio stations in Ohio received a CPB grant to support the planning phase of a statewide journalism collaborative, the stations said in a Tuesday news release.

The $56,000 grant will help the stations develop a business and sustainability plan for the collaborative, according to the release.

Leaders of the three stations leading the effort — ideastream in Cleveland, Cincinnati Public Radio and WOSU in Columbus — see the collaborative as a way to pool reporting resources and attempt to fill a gap left by newspapers in the state shutting down and reducing staff.

The collaboration is “an effort to really serve Ohio more than it’s ever been served before and bring the public radio stations together to do that,” WOSU GM Tom Rieland told Current.

The group is looking into funding that could support the collaborative news effort for five years, Rieland said.

“We want this to be sustainable, not something that just struggles along,” Rieland said. Development staffers from the stations will also work together to explore funding options.

Based on the funding of other collaborative journalism efforts among public radio stations, ideastream CEO Kevin Martin said that he expects funding to come mainly from underwriting and foundations.

The group is still considering the journalism a collaboration could produce, but Martin said that there is consensus around the need for a statewide editor.

Martin also said he sees the effort as a way to hear more from “voices that are rarely heard.”

“I would hope that we could enlist all the public radio stations across Ohio and make sure that we hear those voices and we can elevate those voices,” he said.

The stations received a $70,000 grant from the George Gund Foundation last year for feasibility studies, including a survey of Ohio public radio stations about their interest in participating in a collaborative and their resources and needs. Another asked Ohio residents about their interest in statewide news.

“These surveys laid a very important groundwork that did confirm the enthusiasm across the board for the project by Ohio stations and the intense need for and appreciation for this type of service” among Ohioans, said Cincinnati Public Radio GM Richard Eiswerth.

“We were very encouraged to see and to hear in our report analysis that everyone was really motivated to do this and eager to pursue it, but also that a lot of them, even some of the smallest stations, had some … resources to put forward to this effort,” Martin said.

The CPB grant runs through the end of the year.

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