Ohio Public Radio Stations Exploring News Collaborative

Oct 29, 2019

Cincinnati Public Radio, Cleveland's Ideastream and WOSU Public Media in Columbus are exploring a statewide digital and radio news service which could involve Ohio's 13 National Public Radio affiliates.

Ideastream, which serves Northeast Ohio, will lead the effort with a $70,000 grant from the George Gund Foundation.

The three stations in Ohio's biggest markets have approximately 50 news staffers each, according to a joint news release Tuesday. They will "lend their expertise to the collaboration to ensure its continuity, stability and sustainability," the release said.

Richard Eiswerth, Cincinnati Public Radio general manager, first discussed statewide news co-operation about five years ago, shortly after Cincinnati Edition began weekday broadcast.  He envisioned WVXU-FM's show coordinating with daily shows in Cleveland and Columbus for "some special events, like an election," he says. Cleveland and Columbus managers were not interested at the time; now new managers are, he says.

"With the continued downsizing or elimination of local newspapers, we believe public radio can intercede and provide news and information to our communities on a variety of accessible platforms," he says.

Ohio has 32% fewer newspapers today than it did 15 years ago in 2004, according to a North Carolina School of Media and Journalism study cited by a recent Policy Matters Ohio report. "Total (newspaper) circulation in the state fell by 47%, from 5.5 million to 2.9 million. Many newspapers that remain are ghosts of their former selves, struggling to cover local news with reduced staff," reported Policy Matters Ohio, according to the release.

The stations have hired Edison Research, a national market research firm, to collect and analyze data about "the news consumption habits of Ohioans and consumers’ interest in a regular statewide news service." They've also hired consultant Judith Smelser, who helped establish Indiana's Regional Journalism Collaborative and was involved with the Texas Station Collaborative, the nation's first National Public Radio journalism hub. And they're working with existing public radio news collaboratives in California and Texas.

The goal is creating Ohio's only daily statewide radio and digital news service that would enhance news coverage by providing daily stories and newscasts, a radio program, a website and a daily newsletter to all stations, says the announcement.

The lead partner, Ideastream, manages the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau for all of Ohio’s broadcasters. The Cleveland media entity operates WVIZ-TV, a PBS affiliate with five public TV channels; the Ohio Channel; NPR affiliate WCPN-FM (90.3); and classical music WCLV-FM (104.9).

Cincinnati Public Radio serves Southwestern Ohio with NPR affiliates WVXU-FM (91.7) and WMUB-FM (88.5); classical music WGUC-FM (90.9); and jazz and independent music on hits HD2 digital channels. WOSU serves two million people in Central Ohio with its PBS and NPR affiliates.

"Ohio is in a great position to launch a public media journalism collaborative. Its stations have a history of working together, both through the Statehouse News Bureau and through informal content sharing among news departments," Smelser says in the release." Deeper collaboration is a natural next step, and I'm looking forward to helping station leaders and journalists design the collaborative that works best for them and for their audiences across the state."

Editor's note: John Kiesewetter's reporting is independent and has only been edited for spelling and grammar.