Local that Works spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations and nonprofit and digital news organizations in the U.S. LTW includes an annual contest and a database (below). LTW produces webinars that offer insights into projects and organizations that are reshaping local civic journalism.
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“A People’s History of Kansas City” is an award-winning narrative history podcast about the everyday heroes who shaped the region. It centers the stories that have too often been forgotten or ignored.
Mia’s Gift is a student-lead educational podcast and radio module that teaches indigenous Tlingit language through culturally relevant themes and story telling. Produced by high school student, Mia.
We hosted a Basketball Park Takeover which attracted over 200 Black youth ages 15-24, to establish trust and awareness of The Kansas City Defender. Numerous attendants are now regular readers.
Aspen Public Radio’s library of lectures and events, produced by local organizations, has made cultural conversations more accessible, thanks to this replicable initiative for small stations.
Colorado Postcards tell stories of people, places and things that make the state unique. In just 60 seconds, they feed listeners’ curiosity and foster a closer connection to the place we call home.
Between The Covers is an opportunity to gather with other like-minded people within our community to read, discuss ideas, and meet great authors of all genres.
This South Florida PBS initiative consisting of twelve one-minute videos highlight famous artists and art techniques throughout history, seeks to inspire children and fuel their creativity.
Black Music City is a collaborative effort that awards grants for new work to Black creatives working in a range of artistic mediums for projects inspired by Philadelphia’s Black music history.
In Troy NY, a neighborhood works to shift divisions and narratives through community-driven art. WMHT tells the story through digital and broadcast content and engagement events.
A People’s History of Kansas City
Growing up in Kansas City, Suzanne Hogan loved hearing stories about the most important figures in her city’s past. It wasn’t until adulthood that she realized the way her city glorified only certain parts of the past — often glossing over influential women and people of color in the area.
“A People’s History of Kansas City,” a podcast from KCUR Studios hosted by Suzanne Hogan and produced by Suzanne and Mackenzie Martin, first debuted in February 2020. Now in its third season, PHKC tells stories about the everyday heroes, renegades and visionaries who shaped Kansas City.
Over 24 episodes so far, the podcast has highlighted reporting and contributors from across KCUR’s newsroom (including interns!) and partner stations. Radio pieces adapted from PHKC episodes air during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on KCUR 89.3, as well as our daily news podcast Kansas City Today.
As its name suggests, A People’s History is especially concerned about the Kansas and Missouri figures and movements who have been left out of our popular histories, and challenging the narratives that this city tells about itself. Its primary audience is not “history geeks,” but rather everyday Kansas Citians — after all, these are the stories that explain and challenge the world we’re living in today.
To accomplish this mission, PHKC’s digital packaging is given as much attention as the podcast audio itself. Each episode is packaged with custom graphics overseen by KCUR’s designer Crysta Henthorne, so it stands out as visually distinct from traditional news stories.
Every episode is rewritten into its own digital article, complete with historical and contemporary photos, so the stories can be read as well as listened to. Rather than “cannibalizing” potential listenership, our experimentations show that shareable digital packages actually push more diverse audiences towards the podcast who wouldn’t otherwise seek it out.
As we see in current headlines, the question of “Whose history is being left out?” isn’t going away. PHKC offers a model for other stations to integrate history projects into their newsrooms, and proof of how local stories can stretch far beyond a local audience.
PHKC’s central mission is to educate our community about the parts of Kansas City that have too often been forgotten or ignored.
A prime example of this is the PMJA Award-winning and James Beard-nominated episode about Henry Perry, the self-professed “barbecue king” of Kansas City in the early 1900s. Even though two of the most famous Kansas City barbecue restaurants trace their style of barbecue directly back to Perry, few Kansas Citians grew up knowing his story — including his own granddaughter, Bernetta McKindra.
After the episode aired, McKindra was formally presented with her grandfather’s Barbecue Hall of Fame trophy by the American Royal. In September, PHKC is hosting a public event about the Henry Perry episode that will feature McKindra telling her story.
The other guiding principle of PHKC is that Kansas City stories are, in fact, national stories, and with strong and timely packaging, audiences beyond the metro will find reasons to connect and share stories that began as “local” but tie into larger ideas and narratives.
Several radio-length episodes have been picked up nationally by NPR news magazines like Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and Here & Now, featured nationally on NPR One, and highlighted on the NPR.org homepage and social media platforms. As of August 2022, the podcast has 233,000 downloads and 160,000 users. Digital build outs of the episodes are regularly among KCUR’s top-performing stories, with one standout article topping 50,000 pageviews.
To fund this project’s inception in 2020, KCUR developed a partnership with Midcontinent Public Library, home to the Midwest Genealogy Center. MCPL sponsored the first two seasons of the podcast for a total of $29,998. In 2022, inspired by PHKC’s success, MCPL offered a $17,500 sponsorship for host Suzanne Hogan and producer Mackenzie Martin to develop a podcast bootcamp to train a new generation of Kansas City podcasters. KCUR has also hosted several events revolving around PHKC content.