September 14, 2023; Washington, D.C. – Today a coalition of public media organizations published Public Media and the Future of Local Journalism. The paper, endorsed by more than 120 leaders across public media, presents a shared vision for the role public media can play in the future of local news and provides specific action items to face the growing information crisis. Read the full paper here.
America faces an information crisis: 70 million people live without a credible source of local news. Public Media and the Future of Local Journalism makes the case that with additional philanthropic investment, public media outlets can exponentially increase the breadth and depth of their local journalism, while supporting dynamic local news ecosystems in the communities they serve, fostering collaboration, coordinating coverage, and connecting other local newsrooms to the broader public media network. With an existing network of 3,200 journalists embedded in communities across all 50 states, public media offers a strong framework to build upon as philanthropists, community organizations and others reimagine how people across America receive local news.
"The crisis in journalism continues to accelerate, but public media is ready to leverage our existing resources to transform the crisis into a new ecosystem that better serves all people across America. We're already adding journalists and creating innovative collaborations, but it is time to do more," said Rachel Hubbard, Executive Director of KOSU in Oklahoma.
"For decades, local public media organizations have been trusted sources of news, civic information and cultural content, playing an essential role in the communities they serve. With philanthropic investment, these organizations can serve as the foundation of a reimagined local news ecosystem, collaborating with other local news providers to deliver news and information that serves the public interest. These organizations, in partnership with NPR, can help revitalize local news in America, reaching and serving more people with the information they need to live informed lives," said Leora Hanser, Chief Development Officer, NPR and President of the NPR Foundation
"Investment in local public media is at the heart of solving the news and information crisis facing Americans today. Even in a metropolis as large as New York City, local news is under severe threat. New York Public Radio is proud to be part of a coalition of public media stations alongside NPR that are committed to providing free and accessible journalism in diverse communities across the United States," said LaFontaine E. Oliver, President and CEO, New York Public Radio.
More than 100 leaders from across public media participated in interviews and offered valuable input into the development of the paper. Supporters of this effort also provided powerful examples of local journalism and statements about how they could expand their public service with additional investment including:
"This effort creates opportunities for public media to realize its mission more fully by serving our communities and our country in innovative and compelling ways. Taking a lead role in addressing America's local news crisis also aligns local stations' needs and interests with those of NPR across a range of activities." Bill Davis, Station Resource Group (SRG)
"Minnesota Public Radio employs a growing cadre of journalists based in rural and greater Minnesota. They are a key component of a newsroom that works with 39 news partners across the state and an additional 14 in the region. Bold, focused investment in public media will only allow us and the other independent news providers in the NPR Network to expand and deepen our work to ensure we meet our audiences where they are, connecting them to each other and the broader world." Duchesne Drew, President, Minnesota Public Radio
"As a local public media station, collaboration is in our DNA. Vermont Public has teamed up with Seven Days to host debates, and VT Digger to share a Report for America journalist. Local news providers need to work together to build a healthy local media ecosystem." Scott Finn, President and CEO, Vermont Public
"Our investments in local journalism have paid dividends in Louisville—not only is Louisville Public Media producing 50 percent more public service stories every day, our news ecosystem has gotten more competitive. Better service for our neighbors strengthens our relationships and our democracy." Stephen George, President and CEO, Louisville Public Media
"Hundreds of local stations are making important daily choices, across programming, content, and format. Such strategic choices can be consequential and, if made carefully, help to shape how audiences experience their communities and the world." Kerri Hoffman, PRX
"Public media is the only news system dedicated to universal service. We differentiate ourselves with trusted national and local journalism. There is great potential in partnering with the philanthropic community to leverage our collaborative network to enrich local news, information, and civic participation in every community." Michael J. Isip, President & CEO, KQED
"Iowa Public Radio is deeply committed to helping create a more informed public, leading to engaged and vibrant communities in our state. With the help of local philanthropists and foundations, we are adding reporters to help fill the gap left by shrinking newspapers in Iowa. We are thrilled to see journalism organizations and funders coming together to do the critical work of ensuring strong news ecosystems in communities across the U.S." Myrna Johnson, Executive Director, Iowa Public Radio
