NPR Launches Online Local Journalism Project With $3M In Grants


NPR announced today that it is planning to launch a new local online journalism venture with $3 million in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The funding — $2 million coming from CPB and $1 million from the Knight Foundation — will be used to provide a group of NPR stations with the resources to hire “journalist bloggers” who will focus on a topic that is important to the city where they are based. “Stations will feed their work into NPR’s content management system, where the entire group of participants will have easy access to each others’ work to inform, enrich and add context as they create and present their stories,” NPR said.

In addition, through the two years of the pilot program, PBS’s “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” will provide participants with an embeddable video player for their Web sites, while also featuring local reporting from selected stations on the “NewsHour.”

NPR said the stations that will participate in the pilot program have not yet been selected. However, they will include a mix of radio/TV operation and public radio stations from around the country.

A full release about the venture, after the jump.


Washington, DC, Oct.2, 2009 — NPR will launch a new journalism project to develop in-depth, local coverage on topics critical to communities and the nation, in a new effort funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the groups announced today.

The new funding — $2 million from CPB and $1 million from Knight Foundation — provides a pilot group of NPR stations with the resources to expand original reporting, and to curate, distribute and share online content about high-interest, specialized subjects. It is the first time that CPB and Knight Foundation have jointly funded a project of this type.

The two-year pilot will help a dozen stations establish themselves as definitive sources of news on a topic selected by each one as most relevant to its community, such as city politics, the changing economy, healthcare, immigration or education. These online reports will help fill the growing gap in local news offerings.

“The opportunity here is two-fold. First, to beef up coverage of critical issues at the local level, and, second, to begin to establish an online network that can transform itself into a news powerhouse of unparalleled depth and quality,” said Vivian Schiller, NPR president and CEO. “We are grateful to CPB and Knight Foundation for partnering with us to realize this potential and we thank them for supporting our mission to create a more informed public.”

“The continued vitality of public media in the face of rapid technological and social change demands a variety of responses from CPB,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “This web-first, multi-platform news approach is one of several innovative investments that CPB plans to make to strengthen local and network journalism.”

Alberto Ibargüen of Knight Foundation added: “The contraction of professional journalism poses a direct threat to our democracy as access to independent, in-depth, news and information is diminished.”

“As the country’s largest not-for-profit news organization and one that is gaining audience and innovating, NPR and its member stations are uniquely positioned to respond to the crisis in American journalism,” Ibargüen said.

The CPB and Knight Foundation grants will allow about a dozen NPR stations throughout the U.S. with established news operations to hire new journalist bloggers. Each will focus exclusively on reporting and aggregating news about a topic relevant to that city, based upon its geography and unique characteristics. Stations will feed their work into NPR’s content management system, where the entire group of participants will have easy access to each others’ work to inform, enrich and add context as they create and present their stories. This common content sharing infrastructure provides a solid platform to support stations’ online publishing needs and to expand the power of the network.

In addition, PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer will share its embeddable video player with the pilot participants. The player makes it possible to access and present video content from NewsHour, Frontline, NOW, Washington Week, Bill Moyers Journal, Tavis Smiley and about a dozen local PBS stations. The NewsHour will also feature selected reporting from the participating stations on its Web site.

Several stations played an active role in developing this pilot concept, including NPR/PBS stations: Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland), Northern California Public Broadcasting/KQED (San Francisco), WGBH (Boston) and KPBS (San Diego) — and radio stations: Southern California Public Radio/KPCC (Los Angeles), KALW, (San Francisco), KPLU (Seattle), WAMU (Washington D.C.), WXPN (Philadelphia), Wyoming Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, WNYC (New York), and WBUR (Boston).

While the stations that will co-create the pilots with NPR have not yet been selected, they will include a mix of radio/TV operations and public radio stations of various types across the country. The stations chosen will commit to covering a portion of the pilot cost and to sustaining the new staff upon conclusion of the grants. The search for a diverse and well-qualified pool of journalist bloggers will begin as soon as the stations are confirmed.

Knight Foundation has been a long time funder of NPR’s journalism initiatives, including a major grant to expand NPR journalists’ skills in online reporting, video and photography in order to transform NPR into a multimedia news service. CPB funds NPR through competitive grants – most recently funding comprehensive coverage of the economic crisis at the global, national and local levels.