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After criticism over “viewpoint diversity,” NPR adds new layers of editorial oversight
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July 16, 2015, 12:25 p.m.
LINK: current.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   July 16, 2015

In California, Latinos now outnumber whites as the largest ethnic group in the state, and Los Angeles County is home to the largest Latino population of any county in the United States.

To better match these shifting demographics, KPCC, the public radio station based in Pasadena, decided it needed to make deliberate and significant changes to its content and how it approached community engagement. The result: It has doubled its Latino listenership since 2009, and grown its total audience by 27 percent, according to a case study released last week at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference in Washington.

The station’s efforts to reach a largely untapped Latino audience began in October 2011, when Southern California Public Radio launched its CPB-funded One Nation Media Project to produce “high-quality, English-language, multimedia news coverage” for a diverse — and diversifying — Southern California community, in particular English-speaking Latinos in Los Angeles.

In a video produced by Current, KPCC editors, hosts, and executives describe the challenges they faced in trying to grow its audience without alienating its white audience — one of the major concerns expressed by skeptics when the station began. (There was “almost universal expectation among public radio programmers that what we were doing was going to fail,” SCPR president Bill Davis said in the video.) One big part of the initiative was straightforward: hiring a more diverse set of reporters. (KPCC’s newsroom is now about 40 percent people of color, far above the national average.)

KPCC, for instance, faced significant internal and external pushback after hiring A Martínez to join an already established show, The Madeleine Brand Show, turning it into the Brand & Martínez Show. The two-hour show didn’t last long, and after Brand departed for reasons of “chemistry,” listeners accused the station of “pandering.”

“Even in L.A., here we are, in the most diverse megalopolis in the planet, you would imagine something like this would be a slam dunk,” Edgar Aguirre, SCPR’s managing director for external relations and strategic initiatives, told Current. “It proved to be challenging.”

You can watch the full video here:

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