CPB backs new journalism desk for Alaska’s stations

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Dru Sefton/Current

Alaska Public Media in Anchorage will lead a new journalism collaboration that aims to expand public media’s reporting capacity statewide. 

A two-year, $936,000 CPB grant funds start-up of the Alaska Desk and will help pay for four new reporters and three shared editors, according to CPB’s Monday news release. The grant also funds a full-time grant writing position and travel and equipment costs. 

Stations will apply to host a reporter and join the “Alaska Desk,” the release said.

There are 27 public radio and television stations in the state, according to APM CEO Ed Ulman. He describes the network as a “mini-NPR.”

Six stations including APM already collaborate on coverage for Alaska’s Energy Desk, which was established with CPB funds in 2016. With two managing editors and six reporters, the desk covers energy and environmental issues across the state. Its reporting airs on local stations and the Alaska Public Radio Network. 

Reporters for the new Alaska Desk may work from radio stations with one other journalist — or become the only reporter on staff, Ulman told Current. This could  boost coverage of  indigenous communities. 

“It’s definitely a benefit … for us to have reporters in those regions to capture those stories to share with Alaskans and, of course, ultimately, the entire world,” Ulman said. The desk will grow journalism  in the largest U.S. state, where big stories include energy, climate change and the opening of the Arctic.  

One editor on the desk will also work on professional development, as many journalism students go to Alaska for their first reporting jobs, according to Ulman. 

The full-time grant writer will seek additional funding to sustain the news operation after CPB’s grant ends in two years, Ulman said. 

“We’re going to have more stories that are going to interest our members and donors,” he said. 

He pointed to the success of Alaska’s Energy Desk as creating confidence in APM’s plan to launch a new collaboration. 

“In just the last several years, CPB has invested more than $1.5 million to advance collaboration among Alaska public media stations, increase the numbers of editors, and raise the caliber of their fact-based reporting,” said CPB President Patricia Harrison in the grant announcement. “This additional support of $936,000 to Alaska Public Media will further strengthen the important public media information lifeline across the state.”

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