Earlier this week, I wrote a short article on the opportunities (and obstacles) for NPR stations to fill the void of local quality news. That prompted a thoughtful reply from KUOW's program director, Jeff Hansen, pointing out the many ways his station is moving ahead in news coverage. Here's the letter:
For a station in a market of this size, with the amount of competition we have, our commitment to local coverage is disproportionately large. At KPCC, for example, the news staff is 41 (14 of them field reporters). We have a newsroom staff of 36 with 13 reporters, and two editors.
You mention that “most of these stations do little enterprise local reporting.” But KUOW is bucking that national trend, having made a significant commitment to enterprise and investigative reporting and producing. KUOW is one of the only stations in the system that has invested in investigative reporters, and one of only a handful that have invested in PIJ (Public Insight Journalism). In addition we have staff specifically tasked with enterprise producing. This week the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization is here training our reporters after KUOW was chosen as one of only two radio stations in the country to be selected.
And regarding your comment that “Some stations, like KUOW, soak up a lot of their talent in hosting call-in and interview shows.” The fact is, most of our newsroom staff including the staffs of Weekday and The Conversation contribute a great deal of news content on a daily basis. Add that to our reporting staff and we are making a significant investment in local content production, and specifically in news, larger than almost any other radio station in this market. (I’m not sure of the exact size of the KIRO-FM news staff)
You state that “many [public radio stations] spend most of their efforts producing stories with an uplifting, people-like-us-listeners story-line.” This may be true at other stations, but most of our staff are reporting hard news. The majority of our staff, around 25 of them, are in this category.