NPR Digital Services

NPR is rapidly growing its digital arm and its training services.

NPR is not only advancing innovation for NPR’s own purposes, but it is also actively engaged in advancement and training for stations and station-based journalists.

Check out NPR’s new Editorial Training site!


Below are some of earlier online webinars and workshops provided by NPR Digital Services:





Content and Coverage

Writing for web

Social Media





Measuring Productivity of the News Team

There is a natural tension between a manager’s need to maximize newsroom productivity and a staff member’s need for fair and reasonable expectations. This tension can become heated when either party feels a lack of balance or a lack of understanding.

Generally, all employees want to be productive. News Directors should welcome a chance to talk openly about matters of productivity to clearly articulate their expectations. And they should listen to employee concerns to shed light on any obstacles, special circumstances or the need to adjust their expectations.

Going for Productivity Goals

What often results from conversations over productivity levels is the institution of measurable goals. While this can be tricky in the fast-changing world of news, it is not unreasonable to lay down some quantitative benchmarks to guide our work. However, be mindful that such goals need to grow out of a process that carefully considers your given resources and your programming needs. (A process might also consider your company’s labor agreements, HR rules and performance review procedures.)

When stating productivity goals, see that you articulate what is expected both from 1) your overall team, and 2) each individual. Both are necessary. The team goals speak to your station’s overall service delivery aspirations. (i.e., How many newscasts per day do we need?) The individual goals speak to the fair division of labor and the need for customization based on the employee’s role. (i.e., We’d expect more features per month from reporters than anchors.)

Goals are often stated in terms of “minimal levels.” In practice, meeting those minimal levels would result in a continuously sustainable high-quality service.

Agree on What’s Measurable

So, what is measurable when setting goals? In most cases, you’ll count employees and their available hours, and you’ll try to translate that into units of output. For radio newsrooms, the output is generally in stories or newscasts. Perhaps in “air minutes.” You might also point to the accomplishment of particular tasks (for example, # edits per week).

Of course, we’d all agree that some tasks or air-minutes take little time to prepare and others require huge investments of time. And that’s where the goals may struggle to accommodate variances in output quality and worker efficiency. But while situations will certainly vary, across time the law of averages will provide a helpful yardstick.

Sample News Goals

Here’s an example of goal setting for an overall newsroom and its three reporters and two anchors (and one editor/ND). The rationing of hours would provide at least one locally-produced spot for every newscast, and a fresh super-spot and fresh feature for every morning (except Friday). All spots and features include accompanying web posts of text and a photo. It also budgets time for two Monday morning spots.

Departmental Minimum — Per Day

1 Super-Spot for a.m. newscasts (2 plays)
2 Regular-Spots for pm newscasts (2 plays)
+ alternate versions, 1 for a.m., 1 for p.m. newscasts (2 plays)
1 Feature for am c-segment (2 plays) (except Fridays)
2 pm web posts
2 am web posts
6 newscasts in a.m. (live)
6 newscasts in p.m. (live)

Individual Minimum — Per Week

Reporter A:

1 feature + web post (18-24 hrs),
1 Super-Spot + web post (6-8 hrs),
1 Regular-Spot + web post (4-6 hrs),
1 Monday Spot + web post (4 hrs),
Beat Admin (2-4 hrs).

Reporter B:

1 feature + web post (18-24 hrs),
1 Super-Spot + web post (6-8 hrs),
2 Regular-Spots + 2 web posts (4-6 hrs each),
Beat Admin (2-4 hrs).

Reporter C (Saturday Anchor):

6 newscasts (5:00-8:30 Sat),
1 feature + web post (18-24 hrs),
1 Super-Spot + web post (6-8 hrs),
1 Regular-Spot + web post (4-6 hrs),
1 Monday Spot +web post (2-4 hrs),
Beat Admin (2-4 hrs).

AM Anchor/Reporter:

30 newscasts (5:00-9:15 am),
1/2 feature + web post (12 hrs),
1 Super-Spot or Spot + web post (4-8 hrs).

PM Anchor/Reporter:

30 newscasts (3:00-6:45 pm),
1/2 feature + web post (12 hrs),
1 Super-Spot or Spot + web post (4-8 hrs).


Admin (10-18 hrs),
2 Super-Spots or Spots + web posts (10-18 hrs),
Editing (10-18 hrs).


The goals above are moderately aggressive but very doable for an experienced staff.

You would have to subtract from this output if the personnel were required to take on other duties such as fundraising, talk show appearances, sick or holiday time, etc. (Or, rather than subtract from the output, ideally you’d have freelance or other substitutes who would help maintain this output — while also allowing you to build your “back-up bench.”)

Job Description: News Director

Note: As news managers grow in organizational leadership, they may be granted new titles such as “Vice President of News.” See that sample job description here, courtesy of Vermont Public Radio.

A news managers duties are often described with some apportionment of time per duty. The apportionment will vary per employer — with small stations often expecting more time reporting and anchoring and less time for other management. The following example assumes a medium size staff in which the ND is also the primary editor for the staff:


The News Director (ND) leads and manages the planning, production and presentation of news. The ND supervises the news department staff. The ND reports to (the general manager / program director ) and works in cooperation with station leadership and staff to support the station mission.

The ND has responsibility and understanding of news planning, reporting, editing and production. The ND helps define and maintain ethical, editorial, artistic and technical standards for broadcast news programs. The ND assists with news programming decisions and news operations. The ND, as the station’s top news authority, is responsible for the journalistic integrity of all station activities and platforms.


Editorial Planning, Scheduling, Editing (40%)

The ND directs the activities of the news staff to develop story ideas, track issues and events, select reporters for coverage, schedule stories for publication, and schedule time for interviewing, writing and editing.

The ND serves as a primary editor to insure news reports are produced in an effective, timely and responsible manner.

The ND acts as a proactive liaison to various internal and external constituencies to advance the station’s news programming. These may include the station programming and operations and development staffs. These may also include other appropriate organizations such as NPR, APM, PRI, etc.

Reporting, Anchoring (20%)

The ND is part of the news team and contributes content on a regular basis. The ND may need to anchor newscasts, host talk programs, appear as a program guest, and produce various spots, features, special programs, web content, etc.

Administration of Personnel, Budget, Technology (30%)

The ND helps set goals and monitor performance of news personnel. Personnel management includes recruitment and hiring. The ND manages the news department budget — including annual planning, monthly monitoring and routine handling. The ND helps maintain equipment and information systems vital to news planning, newsgathering, news production and news presentation.

Community Relations and Support (10%)

The ND seeks opportunities to promote public contact to help ascertain public needs, build community engagement and bolster station success. The ND participates in station events and fundraising activities as appropriate.


The ND adheres to deadlines and makes timely and effective decisions in situations requiring prompt attention. The ND is the primary leader during crisis response.


A four-year degree in journalism — or equivalent — required. Minimum three years full-time professional experience in journalism — preferably in a multi-platform news environment. Familiarity with public media news programming standards and values. Successful candidate will possess broad knowledge of local and regional issues. Must have ability to work within a live program environment. Must have experience in broadcast production, web content, news writing and news editing. Must possess effective communication and interpersonal skills. Preferred skills include on-line research, multimedia production, word and spreadsheet processing and operation of light office equipment. Must have excellent memory for details, be able to meet daily deadlines under potentially stressful conditions and deal effectively with multiple competing tasks.

