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Just Vote Already! How One Newsroom is Encouraging People to Vote in the Midterm Elections

justvotealreadyI may be a bit of a public radio fan girl, especially when it comes to New York’s WNYC and the Brian Lehrer Show. I’m not going to apologize for this. Because they do really fun, smart things in their newsroom. This fall, they’re taking on the midterm elections. A lot of pundits and newspeople will tell you that the scariest thing about midterm elections is that no one even knows there are elections in the first place. And isn’t our job as journos to inform the electorate?

The Brian Lehrer team is taking that seriously, especially since there’s a district in the Bronx which has the most registered non-voters, people are signed up, but they won’t rock the vote. Enter “Just Vote Already,” a series where they are talking to political insiders, data nuts, and even sent a reporter out to that district to leave “Just Vote Already” cards on their doorsteps.

The best part? They created a little widget where you can robocall your non-voting friends (in NYC only, unfortunately) and guilt trip them into voting come November 4th. There are about four different versions you can listen to here, but the main idea is this “we don’t care who you vote for, just vote! And sorry for the robocall.” If you live in NYC, you can send a friend a robocall below. If you don’t, I want to know how your newsrooms are covering the midterm elections. Tweet us @10,000Words.

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A Radio Revolution: Radiotopia Announces 3 New Shows and Hits Kickstarter Goal

For podcasters, it’s been a busy month of fundraising. First, “Snap Judgment,” reached their fundraising goal to produce the best next season ever and then, this Tuesday, Radiotopia reached their Kickstarter goal with 23 days left to go.

Maybe it really is a radio revolution — centered on good storytelling and journalism. PRX has estimated that it takes about 50,000 core subscribers to ensure a podcast will be of interest to sponsors and pay its staff. By relying on listener support, philanthropy, and subscriptions, Radiotopia has grown substantially since its launch this past year. So when did radio become cool again?

PRX CEO Jake Shapiro says that:

It hasn’t been until really in the last two years that podcasting has become a mainstream audience format, it was always a niche format, because it was hard to use as a user. But now that everyone has been trained to think about on demand media, like Netflix, audio has now had this huge opportunity to become a mainstream platform of news and entertainment. Read more

Center for Investigative Reporting to Launch Public Radio Show

CIRThanks to the Reva and David Logan Foundation, along with the Ford Foundation, the Center for Investigative Reporting has garnered $3.5 million in support to launch an investigative public radio show and podcast called “Reveal.”

CIR’s Lisa Cohen says the nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism outfit will co-produce the show with the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), highlighting some of CIR’s ongoing investigations, as well as the watchdog journalism of other initiatives, in their one-hour radio show. CIR and PRX also plan to create special digital video and animations and data interactives for their web properties, and host live events.

Right now, investigations on CIR include the current surveillance state, toxic waste in Silicon Valley, border issues, the American criminal justice system and more. I’m hoping to see continuing coverage of those topics on the air waves and wondering how they will be presented for radio.

Read more

3 Lessons From NPR’s Decision to Cut “Tell Me More”

NPRNational Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” radio program will be cut Aug. 1 due to budget constraints, and 28 positions will be eliminated in the process, according to the New York TimesElizabeth Jensen. The show, focused on issues most relevant to minority listeners, has been on the air for seven years, and NPR was forced to cut it in overcoming a $6 million budget shortage.

It’s always sad to highlight layoffs in our industry — trust me, I do not enjoy it and acknowledge that it could easily be me (eight of the 28 positions aren’t currently filled, if that’s any consolation to the bad news at all). But we shouldn’t let a news organization’s failure come and go without taking the time to learn from its mistakes. Based on what I know about “Tell Me More” and how NPR is handling the aftermath of the program’s cut, here are a few lessons I feel can be learned from “Tell Me More”‘s plight:

1. Know your audience. Read more

The CIR Is On It: Telling the Story of Solitary Confinement for Teens Over, and Over, and Over Again

CIR the boxThis week, the Center for Investigative Reporting released a print story, a short animation, and a photo essay about solitary confinement for adolescents in the U.S. prison system. That’s in addition to a NewsHour and a public radio piece released last month and to a yet unreleased half hour documentary and graphic novel. By the end of the month, there will be around 10 pieces of the adolescent solitary confinement story circling you on one form of media or another.

It’s enough to make you rethink what you’ve been reporting on all year. CIR reporters Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy started over a year ago trying to gain access into prisons and report on conditions for teens. Altan says that the access issues surrounding the story seemed “almost insurmountable” at a certain point. Instead of being deterred, they pressed on and worked on thinking of different ways to handle the content. Says Altan:

We started of thinking of ways to tell the story even though we were dealing with essentially invisible sights. That’s  where the idea for the animation came up. We had met this very compelling young man in New York who told us about his experience at Rikers very powerfully and we had all this tape of him…we decided to try to take 3 hours of interview and see if we could carve that into something smaller and with a narrative arc.

And so the reporting team of two or three turned into a team of somewhere around 15-20, according to Bundy. Bundy says that as they are reporting they’re “always having conversations about what else we can do besides what we’ve already settled on.” In this case, there was a written story in mind, with photos to boot. But a colleague who acts as a liaison between the CIR and KQED “heard radio all over this,” says Bundy. When New York State started talking about banning the practice of solitary confinement for teenagers, NewsHour suddenly wanted the story sooner. “That wasn’t always supposed to be the first piece that was released on this,” Bundy adds. Having the story told across platforms means you reach more people. Says Bundy, “There’s some overlap between people who listen to public radio or watch NewsHour, or read Medium, but it’s not total overlap. The benefit of having multiple platforms is that you are going to catch multiple, different types of audiences, hopefully.”

Read more

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