Northwest News Network ("N3") is like public radio's version of the Associated Press but on a regional level. We are a shared resource. We have five reporters who produce spots and features in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. We also facilitate shared pieces from 11 stations. For example, when something of interest happens in Eugene, Oregon, reporters at KLCC upload their stories to our FTP site so they can air on OPB in Portland and other stations throughout the region. That works like clockwork on the radio. But what about the web?
Many months ago we set about to create an automatic web feed. We envisioned a streamlined architecture to deliver web versions of our radio stories directly into station websites. And it would happen without those stations having to do much at all. We were already designing a feed of our own when NPR came along with their pilot API Ingest project. Suddenly, we had an elegant way to feed our stories, and not only to our stations. API Ingest allows the work of N3 reporters to go viral on public radio websites. It allows that story shared from Eugene to end up on a website in Boston if a station there is interested. Suddenly, we're all integrated. Suddenly, public radio can be like the Associated Press.
This process, however, was not easy. Along the way, we have worked hard to develop the N3 Style Guide. Actually, we based our style guide on the one developed by WBUR. Some of the rules: website is one word not capitalized; [brackets] in radio copy are programming code for "delete this from web copy"; the rules for a dateline are like those for a standard outcue. We write each story - from the very beginning - with the both the radio and the web in mind. That makes the process of "webifying" a radio story quick and easy. The API makes getting a story to the web quick and easy too.
The API is like a rain cloud. Each story is a rain drop. The ingest system allows the moisture to evaporate up into the cloud. The trick is to program station websites (one word, lower case) to take the right drops at the right time and make a coherent and valuable feed of local, regional, national and international news. That's what we already have on the radio. Now it's time to do that as well on the web.