News and Views

Takeaways from PRPD: Best Practices for New Clocks

Sep 21, 2014
Behold: the new NPR magazine clocks.
Jonathan Ahl

NPR member stations around the country are working feverishly to figure out how they will insert local content and cover the breaks in the new clocks for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and the weekend news magazines.  

Determining and implementing the best practices for using the new clocks was the topic of a breakout session at the PRPD Conference in Portland, OR on Sept.10.

My name is George and my station dropped NPR newscasts.

When I was first confronted with that proposal, I was like, “we’re considering doing what???”

But, once I got over the initial shock, I took a very hard look at the facts, and seized it as an opportunity to grow WFUV’s news presence. 

First of all, WFUV is Triple A station. By and large listeners come to us for music. That’s not to say our listeners simply want to bury their heads in the playlist and ignore the fact that the world is revolving around them as they catch the latest from Mumford and Sons. Our listeners are life-long learners who want to be in the know about current events, including when news breaks during the day.

So why drop NPR newscasts?

Eliminating NPR headlines did lead to a cost savings of about $50,000 a year. But, that wasn’t the motivating factor. As I mentioned, WFUV is a music station, and the station wanted to increase focus on music programming.

“We were concerned with our ability to retain audience when we cut to three minutes of news each hour across the day, “said WFUV General Manager, Chuck Singleton. “Of course, this was also informed by (and made less of a risk) by our awareness of the experience of our peers in music format stations; we were one of the last to retain the hourly newscasts.”

KETR-FM is a university licensee in Commerce, TX located in Hunt County about 65 miles northeast of Dallas. The 100,000-watt station serves eight counties but has just one full-time news reporter and host. So the station has recruited staffers at nearby newspapers to help fill out local newscasts. 

“Our staff is short,” said KETR General Manager Jerrod Knight. “Having active newsroom participants with a home base in the various communities we serve is one of the best ways, and at times, the only way, to get at that information.”

The relationship between NPR news and member station newsrooms took center stage at the recent PRNDI conference in Washington, D.C. During their session members of the “Collaborative Coverage Project” team assembled by NPR — Kelley Griffin of Colorado Public Radio, John Dankosky of WNPR, Scott Finn of West Virginia Public Radio, and Vickie Walton-James of NPR — shared some of the ideas that have emerged since the project got going in March of this year. 

A “True Network” 

Anatomy of an NPR Newscast

Jun 21, 2014
Renée Johnson

Putting together an NPR newscast takes at least a four person team - anchor/reporter, tape cutter, producer and editor. At PRNDI's "Newscasting NPR-Style" session, we heard from four NPR anchors and an executive producer about how they each contribute to the final product. 

NPR's executive producer, Robert Garcia, moderated the panel of anchors, including Korva Coleman, Lakshmi Singh, Jamie McIntyre and Jack Speer. Garcia showcased one anchor at a time. He played one of the anchors' best newscasts before letting the audience Q&A from them.

Gonzalo Baeza

The days of lugging around heavy recording equipment could soon be long gone. 

With new apps coming out and old ones being updated every day, smartphones are becoming more capable of capturing, editing, and sharing audio, video, and photos. WTOP reporter and technology editor Neal Augenstein is an expert on using smartphones for start-to-finish reporting, so much so that his old iPhone is on display at The Newseum. Attendees of Augenstein's breakout session, "Smartphone Reporting," had the opportunity to pick the reporter's brain and learn about all things iPhone.

Reporting On Diverse Communities: Avoiding the Obvious

Jun 21, 2014

It’s no secret that public radio has a diversity issue; diversity in our newsrooms and diversity in our content. News outlets are making efforts to be more inclusive in the reporters they hire and the stories they tell. But that opens up a whole new set of issues: How do you tell stories about a community you aren’t a part of? Is it the job of the reporters from those communities to tell those stories? And what exactly are we talking about when we refer to “diversity?”  A conversation between PRNDI attendees and Tara Gatewood (UNITY) and Hansi Lo Wang (NPR’s Code Switch) at the session entitled "Reporting from Diverse Communities" touched mostly on race and ethnicity, though there are many types of diversity including religious, economic, and gender.

Flickr: MarkGuitarPhoto

When it comes to media, a lot has stayed the same, but a lot has changed, too. Amy Mitchell, the Director of Journalism Research at the Pew Research Center, gave the keynote address at the PRNDI conference this year. She titled her talk "The State of the News Media." In her presentation, she tracked the trajectory of traditional and digital media in the United States.

Here are some of the highlights: 

1. More Media-Makers, Sharper Focus

There are currently 5,000 full-time staff and editorial positions at nearly 500 digital news outlets (30 larger sites and 468 smaller ones). Two areas where these outlets are investing much of their focus are investigative and international coverage. Sites like Propublica and Buzzfeed are cornering the market. Propublica is utilizing data-driven coverage to engage their audience and Buzzfeed is preparing to open offices in Berlin, Tokyo, Mumbai and Mexico. While digital media outlets are major producers, they still account for a small percentage of media producers. Traditional media lost 16,200 jobs from 2003 to 2012 but it has also retained 38,000 full-time editorial newspaper employees.

Listen First: The Key to a Good Edit

Jun 17, 2014

Every edit NPR Western Editor Jason DeRose does begins with him listening to the reporter read the story aloud while he/she plays the actualities on tape. "Each piece has to work as radio," DeRose says. It's important to remember that the listener will not have the reporter's script in front of them. 

During a "first edit," DeRose listens and times the story, but he says that he's also thinking of his emotional response. This leads to the "macro edit", during which he addresses problems with the structure, narrative, flow, fairness and/or balance. When it comes to actualities, DeRose says, "Keep people together, don't bounce around with your sources."

After what should be no more than a 15-minute edit, the reporter is expected to spend the next hour re-working their piece. 

DeRose demonstrated a first edit in front of a live audience members during a session at the PRNDI conference in Washington, DC. Deena Prichep, a freelancer based in Portland, OR called in with her story on raw milk.

Developing Special Projects: Think 'Audience First'

Jun 17, 2014
Marc Cornelis

In planning your next special project, think about your audience before you begin. In the PRNDI session "Thinking Audience for Your Next Big Thing," NPR Digital Service's Kim Perry and Eric Athas shared their 'user story' model and how two stations are already putting it into practice. 

KCUR and Vermont's VPR are using the model to attack the issues of a divided city and a state's drug problem. 

KCUR's focus on the stigma surrounding the eastern part of Kansas City has resulted in a community engagement team and a Tumblr page specific to the area. Donna Vestal, the station's Director of Content Strategy, says this has helped the reporters realize the stories they want to do may not be what their audience wants to hear.

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