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Corporation for Public Broadcasting awards grant for regional journalism collaboration in sustainability

By

Joe Giordano

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has awarded five public media stations, led by Arizona PBS, a grant to establish a regional news collaboration to enhance and expand coverage of sustainability issues.

Arizona PBS, a member-supported community service of Arizona State University based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will serve as the lead station of the Regional Journalism Collaboration for Sustainability.

The partnership, comprised of public television and radio stations in key western cities, will produce multimedia reports on four important sustainability issues: water, renewable energy, climate change and urbanization. Joining Arizona PBS in the reporting partnership are PBS SoCal and KPCC Southern California Public Radio in Los Angeles, KJZZ radio in Phoenix and Denver’s Rocky Mountain PBS, which includes five TV stations and KUVO radio.

“Collaboration is a force multiplier; together stations can do more and innovate faster to provide the local journalism that is part of the bedrock of public media’s valued service to our country,” said Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president, journalism and radio. “We’ve seen the importance of our investments in collaboration when, for example, stations in the Texas Station Collaborative were better prepared to serve their communities throughout the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”

The RJC for Sustainability will be a single news entity comprised of 20 journalism professionals. This includes the hiring of a full-time executive editor who will lead the RJC (Regional Journalism Collaboration) from Arizona PBS. Each of the stations also will provide one journalist dedicated to sustainability coverage.

“This generous grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will enable us to cover some of the most critical challenges of our time,” said Arizona PBS CEO and Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “Sustainability matters to everyone, and the Regional Journalism Collaboration for Sustainability can spur civic engagement on issues of political, economic, cultural and social importance.”

The RJC for Sustainability will produce broadcast and digital news content that helps the public better understand the complexities of water, energy, climate and urbanization issues. “As these issues become hot topics for debate, serious journalism is required to keep the public aware and informed,” Callahan said.

The content will be shareable across the five partner stations and will be available to national public media programs, including NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” “Marketplace” and “PBS NewsHour.” The initiative also will experiment with new forms of digital video to provide better coverage of sustainability issues.

The RJC for Sustainability includes an oversight committee, charged with setting the strategic vision for the collaborative. Joining Callahan are KPCC President and CEO Bill Davis, KJZZ Vice President Jim Paluzzi, PBS SoCal President and CEO Andrew Russell and Laura Frank, president and general manager of news at Rocky Mountain PBS.

Since 2009, CPB has invested more than $32 million to help launch 29 local and regional news collaborations, creating 127 newsroom positions supporting the collaborations. This included the funding of Local Journalism Collaborations, multimedia centers that cover particular issues such as energy. CPB-funded LJCs include EarthFix based in the Northwest and Fronteras in the Southwest.

Regional Journalism Collaborations were established by the CPB to increase high-quality original and enterprise journalism through reporting partnerships between multiple station newsrooms in a state or region. The RJC for Sustainability received a 27-month CPB startup grant of $691,854.

As the lead RJC station, Arizona PBS has great access to expertise on sustainability issues. ASU is home to the nation’s first school of sustainability, which offers transdisciplinary degrees and research on real-world solutions to environmental, economic and social challenges. ASU also is the home of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the hub of university’s local and global sustainability initiatives.