Special project to place journalist in oil patch for Prairie Public

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Fargo, ND: After a stiff national competition, the Association of Independents in Radio, Inc. (AIR) today announced Prairie Public as one of ten public radio and television stations chosen for a producer-led transmedia project that challenges public broadcasters to invent new forms of reporting that expand service to a wider public.

Prairie Public will work with Todd Melby, a radio producer originally from Hettinger, N.D., who will spend 11 months launching and leading “Black Gold Boom: How Oil Changed North Dakota.” The radio project will discuss the local and national impacts of the region’s rush to drill through embedded reporting from the oil patches and “mancamps.” An interactive site featuring multimedia portraits of workers who have streamed to the state and the families they left behind will accompany a related photo exhibit mounted in local businesses. Data-driven reporting and mapping of active oil wells will provide deeper context for the stories.

Melby, who now lives in Minneapolis, plans to relocate to a mancamp near Stanley, with occasional trips back to Bismarck and Fargo to work with Prairie Public staff. The project will launch in spring 2012.

“At Prairie Public, we work hard to cover the North Dakota oil story,” said Bill Thomas, director of radio, “As a state wide network, we think we are a good place to talk about the big upsides and downsides for all of North Dakota. This project will take the discussion to a whole new level. We will offer a series of news stories on the air and the web, and there will also be a process of engagement with all kinds of people who are caught up in the Bakken – we have an opportunity to hear a lot of voices.”

“We expect great things from this collaboration, and will be working with Prairie Public and Todd Melby to amplify the project’s impact as it rolls out,” said Sue Schardt, AIR’s executive director.

The project, called Localore, is a $2 million initiative produced by Boston-based AIR. More than $1 million in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will support the local collaboration teams. The goal of the project is to bring new ingenuity to journalism projects blending digital and broadcast technology and that “go outside” public media’s core platforms and audiences.

With guidance from a distinguished Selection Committee, AIR chose from proposals submitted to an open call this autumn, including 61 profiles posted by a diverse range of stations to the unprecedented Station Runway. Localore’s site has already sparked broad interest, drawing in more than 7,200 unique visitors over the course of the competition.

Melby has produced well-regarded radio documentaries for Minnesota Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio, among others, as well as news stories for national services including NPR. Other proposals selected by AIR include KALW-FM, San Francisco, CA; KCRW-FM, Los Angeles, CA; KQED Radio and Television, San Francisco, CA; KUT-FM, Austin, TX; KVNF-FM, Paonia, CO; Twin Cities Public Television, Minneapolis, MN; WBEZ-FM, Chicago, IL; WGBH Radio and Television, Boston M, and WYSO-FM, Dayton, OH.

Over the past five years, AIR has emerged as a force for identifying, cultivating, and deploying talent to the benefit of the public media network. Founded in 1988, AIR is a vibrant, tightly networked association of more than 800 producers, journalists, technicians, media entrepreneurs, and sound artists. AIR’s membership now spans 46 states and 14 countries worldwide including leading stations, 501c3’s, and public media networks – APM, BBC, NPR, and PRI. In addition to CPB, financial support for Localore comes from the MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.



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