Shared State


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.