Local that Works

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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136 results found.

Shared State

Montana Public Radio
Public Radio
Katy Wade
[email protected]

Two years ago, the newsrooms of Montana Public Radio, Montana Free Press and Yellowstone Public Radio took on an ambitious collaborative podcast to explain what was driving the candidates and beliefs during Montana’s 2020 election, and where those outcomes could lead us.

The idea for this podcast originally took shape during the 2020 primary election, when anyone who turned on a TV in Montana could see candidates leaning against a fence post, shooting a rifle, fishing a remote stream, shaking hands in a small diner or warehouse and all claiming they’re the best choice to uphold “Montana values.”

This year, we came back together to explore how the stories Montanans tell themselves about what makes a “real Montanan” impact public policy, and to share the nuanced stories of Montanans who are trying to deal with seemingly intractable problems. Over eight episodes, we considered both the political divisions that engross our state and how residents are working through them, as well as how today’s political disagreements can have increasingly far-flung consequences.

We dug into issues surrounding housing affordability, water shortages, conservation, COVID-19, and even the politics of how we die. We had the incredible opportunity to tell stories from individual Montanans confronting profound and personal questions about the politics that affect their personal liberties, a value that almost every Montanan seems to share.

The goal was to translate political rhetoric into a community-driven narrative and offer the general public a new way to engage with politics, as well as to spark discussion among our combined audiences about the nuances of political beliefs.

Shared State’s deeper look at the most important issues and candidates on Montana’s 2020 November ballot was accomplished through a first-of-its-kind collaboration. This year, our series grew into an even more compelling collection of stories detailing the emotionally-charged political beliefs and the complexities of those politics that shape our state. Montana Free Press, Montana Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio saw the need and desire within their audiences for political coverage that stepped back from the daily headlines and captured a truer picture of Montana, and we hope to continue to do so.

In addition to framing a model of cross-newsroom collaboration, Shared State has been used as an educational tool in the state’s higher education system. Montana State University has assigned Shared State as required listening for their Hilleman Scholars and multiple professors at the University of Montana have made Shared State required listening in political science, law, forestry and journalism courses. We’ve also hosted a successful listening party in collaboration with the UMT school of Journalism, and high school educators have even used the series as educational material.

We’ve had a great response on social media, with audience members championing the series as “capturing the struggles Montanans are going through everyday and tying that to the political landscape here, thus making me feel like I have a voice.” One listener responded to a call-out from our reporter to tell their highly personal story, simply because they said they had listened to Shared State and trusted the place that produced it.

Shared State has also received recognition with an E.B. Craney Award from the Montana Broadcasters Association as Non-Commercial Radio Program Of The Year. The series’ third episode won first place recognition in the Society of Professional Journalists’ small newsroom division for Audio: Government and Politics Reporting.

It is clear that Shared State accomplished its goal of engaging the general public in a deeper conversation about the values that reflect Montana.

Our members and donors continue to highlight Shared State in their contributions, sharing their deep appreciation for the collaboration and creativity that went into making the program. This project gave our audiences another reason to contribute to this vital public service in Montana, where local, trusted news is desperately needed.