Twelve public radio stations have signed a memorandum of understanding to form the New York Public News Network, the stations announced last week.
The network aims to “maximize our reporting efficiency and strength and to give residents a better understanding of the biggest stories across New York state,” according to the memo, which was shared with Current.
To start, the network will focus on sharing stories, coordinating coverage and sharing resources among stations, but it has plans to grow.
The memo encourages participating stations to share stories with regional or statewide significance with the network. It also suggests that stations use the New York Public News Network brand on digital articles and in audio stories.
Over the last three to four years, public radio news leaders in the state have met weekly. That has been a “big change” and has helped with issues such as duplication of coverage, said David Sommerstein, news director at North Country Public Radio in Canton.
“I don’t think there was much communication between the stations before,” Sommerstein said. A lot of the change has been “due to the technologies we’ve adopted since COVID,” he said. “Zoom and Slack makes it just a whole lot easier.”
Forming the news network is “the natural next step,” Sommerstein said. Giving the collaboration a name helps to “publicize it a little bit to let New Yorkers know that we’re all working together, that we’re making the most of their listener and reader donations to provide better journalism across the whole state,” he said.
The idea for the network came out of the weekly meetings and has been in the works since 2022, according to Denise Young, executive editor at WXXI in Rochester.
Stations in New York “have a long history of working together, but this is certainly more stations than we’ve ever had before,” Young said.
New York stations have been sharing the work of Capitol Bureau Chief Karen DeWitt for decades, for instance. Some of the stations have also worked together on initiatives such as Innovation Trail in 2010 and Upstate Insight in 2014.
The participating stations are WXXI; North Country Public Radio; WAER in Syracuse; WAMC in Albany; WBFO in Buffalo; WJFF in Liberty; WMHT in Albany; WNYC in New York City; WRVO in Oswego; WSKG in Vestal; WLIW in Long Island; and WSHU in Westport, Conn.
“There’s just good buy-in for this,” Young said. “We all recognize that working together makes us stronger, and it helps us serve our audiences across the state much better.”
“We think having our listeners across the state hear, ‘I’m Denise Young with the New York Public News Network’ … shows to the audience that we’re working together collectively,” Young said.
Zoom has been especially helpful for building rapport among the stations, Young said. “When you know people, it just makes it much easier to work,” she said. “It’s not just this disembodied voice coming out of a phone.”
The first initiative the stations are undertaking is to apply for a grant from CPB to add a shared capitol reporter in Albany. They are also in talks about sharing a reporter that covers energy and climate-change issues, Sommerstein said, and are talking with the state governor’s office about an “Ask the Governor”–style show that would air on all the stations.
The group is still “pretty informal,” Sommerstein said. The memo does not lay out specific requirements for stations to follow, only suggestions. No money is changing hands, and there is no lead station, Sommerstein said.
“We’ve all worked together to move this far,” he said.
“A lot of other regional networks are further along on this path than we are,” he said. “But we want to catch up, and we feel like we can catch up pretty quickly.”