Job Description: Reporter

This is a generic job description for a public media news reporter:


The News Reporter works under the supervision of the News Director. The Reporter specializes in covering a news beat and producing high value journalistic content for publication on radio and digital platforms, including daily news reports, in-depth feature reports and special reports as assigned. The Reporter may be asked to anchor newscasts, host programs, help edit others, appear as a program guest, and help during station fundraising activities.


Reporting/Anchoring: 85%

Selects and researches topics; contacts and interviews sources; maintains notes, recordings and files; manages social media presence for news gathering, news distribution and branding purposes; writes and edits reports; produces reports for on-air and/or digital platforms. Produces news as assigned by News Director. Reports stories in appropriate formats for distribution platforms. May be asked to anchor newscasts or host programs. Occasionally serves regional and national networks.

Planning: 10%

Maintains a beat specialty. Reads and follows major developments in specialty. Follows pertinent persons or publications and attends related events. Maintains contact lists, social media accounts and other data for on-going continuity of coverage and accumulation of knowledge. Proactively participates in the creative cycle of story and program origination with reporters, supervisor, producers and web staff.

Administration and Other: 5%

The Reporter attends meetings and is responsible for appropriate record keeping, correspondence, phone calls, supplies and equipment and other duties as assigned. Also will be called upon to participate in station membership campaigns and community-building events.


The Reporter adheres to deadlines and, in concert with appropriate staff, makes timely and effective decisions in situations requiring prompt attention. The Reporter works in close concert with other staff and under the supervision of the News Director, assisting in identifying, developing and creating programs that support overall mission.


A four-year degree or equivalent required. Minimum one year full-time professional, experience in journalism. Must have expertise in news-gathering, writing, editing and radio and web production for short-form and long-form reports. Ideally would have familiarity with public media news, data journalism, still and video photography. Possesses broad knowledge of local and regional issues — and/or depth of knowledge in beat specialty. Demonstrates ability to work within a live publishing environment. Displays knowledge and adherence to high ethical standards. Possesses effective communication and interpersonal skills. Skills required also include on-line research, word processing, digital editing, and operation of light office equipment. Additional preferred qualities include a track record of network story contributions, web experience and Spanish skills. Must have excellent memory for details, be able to meet daily deadlines under pressure and deal effectively with simultaneous tasks.

Allocate Time for Assignments

News Directors ration resources — including the time available for certain assignments. While it would be preferable to let every story organically reveal its own unique time requirements, we are more likely to estimate what we can spare based on past patterns and similar circumstances.

In that spirit, here are some generalized estimates of what is a “reasonable amount of time” for common story assignments.

  • Spots: 2-4 hours
  • Super Spots: 4-8 hours
  • Fast Features: 6-10 hours
  • Standard Features: 10-18 hours

These approximations assume a minimum of two interviews and include writing, editing and production time. Naturally, you’ll need to take into account the availability of sources, travel time to events or sources, complexity of research and verification, and your planned production standards. Where multiple products are included (web build outs, social media campaigns, etc), allot the time needed.

Also, add more time if more people are involved in the process. Series, documentaries and special projects can increase time exponentially — if they are heavy on planning, research, travel, production, etc.

Should News Directors allow different deadlines for different employees to allow for varying speeds of work? Ideally, not. However, inexperienced employees will probably require more time than experienced ones. Still, the expectation can be stated based on averages.

Using general time estimates like these, a News Director can evaluate individual workloads and set approximate productivity goals.

There will always be tension between the desire for depth and the need for quick completion. Strive for accuracy and quality but not perfectionism.

Defining Public Radio News Excellence

What do we mean by quality local news?

  1. Exploit the Aesthetic Imperatives of Your Medium. The message received by listeners is influenced by the inherent nature of the audio medium. Radio is intimate, immediate and imaginative. Similarly, visual media and mobile media have unique strengths. Use these imperatives in the service of excellent story telling.
  2. Embrace the Craft. Place tremendous importance on excellent writing, delivery, use of sound, etc. Offer the listener a rich and unique experience.
  3. Give Journalistic Quality, Receive Trust. The public has many choices and is growing skeptical of superficial news sources, hyped promotion and inaccuracy. Even small mistakes can damage credibility or ruin the media experience. Consistent, professional, authentic presentation breeds familiarity and confidence in our work. Public trust in our service is a priority. Trust must not be compromised or taken for granted.
  4. Discerning listeners Want Only the Best. Offer listeners the best there is to offer – the best talent, the best thinkers, the best observers. Offer beauty and intelligence. Whatever the story or program, seek to serve the listener’s highest aspirations.
  5. Create Context and Connections. Provide handles on issues that citizens can grasp. Provide forums where active minds can hear themselves reflect. Explain the background, the history, the philosophy, the underpinnings of issues and people in the news. Show linkages and connections that help make sense of a fragmented world. Be on hand to spotlight discovery and progress and triumph – as much as we spotlight tragedy or failure.

By striving every day to make every story, every newscast, and every program an example of dedication to our mission and principles, we make ourselves a more valuable institution for the good of our community.

UGC (User Generated Content) Verification

Increasingly newsrooms depend on the eyes and ears — and portable digital devices — of the public. Photos, videos, FB posts, Tweets and text messages can help alert journalists to stories, and can become published content.

The trick is to have a verification procedure in place. A guide was published in 2014 to help newsrooms tackle the verification process. Link: Verification Handbook

The Poynter Institute

The Poynter Institute is non-profit journalism training center based in St Petersburg, Florida. The institute has radically increased its online training, including the launch of its interactive “News University.”

Here are just some of the links to online training to help introduce you to what Poynter has to offer:

Management & Leadership

Digital Strategies

Newsgathering & Storytelling

News University — Training Modules

Poynter also provides excellent coverage of the latest doings in journalism — about ethics, business, technology, stories in the news, etc. Sign up for their daily newsletters:

Poynter “Latest News”

Journalism Membership Organizations

Most journalism professional organizations provide training as part of their annual conferences, but only a few are providing ongoing training via their websites.

Here’s are some of the more active journalism groups with online training initiatives:

PRNDI — Public Radio News Directors Inc provides occasional online webinars. It also sponsored this ND guide.

SPJ — Society of Professional Journalists has been advancing ethics and practices in journalism since 1909. It opened an online training portal for members.

RTDNA — Radio-Television Digital News Association has embraced more public media journalists along with its commercial-station membership. RTDNA provides a variety of training services, some free to non-members.

ONA — the Online News Association is one of the fastest-growing journalism groups. It offers webinars in collaboration with The Poynter Institute. Meantime, it is growing its online offerings.

IRE — Investigative Reporters and Editors is a vital group aimed at accountability coverage. Most training is in person but the group provides many resources online.

SEJ — Society of Environmental Journalists provides a variety of online resources for better science reporting.

This is not a definitive list. Please provide in the comment section below any other suggested online training sources by journalism membership organizations.




Knight Digital Media Centers

Thanks to the largesse of the Knight Foundation, the biggest name in journalism philanthropy, we have some excellent training centers working to advance innovations in news, including training for newsroom managers and their staffs.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC serves as an information hub. The center lists trainings and also archives online tutorials here.

Meanwhile, the KDMC at Berkeley is active in providing digital news training. This center has some outstanding online skills courses for journalists.

Other Knight Centers:

Year-long fellowship programs:


Community Engagement Tools

(From the National Center for Community Engagement….)

Engagement Guide

Where should you begin? Here are some ideas about how to proceed:

  • If you are new to community engagement, proceed through each phase of the Engagement Process.
  • If you are familiar with community engagement, consider reviewing examples first, then our Case Study as it relates to each step in the Engagement Process.
  • If you are experienced conducting community engagement, view the engagement planning tools, beginning with defining outcomes. Then, proceed to the Case Study.

