The summary below was provided by Ode founder and Siouxland Public Media Arts Producer Ally Karsyn. Siouxland Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa, produces Ode, a curated live storytelling series where community members tell true stories on stage to promote positive impact through empathy. The storytelling series offers a multi-platform output—on air, online and in person. Through these channels, Ode has strengthened existing community partnerships and established new ones—all while generating a new revenue stream and attracting a new, younger audience to engage with public radio.
Community in Unity, created by Alaska Public Media, invites residents of Alaska to sit down and participate in face-to-face discussions in order to tackle relevant community issues. Recorded for radio broadcast, the group conversations have included topics ranging from homelessness to race and identity with the hopes of getting people who wouldn’t normally meet together.
Capital Public Radio’s The View From Here uses a documentary unit as a capacity building project for reporters in a radio newsroom. The documentaries are each an hour long and tell the stories of three unique people or families, woven together to show how different people deal with a similar social justice issue.
On his community page, Matt Kiser describes WTF Just Happened Today as “your guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics.” What started as a personal project to chronicle the new administration has turned into Kiser’s full-time job, and he couldn’t do it without the help of his readers.
In early 2016, San Francisco public radio station KALW started using the engagement tool Hearken to interact with its audience and create relevant stories. The collaborative reporting project, called Hey Area, has yielded about 15 long and 15 short stories so far — all based on ideas generated by audience members.
Jennifer Brandel wanted to know: what would happen if the public was brought in to the editorial process? As an independent producer and reporter at WBEZ in Chicago, the question had weighed on her, and in 2012 she founded Curious City through an initiative with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR).
St. Louis Public Radio began its Curious Louis project in late 2015, empowering readers and listeners to ask questions and pairing reporters with question-submitters to track down the answers. STLPR hired Kimberly Springer, who’d previously worked at Michigan Public Radio on another Hearken-powered project, MI Curious, in part to run the project.
In 2017, Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) piloted Unheard LA, a community-driven live storytelling series that featured people’s first-person accounts of real-life experiences. KPCC’s events and engagement arm, KPCC In Person, reached beyond the station’s existing audience by using the P.I.N., GroundSource, and other engagement tools to solicit story pitches and promote the event.
Curious City, a series produced by WBEZ Chicago Public Media, invites listeners to participate in the reporting process. Using the Hearken digital engagement platform, listeners ask and then vote on questions that are turned into radio stories. Over a year, Curious City attempted to engage residents of Chicago areas that traditionally had few public radio listeners, mostly stigmatized African-American and Latinx neighborhoods, to participate via face-to-face outreach, outreach via community partners, or social media marketing. Using a communication infrastructure theory framework, this study draws from observations and 25 interviews with journalists, participating audience members, residents of targeted outreach areas, and partner organizations to examine best practices to combine digital and offline strategies, and the importance of pre- and post-broadcast engagement.
Public Radio International (PRI) launched the reporting project Global Nation in 2012 to cover the “real-world stories of immigrants in the United States—their challenges, successes and how uneven US immigration laws affect their lives.” PRI then created the Global Nation Exchange to foster discussion between immigrants and help ground editorial decisions in what was most important to them.
In 2014, Michigan Radio launched MI Curious, a public-powered news initiative that invites community members to help choose what stories get assigned. Modeled after WBEZ’s Curious City, MI Curious uses Hearken to a) collect people’s burning questions about Michigan culture, sports, history, and other topics, and b) put the best submissions up for a vote online.
Based on detailed, in-depth interviews with 12 editors, reporters, and a leading communications scholar based in the region, this paper shines a spotlight on the practice of local journalism in the Pacific Northwest.