NPR’s Story Lab Unveils Its Ambitious New Approach

From accepting pitches to developing pilots, Story Lab is doing it all.

When NPR created its Story Lab in June 2015, it was intended as a place for staff to play around with new ideas and forms for the newsroom. That incubator is expanding in a big way, and the ideas and initiatives explored in the lab will be targeted not just toward NPR, but to member stations and creators beyond the public media ecosystem.

“It is an idea hub where we will generate new segments for the news programs, create pilots for radio shows, launch new podcasts, and introduce new voices to the network. It will ensure that the right ideas connect with the right platform and audience,” explain Christopher Turpin and Anya Grundmann in an announcement. Grundmann, who is NPR’s vp of programming and audience development and Turpin, who is vp of news programming and operations, are running the lab jointly.

Joining Grundmann and Turpin is a group drawn from NPR’s programming, news, training and NPR One teams.

As an example of its work, Story Lab announced it is funding the development of pilots for three new podcasts. Drugged, co-hosted by KERA’s Lauren Silverman and Dallas Morning News’ Seema Yasmin, will look at the physical and global effects of drugs. Do Over, co-hosted by Kelly Jones and Chioke I’Anson and produced by Claire Tacon, is described as “a podcast about your alternate timeline.” And The Stoop, which explores black identity, is “like a griot, newsroom, hair salon and your mama’s kitchen all in one.” That podcast is a collaboration of staff at KALW in San Francisco, including co-hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba and editor Julie Caine.

All three came out of an audio workshop NPR hosted last spring for producers, and is representative of the Lab’s intent to creating more training, meetings and workshop opportunities. There’s another workshop happening March 2017, for you aspiring podcast creators.

Soon, the Story Lab will also be the place to go for all initial NPR pitches, and staff is working on creating a site that will streamline that process, set for a debut sometime this fall.