The Multimedia Radio Newsroom, Part One

From the PRNDI conference session, “This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Newsroom!”

by M. Marcotte

Be Afraid – But Don’t Get Carried Away

Our radio world is getting rocked, like the newspaper world got rocked.

People with internet smart-phones are listening to audio streams from around the planet. People with tablets are bypassing the local station to get NPR news. Heck, even the former CEO of NPR famously predicted that terrestrial radio towers will be obsolete by 2020. (Though that’s unlikely.)

So, let’s approach what we have to do here with some urgency.

“We’ll have to make some choices about where and
how we devote our limited energies as we endeavor to build our non-broadcast platforms.”

Having said that, we have to temper our actions with the current reality. For example, most folks are still getting public radio via the radio.

Another reality — there are too few people doing local journalism at stations! (According to CPB and PRNDI data, two-thirds of public media stations have 3 or fewer full-time news employees.)

These are not bad times to be in public radio. Even the national dialogue about
the future of news is shining the spotlight on public radio, er, public media, because of our interwoven success with NPR… and because we’re now seen as a bulwark against the collapse of journalism at the local level.

But I digress. The point is that as much as I want to tout high aspirations on new digital platforms, I have to meet my fellow news directors right where they are. We’re still a radio-first system with local departments that are overworked and under-resourced. We’ll have to make some choices about where and how we devote our limited energies as we endeavor to build our non-broadcast platforms.


(Above: A 2010 survey of public radio news directors shows few doing any consistent multimedia journalism online — other than posting their audio and scripts. Fuerst/Marcotte, 2010. A repeat survey in 2012 showed only modest expansion of online local news efforts.)

Radio First but in a New Media Context

So we start with our radio platform as primary while we consider urgent calls for radical change.  How do we do this? Start by looking at how the “context” for our news has changed.

“Our technological platform is still predominantly radio, but our journalism is now part of the new media ecosystem…”

The 8 New Contexts for Public Radio News

  1. Think audio: Radio is becoming digital packets streaming over the internet.
  2. Think files. As in on-demand, archived content. Our audio is now commonly distributed as episodic podcasts or retreivable archives of clips, stories, newscasts or shows.
  3. Think cross-platform: Our radio messages drive people to websites or mobile apps where they can get more, do more, give more, see more, be more!
  4. Think community hub: Our non-profit, mission-oriented organization provides news as an educational and cultural service to citizens. We thrive when we position ourselves as a community institution like the school, the museum, the library, the arts center. We offer an actual physical place endowed with special technology, where people can gather in town meetings, attend trainings, produce special events, etc.
  5. Think leadership: Our staff is a committed group that initiates and presides over conversations of civic interest and importance. Our people are trusted to help make things go well in our town.
  6. Think wisdom of crowds, shared public insight: The people we aggregate by our service are individuals with expertise, facts, opinions, technology and leadership of their own. In the interactive world of today, they are now encouraged to share in the station’s programmatic mission.
  7. Think original, local content: We no longer serve as a mere terrestrial relay tower for NPR programming. We are valuable because we originate unique and relevant content.
  8. Think aggressive journalism: Our journalistic skills and resources are valued in new ways as commercial outlets suffer the ad-related revenue losses of internet disruption. We need to step up coverage of important local issues providing “accountability” coverage, curating essential facts and adding context.

In other words, the internet has changed us already.

Our technological platform is still predominantly radio, but our journalism is now part of the new media ecosystem: live, social, interactive and voracious.

(Above: The “Public Media Platform” as diagrammed by NPR planners in June 2010.)

What the web Wants

Let’s just be clear here about where we ultimately want to go. If we are going to sport an online news service, eventually we have to meet this new medium on its own terms. So even if my approach here is to hold onto audio as our primary service, I owe
you some advice on where I think we *really* need to get to soon.

As journalists converge on digital platforms, most arrive from their old traditional one or two dimensional mass medium. Print people were experts in the written word, using a visual layout. Radio people were experts in real-time episodic audio streams. Television people bring knowledge of time-rationed audio-visual experience.

And if you look at a lot of websites today, you can see the influences of the old media at play.  See how the looks like a newspaper? Go to a TV network site and
you’ll get gobs of colorful video and anchor people. Our radio sites are the worst: buttons to play audio streams or files, with radio scripts pasted in for good measure.

We’re awful at online news!

In web land, all must communicate in a multidimensional medium where the aesthetic imperatives compete according to message content and user experience.

The 5 Dimensions of Digital Content

In the web world, journalists face at least five dimensions at once:

  1. text-based information
  2. image-oriented experience
  3. audio-accompaniment
  4. networked (linked) opportunities
  5. interactive user control

In the workshop, I showed examples of the lame sites that try to do web in one or two dimensions. And examples of sites that provide a powerful multimedia experience simply by letting the web do what it does best.

Again, we want to aim for the five-dimensional approach. But we’re going to give people permission to approach those one step at a time.

Multimedia News is Just News Delivered Online

The working definition of “multimedia” was a bit tricky to distill as I checked what other people meant by it. Some used the label like special packaging to distinguish a project that took a lot of extra work and mustn’t get lost in the daily flow of news.

“Don’t label your online news ‘multimedia.’
That’s stupid.”

For us, perhaps it is simply adding visual context to our reversioned radio product. But I think it best to define true multimedia news as what you get when all five dimensions are present in your web journalism.

And, by the way, don’t label your online news “multimedia.” That’s stupid.

Just do stories in a way that exploits the power of the web and don’t worry about categorizing it. You will be doing multimedia but you will call it online news.

Let the Story Drive Presentation

You’ve heard this before and it is very important to understand. Different stories warrant different treatments. Just as you might say, “this story is a spot,” or “this story deserves a two-part series,” you may now need to consider the new
media dimensions of a story. 

Three New Questions for News Managers

Try some of these questions the next time you are playing with a story idea trying to make it into an actual reporter assignment with online potential:

  1. What are the visual opportunities in this story?
  2. Does it provide opportunity to aggregate or link to broader content?
  3. Should we engage the community before, during, after?

These questions begin to steer your assignment plan… which in turn steers the final presentation.

No longer can you assume this is all about radio with some tacked-on web
“extras”. You have to decide what proportion of effort ought to be spent on
the web dimension. It behooves you to spend as much as you can muster.

Downplaying Video?

Because we have big steps to take from audio to visual presentation, let’s make the first steps a bit easier. Let’s simplify by downplaying the importance of video.

Video complicates the work in the field and the work in the studio. It also complicates the user experience unless it is done very effectively — as in short, shareable, compelling clips or visually stellar production meant for longer sittings.

If you want to feature video as a prominent component of your online news, that’s great. Go for it. But I am not recommending that approach to people with limited budgets and limited staffs who must also deliver a daily radio product. Nor do I think it well serves a discerning public that has little patience for amateur video… or anything that takes too long to scan on the web.

There are times we will want video in our toolkit. It is great for observing unfolding action or conveying motion, but it is not necessary at this point as a staple of our multimedia news.

My big exception on video will be in breaking news situations. Even grainy video can be compelling if it captures a significant event.  And this is why your tool kit should feature a camera capable of capturing video.

So although my training is about adding effective visual dimensions to your radio news, it will do this primarily though photos, slideshows and text. We’ll also dwell somewhat on visual design, links, aggregation, and interactive opportunities. That’s a lot of content to add even without video.

