The Texas Newsroom, a collaboration of Texas public radio stations, NPR and Texas Tech Public Media, is one of four investigative journalism teams selected by PBS for its Local Journalism Initiative.
FRONTLINE, PBS's flagship investigative documentary series, announced today (Oct. 2) the selection of the newest class of partners for its Local Journalism Initiative. Now in its second year, the initiative is funded with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and aims to strengthen local investigative journalism in communities around the country.
Beginning this fall, the initiative will support investigative projects by reporters and producers in the Texas Newsroom, a collaboration between Texas Tech Public Media, Texas public radio stations and NPR. Three other outlets also were named Local Journalism Partners: the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Public's Radio in Rhode Island and The Salt Lake Tribune in Utah.
The initiative promotes sustainable, public-interest journalism in communities where local news organizations have been hit hard by financial pressures and the challenges of reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic. General Manager Paul Allen Hunton leads Texas Tech Public Media, which includes Lubbock's PBS channel KTTZ Channel 5 and NPR station KTTZ-FM 89.1, San Angelo's NPR station KNCH 90.1 FM and PBS channel KCOS-TV Channel 13, which serves El Paso and the Southern New Mexico region.
"Over the last year, we've gone through a strategic planning process that has focused on more local news coverage," Hunton said. "Our team has done an incredible job, building a newsroom from scratch and offering the best, most in-depth coverage of local issues on 89.1 FM. This partnership with FRONTLINE is proof of performance for our team and the work they have put in, and we are proud to work alongside FRONTLINE, which consistently proves itself as the best journalism outlet in the country. Our listeners in Lubbock and the surrounding area will benefit from this project, and we're excited to get started."
The Local Journalism Initiative helps pay a journalist's salary for a year, in addition to providing to the newsroom editorial guidance, advice about digital or video storytelling and expertise about how to connect audiences with high-impact journalism. In partnership with FRONTLINE, over the next year, the Local Journalism Partners will explore issues including police reform and violence, forced labor and the collapse of rural health care institutions.
"Local news is a lifeblood for communities across the country and an essential part of a healthy American democracy," said Raney Aronson-Rath, FRONTLINE executive producer. "We're excited to welcome our second cohort of Local Journalism partners and eager to support these newsrooms with their enterprise reporting, as the critical local stories they are covering so often reverberate into the national news headlines. With the support of the Knight Foundation and CPB, we look forward to beginning our work with these talented reporting units and to support them in their pursuit for truth."
Each team will receive support from FRONTLINE to produce a specific investigation related to an issue of importance to their community. The resulting local investigative projects may potentially be brought to a national audience through FRONTLINE's multi-platform channels.
Texas Tech Public Media, working with The Texas Newsroom, NPR and American Public Media, will focus on rural health care, exploring issues related to the collapse of rural health care facilities across the state and the impact COVID-19 has had on those systems.
The initiative also aims to increase diversity representation in newsrooms in underserved communities by working with editorial leadership to think intentionally in their hiring practices, the stories they tell, and how they choose to tell them. Being a partner will allow Texas Tech Public Media to add a reporter to its staff and give it the needed resources to cover larger, statewide issues that affect the local community.
"We are a small team, and because of that, we must be selective about what we cover," Hunton said. "With that in mind, we have tried to be on the frontlines of under-reported issues facing our community and explore these topics as in-depth as possible. As part of this initiative, we will be working with reporters from around the state to make sure we are covering these issues from multiple perspectives, and we hope to bring in outside and diverse voices to help tell this story."