Updates On The NPR-Member Station Collaborative Journalism Network

Aug 22, 2017

In a staff note sent on Tuesday, Aug. 22, NPR Senior Vice President of News and Editorial Director Michael Oreskes shared an update about key roles in the NPR-Member Station Collaborative Journalism Network.

We've been spending a good deal of time at NPR and across public radio talking about what it will take to build a true public radio news network — one that can tell the story of the entire country from everywhere in the country. While the vision for what such a journalism network will do and be continues to evolve, I'm reorganizing our news leadership team to double down on building its foundation.

Beginning in September, NPR Executive Editor Edith Chapin will focus full-time on overseeing the strategy and execution of our collaborative journalism aspirations and editorial partnerships. Edith is a perfect fit for a role that requires deep understanding of the newsroom, a clear-eyed approach to making things work, as well as a global view of the news industry and opportunities before public radio. In this role Edith will work across the organization to pave the way for NPR's support for a collaborative journalism network, one that can move swiftly and effectively, anywhere in the country. She will work shoulder to shoulder with Chief Digital Officer Tom Hjelm and his team as well as Chief Development Officer Stephanie Witte and her division to assure we are building a fully digital and financially sustainable future for collaborative journalism. Together with Stephanie and her team, Edith will represent the importance of collaborative journalism to potential funders who are able to offer transformative support to these ambitions.

Reporting to Edith will be Bruce Auster, who has been promoted to Senior Director for the Collaborative Journalism Network. At PRNDI and PRPD and in conversations inside NPR, Bruce and I shared the concept of piloting regional hubs run by senior journalists who have the skills and news chops to make strong journalistic decisions and can work with stations and with NPR and other national producers to coordinate among stations to build strong local and regional news and a stronger presence for those stories across the network. We are still at the concept stage for the hubs, which must – and will – be co-created by NPR and stations. Bruce has the lead from NPR's team in making that happen.

As Edith's role changes, Managing Editor for News Operations and Security David Sweeney's role will transition as well. David will assume direct supervision of our newsgathering process and will oversee all newsroom desks and desk editors. Over the course of his NPR career, there has rarely been a major news event or newsroom development that he has not been involved in, in some way. We will draw on his news judgment and expertise to support our desks in our award-winning work. We'll have more details on this change in the coming days.

Looking across the country, NPR's bureau chiefs are essential links between NPR and Member station newsrooms, and will continue to be so as the hubs take shape. We have in recent years doubled the amount of journalism that goes from Member stations to the national newsmagazine shows. Locally driven journalism is one of our greatest competitive assets. In a world of national and global competition our ability to think local, as well as global, sets us apart just at a moment when the country needs exactly that blend and isn't getting it elsewhere.

To support and expand our bureau chief system, Vickie Walton-James has hired Phyllis Fletcher, the PRNDI Editor of the Year in 2017, as NPR's fifth bureau chief. Phyllis is managing editor of the Northwest News Network, where she edits five reporters and coordinates coverage among 11 NPR stations and station groups, identifying opportunities for collaborative projects and facilitating the sharing of content. Phyllis revels in mentoring reporters, notably as a managing editor of the early-career journalism project at the Next Generation Radio summit the last four years. Previously, Phyllis worked at Seattle's KUOW for 10 years. She is a unique talent and her experience with the Northwest News Network will prove invaluable as we seek to build a stronger network and develop the hub concept. She'll be based in her hometown of Seattle and will begin work with us in September.

We'll be setting up time to talk more about collaborative journalism and our vision for the future of NPR News with my newsroom colleagues in the fall, and will be lining up other opportunities including webinars and sessions at the upcoming Super Regional conference to have that conversation with our station colleagues.

We are counting on everyone – inside NPR and across the public radio system – to bring their best ideas forward to make collaborative journalism work. I welcome your feedback and thoughts.

Best,

- Mike

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