Radio Folks Have a Head Start

I just want to point out something about radio people that you might under-appreciate. They already have a knack for one of the hardest parts of multimedia news: producing professional audio.

For people who have the knack for visual presentations — especially print people who are familiar with text and photos — one of the big challenges both out in the field and back at their desks is mastering the audio part of their stories.

We’re talking professional audio that adds crucial depth and dimension to multimedia storytelling. Visually-trained people don’t know how challenging it is until they actually have to operate a recorder, position a microphone, set a proper level, maintain steady presence, gather wild sound or conduct an effective interview — all while avoiding catastrophic mistakes.

You already have that skill!

Does that mean the visual part is easy?  No, similar challenges apply to professional photography, but isn’t it nice to know you have a leg up in the audio department?

Five Take-Aways from Part One

  1. It is important we acknowledge our existing resources and not overwhelm our team with extravagant demands. Rather we can take a strategic approach to web-based news that make incremental advances toward the ideal.
  2. The ideal we hope to reach someday will account for all five
    dimensions of web-based news:

    • text-based information
    • image-oriented experience
    • audio-accompaniment
    • networked (linked) opportunities
    • interactive user control
  3. Multimedia simply refers to any combination of the five web dimensions. By definition, all news online is multimedia news. There’s no need to put a special “multimedia” label on the more polished efforts.
  4. You must begin to consider multimedia dimensions in your
    assignment process.
  5. Finally, your existing audio production skills will come in very handy. Continue to develop your audio skills too!

Part Two: We get down to business

The Multimedia Radio Newsroom, Part Two

(Note: Part One is here.)

From the 2010 PRNDI session, “This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Newsroom!”

by M. Marcotte

The 10 Skills You Need Now

I won’t have time to cover ALL the online skills you need in your newsroom. But I think it is important to list some of the main ones:

  1. Recording, editing and uploading digital SOUND files
  2. Shooting, editing and uploading digital PHOTO files
  3. Shooting, editing and uploading digital VIDEO files (Even though I downplay video, you should learn it!)
  4. Writing and laying-out online multimedia packages combining audio, video or photos
  5. Writing effective (searchable, sharable) headlines, captions and copy
  6. Using hypertext links to exploit the networking power of the internet
  7. Re-purposing, curating, aggregating and archiving content
  8. The basics of online content management systems (from file types to basic coding)
  9. Using social networking to engage users and promote content
  10. Blogging to personalize content and curate comments

Story Mapping

The story assignment process just got more complex. Be sure to allocate more time when you are discussing story focus and reporting tactics.

As PRNDI’s Senior Trainer, I’ve often used a handout to walk reporters and editors through the all-important story mapping process. This is the discussion they have prior to making a call or leaving the newsroom to put some focus and framing in place. It spares wasted effort and makes sure both parties are on the same page (literally, if they use the worksheet). Here’s a revised worksheet to include multimedia dimensions:


PRNDI Worksheet:

Story Mapping in the Multimedia Newsroom

(For ND’s & Reporters to collaborate on story assignments for stronger results. Use as worksheet or incorporate into your content management system.)



End Products:



  1. What is this story most about? 
  2. Why is it important to us?  Why now?
  3. Who is involved? Who is affected most?
  4. What tension draws our interest?
  5. What main action is taking place?
  6. Where and when is the best setting?
  7. What “contextual frame” is needed on this story? (See Story Framing)


My Focus Statement (Who is doing What and Why):


Interviews     (List for each source)





(What challenges might we encounter in the field?)


Multimedia Elements: Sound, Photos, Video, Other

Best Sound Opportunities:

Best Photo or Video Opportunities:

Best Interactive Opportunities:

Data Visualization or Mapping:


The New Multimedia Considerations









Work Flow & Work Roles

Producing for two or more platforms (radio, web, mobile, and in some cases, television) present emerging challenges in newsrooms. The reality is that newsrooms must adapt by changing their editorial processes and by expanding their teams.

Five Changing Roles in the Public Radio Station

  1. PD’s are becoming platform directors. They will do much of the advance work on getting new platforms integrated into the station… and driving procedures to maximize benefits to users.
  2. ND’s are becoming content directors. They must think about journalism and their news teams in broader terms (ongoing community conversations, vertical topic depth/aggregation, training and skill development, etc) and in relation to technical platforms.
  3. Editors and producers are becoming platform specialists. In other words, you may have an editor for radio, an editor for web, a producer for interactive, etc.
  4. Reporters are becoming multimedia specialists in the field and at the desk. If they gather solo, they carry more gear and use more skills. If they can work in pairs, one can specialize on one medium, while the other can focus on another.
  5. Hosts can make great bloggers. They have the communication/presentation skills. They have audience connections and often want to extend their service beyond the air.

Mark Fuerst, founder of the Integrated Media Association, once compiled a library of emerging job descriptions at public radio stations.  How familiar are these to you today?

  • Dir of New Media
  • Dir of Non-Broadcast Distribution
  • Dir of Interactive Strategy
  • Interactive Content Mgr
  • Online Ops Mgr
  • web Mgr
  • Online Editor
  • web Developer
  • web Administrator
  • webmaster
  • web Architect
  • Interactive Developer
  • Multimedia Developer
  • Applications Developer
  • Interactive Producer
  • web Producer
  • web Content Developer
  • internet Content Producer
  • website Production Specialist
  • Multi-Media Producer: Graphics
  • Online Community Mgr
  • Convergence Editor
  • Viral web/Marketing Intern

Basically, web masters, developers and designers are not positioned in the newsroom. However, content managers, producers and editors might be. The developers work on the coded infrastructure of the web and its related platforms. They speak HTML and are usually familiar with CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, Django or other languages to build sites, apps and widgets that customize your site and drive your content management system. The designers are artists skilled at advanced applications like those in Adobe’s Creative Suite but may also work with code and computer languages. The more we can get digital specialists into the newsroom, the more we can communicate effectively about the intersection of news and the digital platforms. But, at the very least, stations need someone in-house who can manage the increasing move to online distribution.

Add partnerships and community engagement into this mix and you get even more hats for staff to wear! An engagement editor could help fuse the connections with community news sites and citizens.

One more thing: The GM is still the GM. Leading the organization. Protecting the journalistic mission. Advancing the resources needed. Vision and leadership are needed now more than ever.

Radio’s Edge: Speed & Mobility (and Live Coverage)

Radio has always been about “immediacy.” We write radio copy in the present tense because listeners hear it in real time.

Still, when we defined public radio’s core values in the 90’s, we often concluded that “being first is not a core value.” The point was well taken that public radio listeners didn’t expect us to be first responders with breathless live reports, rather they expected us to get the facts and present them in context without the show biz behavior so abused by commercial broadcasters.

Well things are shifting. We haven’t forsaken the core values but we are surrounded by a somewhat different landscape and our audiences have somewhat different expectations. News directors may want to reconsider their coverage strategies — at least talk about it — because old assumptions may not be best.

“we can’t approach news as though we only exist in morning and afternoon drive…”

For one thing, in many communities the public radio news department has outlived commercial competitors and may need to serve as first responder, at least in major events. It is a vacated space that we can step into with our fundamental values still intact. Even NPR is pressing to be ever more timely on air and online because audiences expect viable news agencies to react quickly.

So now there’s also this networked world in which all of us are instantly sending and receiving information to one another throughout our waking lives. As journalists in service to this world, we can’t approach news as though we only exist in morning and afternoon drive. Now we can serve people whenever and via whatever platform they prefer. Should we? Probably in some fashion, yes. Quick headlines may not be our forte but they aren’t hard to do either.

