Annual CPB Report: 2015

In compliance with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this page includes part of Rhode Island Public Radio's response to the annual questions from the CPB.

Q1. Describe your overall goals and approach to address identified community issues, needs, and interests through your station’s vital local services, such as multiplatform long and short-form content, digital and in-person engagement, education services, community information, partnership support, and other activities, and audiences you reached or new audiences you engaged.

A1. The goals are to inform and educate our audience, inspire community and make sure we address issues that are important to all Rhode Islanders. We keep geographic, socio-economic and ethnic diversity at the top of mind as we go through our daily news planning, when reporters craft in-depth features, when we decide which issues deserve broader coverage, and who we bring on our air for discussion. We then work out how we fold social media and blogs into the coverage. Not only does Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) post its stories on Twitter, but its reporters often use Twitter to report live from the scene, as we did with: campaign coverage and on election night, sessions of the General Assembly, snow storm coverage, and major announcements on the state’s economy, to name a few examples. On our blogs and our web site we often post source documents, charts, links and extra audio to reach those interested in education, politics, the environment, and health care issues. We also use Facebook, Twitter, and our web site and our blogs to find voices that make it into our coverage.

Community engagement is also a goal and it starts with crafting the news budget. We make sure we have the resources to go out into the state and hold public forums that are then broadcast on the air and posted to our website. During FY 15, we held a public forum on how fish species in Narragansett Bay are changing because of climate change. We partnered with Brown University’s Taubman Center for a public forum exploring the pros and cons of building a baseball stadium on the Providence waterfront. We also aired an eight-part series accompanied by a public forum about the rise of hepatitis C and the struggle to treat patients with a cure that is extremely costly. And we partnered with the Rhode Island Foundation for two, live primary debates for governor. We held a public forum ahead of the state’s primary election. We either hosted or co-hosted six, live debates during the campaign and covered several other debates through in-depth features and analysis.

Q2. Describe key initiatives and the variety of partners with whom you collaborated, including other public media outlets, community nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, the business community, teachers and parents, etc. This will illustrate the many ways you’re connected across the community and engaged with other important organizations in the area.

A2. Rhode Island Public Radio's key partnerships were with: Providence Business News, Brown University, WJAR television, New England News Exchange, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Providence Athenaeum. RIPR partners with the Providence Business News for a weekly business segment called The Bottom Line. Here we explore what's happening with the state's struggling economy by delving into growing industries, research from state universities, policies that affect business, and community business groups. We share the audio with the Providence Business News, which posts it on their website as well. With the Brown University, we partnered with The Taubman Center  for a public forum about a controversial plan to use public subsidies to build a professional baseball stadium. We also partnered with Brown Universities School of Public Health to hold a forum about hepatitis C and the high cost of a new cure. RIPR also holds several public forums a year with the non-profit Providence Athenaeum. In FY 2015 we discussed challenges in the state budget and the first two months in office for the state’s first female governor. We held two live debates for governor partnering with The Rhode Island Foundation. RIPR partnered with the Rhode Island Foundation for a live forum on how climate change affects what local fishermen are catching in their nets. The New England News Exchange (NENX) is an online audio sharing web platform with almost every public radio station in New England. All stations both post and broadcast stories from stations around the region.

Q3. What impact did your key initiatives and partnerships have in your community? Describe any known measurable impact, such as increased awareness, learning or understanding about particular issues. Describe indicators of success, such as connecting people to needed resources or strengthening conversational ties across diverse neighborhoods. Did a partner see an increase in requests for related resources? Please include direct feedback from a partner(s) or from a person(s) served.

A3. We consistently see strong attendance at our policy forums at the Providence Athenaeum, giving hundreds of residents an opportunity to hear the discussion and take part in the Q&A segment afterward, and also these forums are broadcasted to our large listening audience. Our public discussion of the Providence baseball stadium proposal, hosted in partnership with Brown University, generated some 200 reservations, the capacity for the venue. The event was also broadcast on RIPR and webcast on both Brown’s website and our website.  A large number of people commented and asked questions prior to and during the panel on twitter and on paper. A YouTube video from the webcast has received 86 additional views.  Our forum with Brown’s School of Public Health about hepatitis C found an audience of about 70 people with an additional 200 people tuning to a live webcast. One of the most exciting results of the forum was additional interest from the Rhode Island Dept. of Health to help fund hepatitis C prevention and education. Members of the department’s infectious disease team attended and were so moved and inspired, they said, that they decided to ramp up their efforts.  The live forum with the Rhode Island Foundation had about 50 people in the audience and stimulated a vibrant stream of comments on Twitter.  Our debates during prime time drew thousands of viewers and listeners. Our newsroom features and commentary regularly receive positive feedback from the community.

Q4. Please describe any efforts (e.g. programming, production, engagement activities) you have made to investigate and/or meet the needs of minority and other diverse audiences (including, but not limited to, new immigrants, people for whom English is a second language and illiterate adults) during Fiscal Year 2014, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2015. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.

A4. In our education reporting, we’ve regularly featured minority voices. We interviewed minority students to find out what they wanted from the state’s new education commissioner. We received and regional Murrow Award and a Metcalf Award for reporting on diversity for a story about a middle school student who is transgender and faced bullying so severe her parents sought to take her out of the school. Our coverage prompted the middle school to hold an assembly to address sensitivity issues and the district recently adopted a new anti-bullying curriculum. We’ve also covered the challenge of keeping urban students busy over the summer with a two-part series focusing on minority youth and summer activities. And we aired a feature about a program that seeks to increase the number of young girls interested in computer coding. Our election coverage included  a large amount of coverage both on-air and on our blog about what it would mean for the state if Angel Taveras becomes the first Latino governor, or if Gina Raimondo becomes the first female governor, which she eventually did. We also provided coverage of Latino candidate Jorge Elorza’s bid to beat longtime former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci in the Providence mayoral race. After the election, we covered Gina Raimondo’s inauguration and the inauguration Jorge Elorza as the second Latino mayor of Providence. We aired multiple news stories and features about the state’s Liberian community and how they responded to an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our series Rising Tide looking at how the state is recovering from the Recession included a feature on minority small business owners. We have aired individual features about the minority community’s response to the Charlestown Church Shooting and the Muslim community’s response to headlines about a Rhode Islander who identifies as Muslim and was arrested on terrorism-related charges. On our Political Roundtable, we feature Dr. Pablo Rodriquez (a leader in RI's Latino community) regularly to discuss the issues facing Rhode Island’s Latino community, and we also hosted  Providence’s Latino Mayor Jorge Elorza, Cranston’s Chinese-American Mayor Allan Fung and other minority politicians and community leaders. In our daily newscasts we’ve covered social programs, crime and justice and cultural issues facing the state’s Latino, Asian-American and African-American communities.

Q5. Please assess the impact that your CPB funding had on your ability to serve your community. What were you able to do with your grant that you wouldn't be able to do if you didn't receive it?

A5. CPB funding is critical to RIPR as we continue to mature as a station and reach more listeners. We have been independent from WBUR for about 7 years, and we are continuing to expand our audience on air and online. In the last year, we’ve continued to add new members who support Rhode Island Public Radio. It takes time for a listener to move from being a casual public radio listener, to a more frequent public radio listener, and then eventually to be a public radio supporter. CPB funding provides a steady base for us to grow through these stages. There are a number of programs and activities that do not directly result in revenue for the station, but are an important public service for our audience. For example, we host public discussions on a variety of topics such as education, health care, politics and the environment. If every story we did had to have a direct relationship to revenue, we would not be able to provide the same breadth of coverage.