Shared State


In the summer of 2020, 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 the outcomes could lead us.

The idea for this podcast took shape during the 2020 primary election when anyone who turned on a TV in Montana saw 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.”

The 10-episode Shared State series explored how the stories Montanans tell themselves about what makes a “real Montanan” impact public policy. The podcast dug into issues surrounding voting access, public lands, campaign finance, the state’s changing economy and the state’s history and myths of rugged individualism. The goal was to translate political rhetoric into a nuanced narrative and offer the general public a new way to engage with politics and the high-stakes campaign debates.

We also hoped to spark discussion among our combined audiences about the importance and impacts of statewide elections.

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. Montana Free Press, Montana Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio saw the need and desire within their audiences for campaign coverage that stepped back from the daily headlines and provided context and meaning to soundbite debates.