"Local news is the key to healthy democracies, societies and economies—and yet it's increasingly at risk. As established, essential and trusted entities, local public media organizations are in a great position to be anchor institutions for local news in their communities. That's why KERA is embracing working with our media peers–from startups to publicly traded companies–to make all of our critical coverage deeper, better and more far-reaching for our audiences." Nico Leone, President and CEO, KERA
"WBUR's beat reporters cover everything from health & science to education, politics, arts & culture, business and the environment. Their expertise and rigorous reporting reveal new truths, capture untold stories, and enrich our audience's understanding of our city and our region. We also deliver agenda-setting enterprise and investigative journalism that sheds light where there is none. The need for explanatory journalism and watchdog reporting that holds public officials and institutions accountable is crucial to creating an informed public. And WBUR is in a rare position to do this. We have the editorial heft to deliver on this promise and the audience to make a meaningful difference in our community." Margaret Low, CEO, WBUR
"Geographical 'news deserts' continue to grow at an alarming rate, at the very inflection point where independent, fact-based information is most critical to preserving the democratic process. KUOW is on a path to triple its output of content to serve conventional broadcast and developing digital audiences. We compel sustained attention to society's 'big issues' by examining them through the lens of the personal experiences of individuals. We make the challenges of environmental health and safety, policing, healthcare, housing, race and identity, education, the economy, et al., more vivid with stories, not just statistics." Caryn Mathes, President and General Manager, KUOW
"Over the past five years, our stations have responded to the crisis in local news. We've worked very hard to more than double our full-time news staff, add several former newspaper reporters as part-time correspondents, and to create new opportunities for student journalists. The new content resulting from the enhanced capacity continues to find an audience. The number one comment we get is 'I love how you've stepped up. You've become THE reliable local news source. But I wish you did more.' So do we, but doing so is going to require more funding." R.C. McBride, Director and General Manager, WCBU and WGLT
"Public radio has been much more than just radio for years. The combined power of our national network reaches every corner of America, and we provide free access to local news delivered by journalists who live and work in those communities. No other news outlet can match our collective impact." Sarah Morris, General Manager, KCUR
"Marfa Public Radio broadcasts to the communities spanning over thirty thousand square miles of West Texas from the US/Mexico border to the oilfields of the Permian Basin. To serve our region, which is both a literal desert and a news desert, fifty percent of our staff are journalists. In an area that has poor access to internet and cell service, the radio is a lifeline. In partnership with NPR, we bring the world to West Texas. Press Forward has the opportunity to critically impact news deserts by supporting rural public radio stations and NPR." Elise Pepple, Executive Director, Marfa Public Radio
"WEKU plays a critical role in providing news and information to rural areas of Central and Eastern Kentucky that don't have broadband access and rely on public media to learn about issues important to Kentucky, the nation and the world. In some rural Central and Eastern Kentucky communities, WEKU is the only source of local journalism. As smaller newspapers close and others present news as reprinted press releases word for word, WEKU is a critical lifeline connecting small, rural communities to the world. When floods devastated the area in 2022, WEKU remained on the air providing critical, life-saving information to residents impacted by the disaster. More than one year later, WEKU continues to report the impacts of the flooding and why this event was so deadly. This is our commitment to local journalism in our communities." Mike Savage, Director and General Manager, WEKU
NPR's rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans every day — on the air, online, and in person. NPR strives to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures. With a nationwide network of award-winning journalists and 17 international bureaus, NPR and its Member organizations are never far from where a story is unfolding. Listeners can find NPR by tuning in to their local Member stations (npr.org/stations), and now it's easy to listen to our stories on smart speaker devices. Ask your smart speaker to, "Play NPR," and you'll be tuned into your local Member station's live stream. Your speaker can also access NPR podcasts, NPR One, NPR News Now, and the Visual Newscast is available for screened speakers. Get more information at npr.org/about and by following NPR Extra on Facebook, LinkedIn, Threads, and Instagram.