A newsroom is always gathering news. What we have to learn to do is always publish it. This is where Twitter and Facebook come in. We can instantly post there… then speed certain story components to air or online… and wrap-up with more produced products on morning drive and on the topic page. Does this mean working faster? Yep. Does it mean forsaking depth? No, not if you see each phase of reporting/publishing process as contributing layer upon layer of depth.


(Above: This workflow model uses the standard radio story publishing cycle but augments it with online activities — speedy tweets at the early stage, online depth packages at the full feature stage, and more user involvement at the interactive stage.)


(Above: This diagram takes the story cycle stages [down the left column] and suggests corresponding responsibilities in a hypothetical three-person situation.)

A Daily News Example

(This is a fictional account that borrows from real people to illustrate emerging practices in the multimedia newsroom. Note that in the case of KPBS there is actually a third platform at play — television! — which is ignored here for the sake of simplicity.)

KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce comes to the Monday morning meeting with a story idea: there’s a significant beach pollution study to be released today. He got his hands on the study and agreed to embargo the findings until the 10 am news conference. Ed’s news director, Suzanne Marmion, wants a 4-minute depth package produced for Tuesday’s Morning Edition — after all, ME is still where the biggest audience is. Suzanne also asks Ed if he can phone in a voicer for the noon cast… and of course file several spots for ATC. Sure, no problem, that’s standard coverage for radio news.

What Suzanne then asks is becoming the new normal:

Have you started Tweeting about the study? Yes, Ed says, he began early that morning and has been adding something hourly to highlight the issues the study seeks to address. He’ll begin sharing the results at 10 am. (By the way, Ed’s tweets also go directly to his blog and his Facebook page. Suzanne also oversees the Tweet and FB accounts of KPBS News, so she says she will retweet Ed’s tweets once he has actual news to share. This shows the difference between an environmental reporter’s following which may be quite topic-oriented and the overall news department’s following which will be broader and interested in significant news.)

Then she asks Ed: What are some of the visuals you can file for the web story page? Any need for video?  Ed says there’s no dramatic video for this story — it’s more data driven — but he will provide a picture of the most polluted beach in San Diego (where the newser is being held) and he’ll grab a few shots of the main presenters at the event, so they can be included on the page if their quotes are used.

Suzanne picks up on the data reference: Should we plan a graphic that lists the beaches in So Cal and their pollution levels? And this is trend info, right?  So we want to compare multiple beaches over multiple years?  Ed says he can leave a copy of the relevant data with the web designer before he leaves so the graphic can be ready by mid-afternoon. He says he’s already got at least five links planned for the web text — one to the report itself, others to city, county, state and federal agencies that have overlapping responsibility for pollution control.

Before Ed leaves the newsroom, he finishes reading the report, noting his questions, and makes several calls to line up interviews later that afternoon. He wants at least one government official to respond to the report.

Time to go. As Ed attends the news conference, his audio gear is set up to record from a mult-box and he monitors the sound via his headphones. He already tweeted the major findings of the report in three quick bursts while the news event was still waiting to begin. Ed takes photos as various presenters speak. Podium shots aren’t the greatest but they are better than nothing. He adds a few tweets as presenters make dramatic comments. Afterward he’ll get some audio and some photos of tourists on the seashore to provide color for both his radio and web stories.

By 11:30, when Ed is preparing to file his first reports for air (and web), he revisits all his tweets because they actually help serve as his notes!

Later, he’s back at his desk, issuing both afternoon radio and web stories with advancements he’s gathered through added reporting. His radio stories are wraps with audio clips. His web story is a quick rewrite of the wrap with quotes instead of audio clips, plus photos.

For Tuesday morning, Ed will package a complete feature for radio — and it’s very easy because all the components were rendered and polished throughout the day. Online, the feature will be presented as both an audio file, and a text story with photos, graphics and links.

Five Take-Aways from Part Two

  1. You now need a broader set of digital multimedia skills in your newsroom. You will need to hire new people or train existing people to add these skills to your team. Training is a recurring concern because skills change as technology and applications change.
  2. Editors must now work with reporters during the story mapping (assignment) process to flesh out expectations for multimedia handling. Every story has a dominant dimension that should be considered in multimedia coverage: visual, audio, public-assisted, data heavy, etc.
  3. Roles and responsibilities are changing to support multi-platform news gathering. These roles go beyond the newsroom and require systemic changes to our old radio-only model.
  4. Remember radio’s tremendous strengths as a live and mobile medium. Exploit these attributes fully and you’ll have leg up on the new digital platforms.
  5. Consider the workflow changes required for daily news reporting. The news manager is key to planning for team processes and the reporter is key to feeding the separate but hungry distribution platforms.


Census of Journalists

In 2010, PRNDI carried out the first-ever headcount of all journalists working in U.S. local public radio and television stations.

The stations targeted were those qualified for CPB funding. Journalists were defined as anyone with a primary responsibility for the daily gathering, preparation or presentation of local news content.

The study was sponsored by the CPB to set benchmarks for future tracking of journalism employment in public media. Subsequent headcounts are included in CPB Station Activity Surveys.

Selected data provided here is used by permission of CPB.

2010 Census Results

Public radio and TV stations reported a total of 3222 news professionals.

2010 CPB Staff by Station Type.001

52% of journalists were based at radio stations. 28% were at TV stations. The remainder were employed by joint licensees (radio + TV).

62% of all the journalists were employed full time.

2010 CPB Staff Type x Station Type.001

The census also reported a total of 2769 non-professionals helping in newsrooms.

Journalist Work Status


























 Journalists by Job Title

The 2010 census of journalist found hundreds of different job titles among local news personnel. The researchers sorted the professionals into seven primary roles to get an estimated head count by job title.


Journalists by Primary and Secondary Roles

The 2010 census also categorized local public media journalists according to their primary duties or roles. In some cases the primary duties were different than the job title suggested. For example, some people bearing the title of manager reported primary duties as producing or presenting.

The two most prevalent roles — reporting and producing — were equally prevalent (28%). They were followed by presenting (17%) and managing (14%). Editing and online were not primary duties at most stations.

2010 CPB Primary Roles.001

The census also sought to categorize professional journalists by their secondary duties.

58% of journalists split their time between a primary and secondary role.

2010 CPB Secondary Roles.001


Use of Work Hours on Local Journalism

The 2010 census gathered information on how many hours per week individual journalists were paid to do their primary and secondary roles. A total of 2500 individuals were analyzed, accounting for 73,249 hours of news work in the average week.

Primary duties gobbled up three fourths of the work hours (55,534 per week).

The distribution of these hours varied according to the type of station. For example, reporting was the dominant use of primary duty hours in radio stations, while producing took the most primary work hours in TV stations.


Secondary duties accounted for a quarter of the work hours in local public media newsrooms (17,714 per week). As with primary hours, the difference between station types is notable. For example, in TV, many people do non-news related work as part of their jobs. In radio stations, it appears many people switch from reporting to presenting, or vice versa. They also switch to producing… and editing.


Online Work is bundled with other work

The charts above showing the prevalence of primary and secondary roles reveal very few workers devoted specifically to online news. In 2010, only 2% of local public media journalists had a job doing primarily online work; and only 3% listed online as a secondary role. However, the census asked each journalist to indicate the “news platform” for which they had responsibilities. This revealed, at the time, that two thirds of journalists had some role in online news production or delivery — mostly as an extension of their broadcast duties. Only 3% said they focused solely on online platforms.

