CPB to fund initiative for local radio/TV reporting


With an aim to countering a decline in local journalism nationwide, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced funding for a major journalism initiative that will increase original local reporting capacity in seven regions around the country, and a planning project to develop an open information architecture to harness the collective power of the public media network.

The creation of seven Local Journalism Centers (LJCs) will combine CPB and participating stations’ resources for a ground-breaking new approach to newsgathering and its distribution, the CPB said. The Centers will form teams of multimedia journalists, who will focus on issues of particular relevance to each region; their in-depth reports will be presented regionally and nationally via digital platforms, community engagement programs and radio and television broadcasts.

The LJC initiative builds on CPB’s long-standing commitment to journalism and its ongoing funding of public media news and public affairs content and initiatives, including Project Argo, a pilot effort funded jointly with the Knight Foundation to enable a dozen NPR and PBS stations to expand their reporting and increase their expertise on topics of local relevance.

“The Local Journalism Centers will enhance public media’s ability to meet the information needs of local communities at a time when access to high quality, original reporting is declining,” said Patricia Harrison, the CEO and President of CPB.

“These radio and television stations are locally owned and operated and work in partnership with other community-based organizations. Working together with stations across a region, along with emerging new digital journalism organizations, they can make a significant contribution to news gathering and distribution, which is critical to the information health of these communities,” Harrison explained.

“In a time when newspapers and other media organizations are cutting back or disappearing altogether, public media is strengthening its commitment to journalism. We’re putting our innovative spirit and strong local and national infrastructure to work for the American people in new ways – filling gaps in news coverage and using new platforms to ensure everyone has access to the most trusted source for in-depth reporting, analysis and investigative journalism,” said PBS President and CEO Paula A. Kerger. “

In addition, CPB also announced funding for the Public Media Platform, a project administered by NPR, in partnership with PBS, APM, PRI and PRX. This coalition of public media leaders will develop a prototype for a flexible common platform to support public media innovation and collaboration. The ultimate goal is to collect, distribute, present and monetize digital media content efficiently, allowing producers and stations to devote their resources to reporting, content production and community engagement.

“These two initiatives represent the twin paths that public media must travel – expanded original news reporting, and state of the art tools and technology to get that content into the hands of more people. CPB’s investments in these two innovative programs ultimately serve those goals, and the interests of the American people,” said Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of NPR.

The Local Journalism Centers will each focus on a particular issue relevant to communities throughout their region. The seven centers will hire new reporters, editors and additional positions that include outreach and coordination duties. The total CPB and station investment over two years is approximately $10.5 million, with an expectation that each Center will become self-sustaining by the end of the two-year funding period.

The LJCs currently under development are:

KJZZ (Phoenix, AZ), KPBS (San Diego, CA), Nevada Public Radio, KRWG (southwest New Mexico and far-west Texas), Texas Public Radio, KUAZ (Tucson, AZ), KNAU (Flagstaff, AZ). The LJC is called “Fronteras: The Changing America Desk.” A bi-lingual reporting team will focus on cultural shifts that are transforming the southwest, including Latino, Native American and border issues. The partner organizations will hire seven reporters, two editors and a social media editor.

The Plains
KCUR (Kansas City, MO), Iowa Public Radio, NET Radio and Television (Nebraska), KBIA (Columbia, MO), High Plains Public Radio (Garden City, KS), Kansas Public Radio. The LJC will focus on agribusiness, including farming practices, food and fuel production, looking both at local and national issues. News and information will be fed throughout the public media network, via radio, television production and online. The partner organizations will hire three full-time and one part-time journalist, an editor and an outreach coordinator.

Upstate New York
WXXI (Rochester), WMHT (Schenectady), WNED (Buffalo), WRVO (Oswego), WSKG (Binghamton). The LJC will focus on the push to remake the regional economy in upstate New York by focusing on innovation technology to stimulate development. Partner stations will hire a total of five reporters, an editor and a managing facilitator to develop feature reports and news spots as well as an interactive web portal.

Upper Mid-West
Michigan Radio, WBEZ (Chicago), Ideastream (Cleveland). The LJC will focus on reinventing the industrial heartland and in particular the economy in the upper Midwest. Partner stations will create multi-media content on the region’s changing economy and report out via radio, television, digital and community programs. The partnering organizations will hire three new reporters, a senior editor and a senior producer.

Central Florida
WUSF (Tampa, Fl), WEDU (Tampa, Fl), WGCU (Fort Meyers), WMFE (Orlando, Fl), WMNF (Tampa, Fl), WUFT (Gainesville, Fl). The LJC will focus on creating multi-media content related to healthcare issues in central Florida. The goal is to create a platform for community discussion through generating new content and events, including online. The partner organizations will hire five reporters, an executive editor, a senior multimedia manager and a community engagement specialist.

In addition to these five LJCs, CPB will fund an LJC in the South and one in the Northwest. CPB is currently accepting proposals from stations in these regions.

These initial investments will expand local news capacity in these regions by an anticipated 50 new professional positions, CPB said.