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Jan. 30, 2012, 3:30 p.m.

AIR names 10 winners for Localore, its $2 million initiative to shake up public media

Ten producers will pair up with stations to create journalism projects ranging from an “alternate-reality” game to a music festival.

The Association of Independents in Radio has named 10 public-media producers who will participate in its multi-million-dollar digital storytelling initiative, Localore. Projects will cover climate change, music, the immigrant experience, and education, among other subjects.

Localore logoThe winners will pair up with “incubator” stations across the country for up to a year and share in $1.25 million to experiment with new kinds of journalism.

As I wrote in September, Localore is meant to reinvigorate the experimental spirit of public media that can get lost in day-to-day newsgathering. The mandate was to create place-based projects that would stir up engagement in specific communities — hence the name, Localore.

“It riffs off of this sort of contemporary notion of ‘locavore,’ which says, ‘Pay attention to where you’re getting your sustenance’,” said Sue Schardt, AIR’s executive director, at the time. “Localore, likewise: Pay attention to where you get your news, where your stories come from — source them close to home.”

In tiny Paonia, Colo., producer Julia Kumari Drapkin will work with KVNF-FM to create a crowdsourced reporting project called iSeeChange, which draws on citizens’ everyday observations about the weather to build a narrative about climate change and its impact on local ranchers and coal miners.

At KUT-FM in Texas, Delaney Hall proposes Austin Music Map, a documentary series revealing the “third places” where musicmakers meet and perform. The project will culminate in a music festival.

At Twin Cities Public Television, Ken Elkund plans to create a participatory “alternate-reality” game that asks the community for solutions to the high-school dropout crisis. The game will focus on a fictitious character named Edwina, whose interactions with other real-life participants will shape the game’s outcome.

Todd Melby will work with Prairie Public Broadcasting to report from the oil patches of North Dakota, producing multimedia portraits of workers joining the drilling rush and the families they leave behind. Melby plans to map active oil wells and produce data-driven reporting.

AIR posted details about all the projects on its website.

The organization said it received applications from 130 producers, who tended to be under 30, white, and not already employed at a station. Seven of the 10 stations selected are in major markets.

Several winners will work with new-media startup Zeega, a team building dead-simple software for interactive, media-rich, pure-HTML5 stories. (The Zeega team emerged from AIR’s last big big initiative, Makers Quest 2.0.) Zeega’s Kara Oehler wrote last week for PBS MediaShift:

We believe firmly that great storytelling and storytellers should drive the design and development process. As opposed to traditional software development that begins with generic specs, we’re committed to building out Zeega’s core features through real projects tied to real producers, communities and users. And importantly, as opposed to just ending up with a bespoke mix of technology experiments after Localore ends, these projects will make a lasting contribution to the tools for public media.

Zeega’s source code will be made open-source and rigorously documented, Oehler said.

It will be up to stations to decide what to do with producers and their projects at the end of the funding term. AIR hopes the projects will lead to a permanent expansion of R&D at stations.

Altogether AIR raised $2 million for Localore, which comes from Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, the federally funded National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wyncote Foundation.

POSTED     Jan. 30, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
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