News and Views

Reporting On Diverse Communities: Avoiding the Obvious

Jun 21, 2014
Photo by Stephano Corso

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.

Covering Congress: Watch Dog the Lawmakers

Jun 17, 2014
Andy Withers

Why does covering Congress matter? Here's how Todd Zwillich, Washington correspondent for "The Takeaway" answers that question:  "Lack of (civic) engagement is the corrupt politician's most powerful tool." In other words, if the media don't keep an eye on the people's business, it's good news for those who want to sneak through corrupt agendas. 

Zwillich joined NPR Congressional reporter Ailsa Chang and Matt Laslo, who files stories about Congress for NPR and 40 of its member stations, for a lively PRNDI session on "Covering Congress." 

Tom Check

The NPR Arts Desk eludes many and embraces few.

"I'm never particularly interested in a 'this is happening' story," said Tom Cole, who's been editor of the desk for more than two decades.

Cole, along with NPR reporter Neda Ulaby, kicked off the PRNDI "NPR Arts Desk" session with an open discussion about how they operate. While everyone's questions were unique, they all seemed to be asking the same thing: What will make you pick my story?

Reporters and news directors are constantly seeking the hidden formula that will deliver their arts features to a national audience, but in reality there simply isn't one. It's about a solid pitch, great sound, and national relevance. Advance obits and book pieces don't hurt either. 

  PRNDI President George Bodarky is presenting the annual report to members for discussion at the business meeting at the conference in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 20, at 12:15 p.m. 

The report outlines the organization's goals and details the major successes of the past year, including:

  • development of a full-day training session at the upcoming RTDNA/SPJ conference in Nashville;
  • al la carte trainings in vocal coaching, reporting, and management available to public media newsrooms;
  • the launch of a certification program for new and aspiring news managers;
  • efforts to expand the PRNDI membership. 

View and download the full report.

Public radio stations and independent producers will now have guidance for negotiating rates to support creation of local stories, thanks to the efforts of a task force created by AIR and PRNDI  last fall.

AIR has also developed a new contract template designed expressly for station and freelancers. Together, these new resources support stations seeking to tap public media’s talent pool to strengthen their local position, and the interests of freelancers looking to expand their opportunities to contribute to public media outlets and reach new listeners.

AIR and PRNDI Stoke Local News Fire

Oct 30, 2013

AIR will partner with Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI) to develop resources designed to encourage and support public radio stations and independent producers interested in working more closely together.

AIR has tapped veteran journalist Susan Capelouto to lead the effort, which begins this week. Capelouto, a long-standing AIR member and former news director for Georgia Public Broadcasting, most recently served as an editor for CNN Radio.

A 2012 study led by media consultant and AIR member Michael Marcotte brought insight into the capacity of local newsrooms. His comprehensive survey revealed mixed results on local content production. Nearly half the surveyed stations produce an hour or less of local news programming per weekday. At the other end of the spectrum, a quarter of the stations produce 2½ hours or more of programming each day.

Marguerite Nutter, NPR

This is the true story of eight colleagues who chose to live in a house, to prepare meals together, work to plan a conference and other training sessions, to find out what happens when News Directors get out of the newsroom...and devote their full attention to plotting a course for the future of PRNDI and its members.

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