2010 CPB Platform Roles Radio.001

Local News Professionals by Gender and Race

One can conclude that local public media have a ways to go before they more accurately reflect the racial and gender make-up of the population.

In 2010, the female percentage of the local news workforce was 45%.


Meanwhile, the percentage of the workforce that is white, non-Hispanic was 80%. (The 2010 U.S. Census showed the white, non-Hispanic population at 64%)


Reporter Hire Scoring Criteria

XXXX (BEAT) REPORTER — Search Committee Selection Criteria

Score each candidate per category accordingly: 1=unqualified, 2=below standards, 3=meets standards, 4=above standards, 5=exceeds standards (or as advised below)

  1. Education – BA meets standards. MA is above standards. PhD exceeds standards. Exceptional experience or amassing considerable non-degree education can serve as equivalent. Also consider grading above standards if the education is particularly well-suited to the beat, such as a BA in (Beat). Below standard may be reason to disqualify.
  2. Journalism Experience – Two years of journalism experience meets standards. Award above standards if cumulative experience is four years. To exceed standards, candidate would have six years or more of journalism experience. Below standard may disqualify.
  3. Radio/Public Radio – Grade the candidate’s apparent familiarity with broadcast news. Emphasize NPR-style news and high ethical standards. To meet standards would require some on-the-job radio experience. To be above standards would require public-radio experience (or considerable large market commercial radio experience). To exceed standards, candidate would have considerable large market or network public-radio experience. Below standard in this category would not disqualify candidate.
  4. web/Tech/TV/Other – Award one bonus point for any significant web experience, one for displaying significant familiarity with digital audio/radio technology, one for bringing relevant television experience, and add points for any other notable attribute(s) that would enhance a candidate’s service to XXXX .
  5. Local Knowledge/Beat Knowledge – Grade the candidate’s apparent knowledge of (Beat), (our state) and (our community). To meet standards, candidate would have demonstrated knowledge of (Beat) topics, or would have demonstrated knowledge of (our state) topics. To rate above standards, candidate would add to that further knowledge (of (our state) or (Beat) or (our community)). To exceed standards, candidates would demonstrate ample familiarity with all three subject areas. Below standard does not disqualify candidate.
  6. Bilingual in Spanish/Ability to Connect with Underserved Communities – Award no points if the candidate offer NEITHER Spanish fluency or a cultural connection with underserved communities in (our community) (e.g., Hispanic/Latino). Award 3 points if candidate offers EITHER Spanish fluency or cultural connection. Award 5 points if candidates offer BOTH Spanish fluency and cultural connection.
  7. CD Demo. Listen to the demo and score from 0 to 5 based on these considerations:

A) The quality of the reporter’s voice (natural quality, enunciation, conversational delivery, appropriate inflection and confidence orauthority).

B) The production value of the recording (was it cued properly, miked properly, free of distracting noises, good use of ambient sound or actuality, well-mixed?)

C) The script writing (Does story grab your attention at the outset? Is there a consistent narrative style or structure? How are characters developed? Is the story focused? Is word choice precise and concise? Does the writing make the most of the sound? Is it creative?)

D) The reporting (Is this an important topic (or an interesting topic)? Does the reporting bring out reason to care? Do we have the salient facts? Does it show good research? Do we hear from the best possible sources? Is it balanced? Is there an appropriate level of depth?)


Landmark Audience Research

Public radio researcher David Giovannoni claimed the “research revolution” in public broadcasting began in the 1980s, mostly due to efforts by the Regan Administration to defund public media. While the defunding push didn’t get past congress, it did cause system leaders to realize they needed to turn their attention to what audience’s most wanted and what they were willing to help pay for. Giovannoni produced two landmark reports that have been influencing professional media managers ever since.

Audience 88

Audience 98

See also David Giovannoni’s website


The Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations

“Trust is the most important asset public broadcasting carries forward into its evolving public media future. Audiences rely on our information and perspectives as they make decisions in their public and personal lives. The public consistently says public television and public radio are their most trusted sources among many media choices.”

The words above introduce an important resource for local news stations like yours. The Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations was developed through discussions, debates, and consultations involving hundreds of executives and senior staff of public broadcasting organizations, faculty from schools of journalism, and advisers in the areas of philanthropy, community engagement, new media, and best practices for nonprofit organizations.

You are encouraged to adopt the code and make it your own.


NPR Stations Continue Growing Local News

A new survey by MVM Consulting shows NPR member stations around the U.S. are growing their local news staffs, increasing their local news airtime, and beefing up their local online news content.

The survey reveals high levels of actual growth last year and similar levels of predicted growth this year.

Expansion of Local NPR Newsroom Staffing

The growth begins with news staffing. More than 40% of NPR member stations grew their full-time local news staffs slightly or significantly in 2012.

2012 NPR Staff Change.001
While 50% reported no change, only 8% saw decreases in staffing.

Looking ahead to 2013, another 38% of NPR stations are optimistic they’ll be growing full-time news staffs. Only 4% expect they’ll be downsizing. The largest share, 58%, expect to maintain current levels of newsroom staffing.

2013 NPR Staff Change.001
These are healthy signs — even healthier than the growth estimates of 2010, when a similar survey found a fourth (27%) of all public radio stations grew their local news staffing, while 14% had cut back during the national recession.

Major Increases in Online Content

The survey also found an ummistakeable emphasis on advancing local news online.

Almost two-thirds of local NPR stations say they increased (slightly or significantly) their local online news content last year.

2012 NPR Online Change.001
That growth emphasis continues in projections for 2013. Seventy-one percent of stations say they expect to increase their local online news offerings this year.

2013 NPR Online Change.001

Local News Airtime on the Upswing

The survey also asked station leaders about changes in the amount of local news or public affairs on air.

While 60% reported no change in 2012, a third of stations said they expanded local news on air.

2012 NPR Air Time Change.001
And, as with staffing and online content, the trend is predicted to continue in 2013. Forty-five percent of stations say they will increase local news airtime this year.

2013 NPR Air Time Change.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

NPR Stations See Need to Improve Local Online News

New survey results from MVM Consulting show NPR stations far less satisfied with their online local news than with their local news on air.

The data show 72% of NPR stations are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their on air local news programming. Only 10% were at all dissatisfied with the broadcast product.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction On Air.001
But when the same question was asked about each station’s online local news content, the responses were far less effusive. A third of stations expressed dissatisfaction.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction Online.001
As reported earlier, stations are reporting efforts to expand their online news staffing and content. But for now there’s a significant gap between their levels of satisfaction, radio versus online.

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: Online Content

Our 2012 survey of local public media newsrooms shows that most stations still have rather stunted commitments to local news online.

The charts in this post provide a break-out of NPR member station findings. (To see all public media results, see this summary piece.)

We begin with this overview picture of online content commitments. The chart is stacked from most prevalent to least prevalent content types (ascertained by gauging “commitment levels” to these options).

MVM 2012 NPR ONLINE Means.001

These 2012 data are similar to the findings gathered in 2010 (though not directly comparable, due to adjustments in methodology).

It should be noted that, while many stations show limited commitments to online news, the survey found a pent up dissatisfaction with online news. That data is here.

What follows is a chart by chart review of these online content types.


Radio stations specialize in providing audio, so this content type gets the greatest adherence by local public radio newsrooms. Almost two thirds of them have high or very high resource commitments to audio online.

2012 MVM NPR AUDIO.001


Text is the dominant form of communicating news online. The degree of commitment to online text by local newsrooms is tantamount to their overall degree of commitment to online local news. Half of stations are there in a big way. A quarter of stations are doing very little.

