Annual CPB Report: 2013

Mar 13, 2014

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 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: Super Storm Sandy, sessions of the General Assembly, state school board meetings, and key state policy meetings on the economy, to name a few examples. On our blogs we often post source documents, charts, links and extra audio to reach those interested in education, politics, and health care issues. We have also used Facebook, Twitter and our blogs to find voices that made it into our coverage.
In the newsroom we have a monthly “off the record” lunches with newsmakers to learn more about issues facing communities. One of those lunches was with Providence's police chief who spoke of gang violence in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. That conversation sparked a series looking at crime in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods. We are also in constant contact with non-profits, universities and the business community. This helps us fold their constituents and concerns into our news coverage as needed. For example, the homeless agencies often contact us during winter storms to tell us what they're doing to get people off the streets and provide shelter. We then report this information on our air and on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

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 2013, we held a public forum on how Rhode Island can tackle its terrible unemployment rate by partnering public schools and business for workforce training. We partnered with the University of Rhode Island for a public forum about what needs to be done in K-12 to make students ready for higher education. And we looked at the role of bicycles in boosting Providence's economy and put the spot light on a program that takes place in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods where closing off the street to just bikes helped reduce crime and got kids outside exercising.

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, University of Rhode Island, New England News Exchange, The Providence Athenaeum, and a limited partnership with the Providence Journal. 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 University of Rhode Island we partnered for a town hall event probing into the state's education system. RIPR organized a roundtable discussion that explored what needed to be done in K-12 to get students ready for college. RIPR also holds two public forums a year with the non-profit Providence Athenaeum. In 2013 we discussed the role of public and higher education to get students ready for the workforce, and looked at the role bicycles play to lure tech-savvy industries to the capital city and also how bicycles make neighborhoods safe. 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. This past year we started using Providence Journal reporters as sources in news stories and on public affairs programs.

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 have seen a large number of people listening to our business segment on our website. This segment is made possible through our partnership with The Providence Business News. Many of the stories we've been airing from the New England News Exchange focus on Canadian hydropower to generate electricity for southern New England. These stories produced by Vermont Public Radio have generated much listener feedback and logged hundreds of page views on our website. This is content we could not have gotten any other way, and it is content our listeners have shown they have a deep interest in. At the University of Rhode Island education forum, there were more than 300 people in the audience. The university says it received a large amount of positive feedback for our event from attendees, many of whom are major players in the state's educational system. The public forums at The Providence Athenaeum often pack the room, 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.

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 2013, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2014. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.

A4. In our education reporting, we’ve focused on how a new policy linking standardized testing to high school diplomas impacts Latino students and those for whom English is a second language. We also did a feature on a middle school student who is transgendered, along with a reporter debrief and blog posts on the issue. We’ve also done 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. We aired an arts feature about a mother and daughter musical team keeping Puerto Rican music alive. We talked with the head of the RI NAACP on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In our series The Silver Boom, we spoke with an African-American family raising their kids in multi-generational living. In that same series we aired a pair of conversations on what it means to be elderly and gay, including what needs to be done to make senior living more friendly to same-sex couples. Our series “Hot City: Crime in Providence” looked at gang violence in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. On our Political Roundtable, we feature Dr. Pablo Rodriquez (a leader in RI's Latino community) once a month to discuss the issues facing Rhode Island’s Latino community. And in our daily newscasts we’ve covered social programs, crime and justice and cultural issues facing the state’s Latino community.

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 5 years, and we are continuing to expand our audience on air and online. In the last year, we’ve seen a significant growth in cumulative audience according to Arbitron ratings. This means we have added many new listeners, many of whom listen only casually. 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.