Collaboration?: PRNDI Asked, You Answered

Jun 16, 2014

In light of the “Collaborative Coverage Project” recently launched by NPR, PRNDI collected responses to a survey April 7-11, 2014 asking its membership for their ideas about collaboration. The survey went out to 95 recipients and 20 responded, representing newsrooms at public radio stations across the country.         

More than half of the respondents rated increased collaboration as needed or very needed (4 or 5 on the 5-point scale). The responses were equally distributed among small, medium, and large stations (according to PRNDI's definitions). But small and medium stations were much more likely to rate increased collaboration as needed or very needed.

Correspondingly, most respondents said that they would not characterize their current relationship with NPR as collaborative. 6 respondents from large stations said they would, as did 2 from medium stations. No small station respondents characterized their relationship with the network as collaborative.

In elaborating, the respondents made clear that for many “collaboration” with NPR currently means little more than station-based reporters filing stories for network newscasts and magazines.

“We get contacted when NPR wants something. There's no inquiry about what we're covering and how we can work together,” said one respondent from a large station.

Several also expressed concerns that national correspondents are parachuting in without alerting the local station, or sometimes without even the knowledge of NPR’s regional bureau chief, resulting in duplicative efforts or reporting of old news.  

Nonetheless, some respondents expressed interest and willingness to contribute more than just stories to the network, but also local expertise, data, raw tape. One medium station respondent put it this way:

“I would encourage NPR to not think about collaboration as a project with a beginning and end, but as an ongoing process.”

The survey suggested six objectives of collaboration that might benefit stations: 1.) national visibility, 2.) improved coverage of region, 3.) better communication from NPR about coverage and programming, 4.) training for station news staff, 5.) resource sharing and increased efficiency, and 6.) coordination of national and local coverage.

When asked which their newsrooms most wanted to get out of collaboration, respondents affirmed all of six objectives. Nearly all the respondents wanted to see training for station news staff (17) and resource sharing (16).

The elements of success in collaboration identified by respondents sounded some common themes: good communication, editorial leadership, leveraging the capacities of each partner, trust, and respect.

PRNDI has shared the responses to its April survey with the team working on NPR’s Collaborative Project, and the information will continue to guide PRNDI’s discussion and fostering of collaboration benefiting all public radio partners.

View all the survey responses here.