2012 MVM NPR TEXT.001


Forty percent of stations are highly committed to Facebook as a platform for local news. Another 32% have a medium level commitment.



Radio newsrooms are gradually employing their eyes, not just their ears, in their news gathering. So far, only a third have a high commitment to photography in their digital news.



Twitter is increasing its importance to local NPR station newsrooms. Commitment to the micro-blogging service is now almost as high as Facebook.


Online Comments

As we continue down the list of online content types, there’s a big drop in commitment levels here in looking at online comments. Three quarters of the NPR stations show a low or lower devotion to managing the online comments of others.



While photographic slideshows pair well with audio news stories, local NPR stations express an overall low commitment to slideshows.



The NPR Argo Project advanced the virtues of local newsroom blogging on specialized content, but the overall system is not rushing to the use of local news blogging. Only 16% of stations claim a high or very high commitment. Over 70% of stations are on the low end of the chart.



Considered one of the most shareable and promising forms of digital content, videos are also largely ignored by NPR station newsrooms. Three fourths of stations show low, very low or non-existent commitment to video.

2012 MVM NPR VIDEO.001

Other Social Media

Facebook and Twitter got high usage by local public radio stations, but other social networks… not so much.



Local news stories are greatly enhanced when we use all our digital muscles to convey information and drive interactivity. Maps are a great example of this. However, at least two-thirds of local NPR newsrooms are doing very little to take advantage of maps in their online journalism.

2012 MVM NPR MAPS.001

Data Visualization

Data visualization, like maps, help tell online stories and make complicated data simple to understand. A whopping 83% percent of local public radio newsrooms are largely bypassing data visualization content.


User Generated Content

Very few stations are endeavoring to cull content provided by the public.

2012 MVM NPR UGC.001

Crowd Sourcing

We thought this chart on crowd sourcing might have higher levels of commitment because of the Public Insight Network that many stations are using for news research. But the commitment levels are among the lowest of all online content types in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR CROWD.001

Online Polls

The least popular of online content types is the online poll. Almost 90% of station newsrooms have better things to do.

2012 MVM NPR POLLS.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: On Air Content

Our new survey of local public media newsrooms finds a solid commitment to daily coverage, a broad effort to provide depth coverage, and rather sporadic levels of deep engagement and intensive production.

The charts below provide a break-out of NPR member station survey responses on their depth of commitment to local news broadcast elements. (To see all public media results, see this overview piece.)

Two years ago, we took a look at what local NPR stations were calling local news on their airwaves. While we modified the survey and the analysis somewhat, in general the picture looks quite similar.

Here is the stack of local news program types we asked about in the 2012 Survey of Stations (MVM/UNR/USC 2012) — ranked by their mean score. The higher the score, the more prevalent the commitment of resources to this programming type.

MVM 2012 NPR On Air Means.001

This hierarchy of commitments ranks about the same as it did in 2010 — though, as mentioned, the methodology changed to cover more program types and to give us a more refined look.

Here are the charts for each program type.


Interviews are such a key element of original news gathering, it’s great to see they rank highest among all NPR stations as a local news staple.

2012 MVM NPR Interviews.001


Most stations are heavily vested in newscasts as the vehicle for their local news.

2012 MVM NPR Newscasts.001

News Features

The 3-5 minute feature is a fundamental unit of news in public radio, which devotes more time to issue coverage. Over half the NPR stations have a high or very high commitment to feature reporting.

2012 MVM NPR Features.001

Breaking News

Breaking news coverage ranks a lot higher than one might guess, given the emphasis on depth coverage on NPR stations. Yet, these radio stations are assuming a larger role in the daily coverage of their communities and that requires some willingness to get on top of breaking news.

2012 MVM NPR Breaking News.001

Beat Reporting

Beat reporting is a sign of a depth and commitment to original journalism. This is less of a program type than it is an organizational approach to news, but it is fundamental to how news is gathered, packaged and presented. Since beats generally require larger newsrooms, there’s a divide in the data.

2012 MVM NPR Beats.001

News Series

Another sign of healthy commitment to depth of coverage is the “news series,” where a topic is too big to be covered in one report, so it is managed in multiple installments. A quarter of stations have a high or very high commitment to series.

2012 MVM NPR Series.001

Specialty Programs

Local stations serve their communities well when they can tailor content to meet local needs. This category shows a rather healthy commitment to specialty programs — whether they be segments on arts, health, business, etc. Sometimes these elements are more attractive to sponsors, which may help fuel wider adoption.

2012 MVM NPR Specialty Prog.001

On Air Calendars

These on-air calendar of events used to be a larger staple of public radio. websites are better at delivering that kind of information. However, many small stations still provide them.

2012 MVM NPR Calendar.001

Talk Shows

This chart is rather flat indicating that talk shows are not uniformly popular in public radio. But they rank as high or very high commitments from almost a third of stations. In general, talk shows indicate a station’s larger staffing commitment to local news and public affairs.

2012 MVM NPR Talk Show.001

News Specials

This chart shows a low commitment to this kind of local news programming. The news special is typically a timely, one-off, intensively produced program. News stations don’t need to resort to news specials if they are doing a good job of daily coverage, feature coverage, series coverage, beat coverage, etc.

2012 MVM NPR News Specials.001


Public Service Announcements aren’t news but they fulfill a local community service commitment, and sometimes they are handled by newsrooms. More than half of stations have little or no commitment to them.

2012 MVM NPR PSA.001

Town Hall Meetings

In an age of social media, the town hall meeting is more anachronistic than ever. Seventy percent of NPR member stations make little or no commitment to hosting or airing them.

2012 MVM NPR Town Hall.001

Live Reports or Live Remotes

Radio is a medium for immediacy, but two-thirds of local NPR stations are hardly committed to this form of news coverage.

2012 MVM NPR Live Reports.001

On Air Magazines

Most stations don’t produce on-air news magazines, which tend to be labor intensive. Yet, a fourth of stations do have the resources or commitment to produce them.

2012 MVM NPR On Air Magazine.001


The local radio news documentary has been a fading form for years. The most remarkable thing in this chart is that some 12% of stations are committed to them.

2012 MVM NPR Documentaries.001


Radio commentaries give opinion leaders access to the airwaves to provide perspective on the news. This was the least popular form of local news programming found in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR Commentary.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

News Salaries by Market Size

Larger broadcast service areas correlate with higher salaries, but not as directly as with higher budgets. That’s because you find low budget stations in large markets, and they pay low budget salaries not large market salaries. (Go here for news salaries by news budget size.)

Here are three charts showing the top 10 annual average salaries in public radio news jobs according to the “market size” of the respondents. These market size groupings are based on the population within the broadcast service area of the responding public radio stations. There are more than 100 respondents per each market size sample, but the number of respondents per job title can be quite low depending on the rarity of the title.

Small Markets

Medium Markets

Source: PRNDI/MVM Consulting

Large Markets

News Salaries by News Budgets

I’ve sorted the average annual salaries in public radio newsrooms by their station news budgets. As you would expect, the higher budget categories closely correlate with higher average salaries.

If you look under “news directors,” for example, you’ll see that stations spending between $500k-$1m a year on their newsrooms, spend an average of $60k-$65k for news director salaries.

Again, this is based on a survey of almost 400 U.S. public broadcast station managers last summer.

The thicker the line in each of these graphs, the more the number of stations contributing to the average. Click on the graph to see it larger.

Refer back to the earlier salary charts to see highs, lows, medians, averages and actual station counts per each job title.

News Directors

The thickness of the pink line attests to the many stations in that $50k-$250k newsroom budget bracket. The news directors at these stations share an average annual salary in the low 40s. There is a jump, however, in the newsroom budget brackets above $250k. The managers of these bigger newsrooms are averaging between the mid 50s to the mid 60s.


Again, we see the thick pink line due to the many stations in that lower budget bracket. Hosts at those stations get paid in the low 30s on average. The newsrooms above $250k push the average pay up over $45k a year.


The trend lines for reporters are obvious — more pay at bigger shops — though the upper range of averages is only in the upper 50s.


Public radio news producers show average annual pay rates quite comparable to reporters relative to their respective newsroom budgets.

Executive Producers/Directors and VPs of News

Note the larger scale range used to display the VP of News average annual salaries. This position is more common in the larger stations.

The Executive Director/Producer chart shows this position can be found in smaller stations, but the pay still scales according to budget.

Senior Producers and Assistant News Directors

Senior producers are averaging salaries just below those of news directors in the larger stations.

The assistant news director chart has enough random deviation in the small sample to limit its usefulness.

New Media News Positions: Content Director, Online Editor, web Producer

There are few of these in the sample to begin with, so the green line is an outlier (part-time position, most likely). Similarly, the deviation from the normal curve may also be due to the newness of this job title and the likelihood it represents different jobs in different stations.

Again, jobs that focus exclusively online are still relatively rare in public radio (it is far more common to find hybrid positions mixing broadcast with new platforms), yet despite the smaller sample size, we can see patterns emerging in online editor and web producer average salaries.

Public Radio News Salaries

Data from a 2010 local public radio station survey shows the overall median news reporter salary under $37,000 per year.

The median for all public radio news hosts was $40,000. The median for news directors was $45,000.

The overall highest median salary was vice-president of news with a median of $92,500. The lowest median salary was $32,000 for assignment editor.

The data show vast differences between individuals performing the same job at different stations. For example, the lowest paid content director earns $128,000 less than the highest paid content director.

The most common jobs in local public radio newsrooms are news directors, reporters, hosts and producers.

(Note: See also News Salaries by News Budget and News Salaries by Market Size)

The charts below compare median salaries for 16 newsroom positions. Below each chart is a table showing the salary ranges for each position. In addition to the highest and lowest salary are the median and average. The “count” is the number of stations reporting a position salary. (The “count” is NOT a count of individuals in those jobs.)

Median Public Radio Salaries

News Director Host/Anchor Reporter/ Corresp Producer
Count 169 92 112 67
Low $5,500 $8,000 $7,000 $4,000
Median $45,000 $40,000 $36,500 $35,000
High $140,000 $114,000 $75,000 $60,000
Avg $47,972 $44,786 $37,793 $35,814
Median Public Radio Salaries Chart Two

VP of News Exec Producer Content Director Managing Editor Online Editor Senior Producer
Count 12 25 17 17 14 33
Low $45,000 $10,000 $12,000 $26,000 $49,750 $20,000
Median $92,500 $57,000 $56,000 $55,000 $50,000 $49,000
High $150,000 $97,500 $140,000 $97,500 $62,000 $90,000
Avg $94,167 $60,486 $60,695 $55,889 $48,268 $50,616

Median Public Radio Salaries Chart Three

Pub Aff Director Bureau Chief Asst News Director web Producer Photog/ Videogrphr Assignmnt Editor
Count 15 15 24 22 11 11
Low $55,369 $48,900 $15,000 $5,000 $17,000 $10,000
Median $45,000 $45,000 $40,250 $38,415 $38,000 $32,000
High $100,000 $76,000 $70,000 $50,000 $51,000 $59,500
Avg $53,677 $47,795 $40,652 $33,149 $34,992 $35,494

The survey was conducted by myself with help from Steve Martin and Ken Mills during July-August 2010. Over 300 stations participated. The survey was a supplement to the PRNDI/CPB census of journalists which has yet to be released by CPB.

This is the first comprehensive public radio news salary survey that we know of. As such, we do not have trend data.

However, we can make some salient comparison using data gathered by Dr. Bob Papper of Hofstra University who conducts an annual newsroom survey for RTDNA. Dr. Papper includes both commercial and non-commerical broadcasters in his survey, though, in general, his data are viewed as a snapshot of commercial newsrooms.

Here is one chart from the radio section of Papper’s 2010 newsroom survey

Credit: RTDNA/Papper 2010

As one can see, public radio stations show a wider range of high and low pay rates for news directors, reporters and anchors. Somewhat encouragingly, public radio newsrooms show overall higher median pay rates for those positions.

Local News Initiative

National Public Radio launched the Local News Initiative (LNI) to build the news gathering capacity of its member stations. The goal was to try new ways of working together to make NPR stations more vital, valued and central to the audiences in their communities. The LNI was led by Marsha Alvar, who commissioned this online guide. Later, NPR transferred the activities of the LNI to the Public Radio Program Directors Association where much of the project is now archived.

Ethics Codes

The Public Radio News Directors organization touts a simple and direct Code of Ethics built upon three principles:

  • Truth
  • Fairness
  • Integrity

The NPR Ethics Handbook provides an interactive tool that begins, “This is NPR. And these are the standards of our journalism.” The section on principles includes: accuracy, fairness, completeness, honesty, independence, impartiality, transparency, accountability, respect and excellence. Special sections include: anonymous sourcing, attribution, diversity, social media, speaking appearances and visual journalism.

Local public media stations can now find a template from which to develop their own code of ethics. The Public Media Integrity Project was created to provide carefully articulated guidelines with the exigencies of local public broadcasters first in mind.

The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics emphasizes four dominant ideas:

  • Seek Truth and Report It,
  • Minimize Harm,
  • Act Independently,
  • Be Accountable.

The Radio Television Digital News Association builds their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct around six main principles:

  • Public Trust
  • Truth
  • Fairness
  • Integrity
  • Independence
  • Accountability

Similarly, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation displays a lengthy code of Journalistic Standards and Practices that offers model policies for a large public service broadcasting network.

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism: The Elements of Journalism

One organization that has been active in journalism reform and newsroom training is Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

There you can learn more about an influential publication: The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The authors summarize the purpose of journalism — “to provide people information to be free and self-governing.”

They list these ways of fulfilling that purpose:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to citizens.
  3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

The First Amendment

The Bill of Rights went into effect in 1791. It made 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which was signed in 1787.
The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One of the best websites on the internet for discussion and study of First Amendment matters — particularly the freedom of the press — is the First Amendment Center.

Sound Reporting: Newscasting

In Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, author Jonathan Kern discusses the many factors that can make a story newsworthy:

  • It will have great impact on people.
  • It’s unusual or unexpected.
  • It’s the first of a kind.
  • It’s timely.
  • It’s controversial.
  • It involves prominent people.
  • It deals with death or tragedy.
  • It has to do with the U.S.
  • It concerns an important issue.
  • It is of human interest.
  • It’s useful.
  • It’s “out there.” (As in getting widespread interest elsewhere.)

Kern says these factors help newscasters quickly sort thousands of stories down to a manageable number.

And while news judgment can be subjective, in public radio it also conforms to particular values and principles:

  • The news is accurate.
  • The news is up-to-date.
  • The news stories are easy to understand.
  • The news stories provide context.
  • The news is balanced.
  • The stories are well written.
  • The news stories avoid hype.
  • The newscast takes a global perspective.
  • Newscasters don’t let themselves become part of the public relations machine.

More on Sound Reporting by Jonathan Kern of NPR News