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Local Content and Services Report (Section 6) for the 2023 CPB SAS

2023 Content and Services Report (part of SAS-Radio submission)

1. Describe your overall goals and approach to address identified community issues, needs, and interests through your station’s vital local services, such as multiplatform long and short-form content, digital and in-person engagement, education services, community information, partnership support, and other activities, and audiences you reached or new audiences you engaged.

One of the most impactful ways we address community needs is through the local news coverage produced and delivered by the WKU Public Radio news team. The goal of every story, newscast, interview, and web post of WKU Public Radio is to help create a more informed, engaged, and connected community. Our reporters and hosts work to bring our audience the best quality news and public affairs reporting on issues impacting their families, business, schools, and local government—all without having to navigate a paywall.

2. Describe key initiatives and the variety of partners with whom you collaborated, including other public media outlets, community nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, the business community, teachers and parents, etc. This will illustrate the many ways you’re connected across the community and engaged with other important organizations in the area.

WKU Public Radio plays an integral role in the multi-station collaboration known as Kentucky Public Radio (KPR), a CPB-supported effort that also includes NPR member stations Louisville Public Media, WKMS in Murray/Paducah, WEKU in Richmond/Lexington, and WVXU in Cincinnati/northern Kentucky.

Our collaboration involves the sharing of all local news content, both for broadcast and online. This sharing of content means important information produced by one station’s news team benefits all members of the network equally and is heard and seen by many more people than would be the case if we acted independently. It also allows us to avoid the needless duplication of resources by having open and constant communication among member stations, helping to ensure stations are not spending time on a story that is already being covered by another station's journalists.

Through KPR, we also pool our resources to pay for a reporter who covers the state capitol in Frankfort. This on-the-ground reporter provides daily coverage of the most important actions taken by the Kentucky General Assembly, providing updated radio scripts, web stories, and social media content. This reporter also helps spearhead our coverage of statewide elections.

Another key aspect of KPR is the six regional newscasts that we contribute to, and air, on weekdays. These newscasts include news stories created by each KPRN member station and air on WKU Public Radio during the back half of each top-of-the-hour NPR newscast weekdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. central time. These newscasts provide a strong statewide/local news presence during the midday hours between Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

In addition to airing these newscasts, the local news team at WKU Public Radio serves as the backup producer of the newscasts on days when Louisville Public Media is unable to do so.

The WKU Public Radio newsroom also has an informal sharing arrangement with our colleagues at WPLN in Nashville. Given that our coverage area includes a portion of northern Tennessee, we’re able to make great use of many WPLN stories related to that state’s legislature, elections, health care systems, energy/environment, etc.

A reporter from WKU Public Radio attends quarterly information sessions put on by the International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency located in Bowling Green. Taking part in these meetings keeps our local news staff informed about the number of new refugees being resettled in our community, the countries where they are originally from, and efforts to help those individuals and families find housing, enroll in schools, get English language training, gain employment, etc.

A member of the WKU Public Radio news team is also a full-time instructor teaching courses in broadcasting at the Western Kentucky University School of Media and Communication. She also served as manager of the student-run radio station, Revolution 91.7, an important hands-on lab for students interested in learning more about news gathering, on-air news delivery, music programming, and music hosting.

In her capacity as student radio station manager, this WKU Public Radio news team member also spearheading the organization and execution of a major on-campus music festival called Mayhem. The event included five musical acts covering genres such as indie rock, punk, and earthy pop. It was free and open to anyone from the campus and surrounding communities.

WKU Public Radio also collaborated with our sister station, WKU PBS, to bring our audience recorded live musical performances aired during a program known as Lost River Sessions. LRS involves local musical acts performing in local venues, and features artists from a wide range of musical genres, including folk, bluegrass, soul, country, and rock.

3. What impact did your key initiatives and partnerships have in your community? Describe any known measurable impact, such as increased awareness, learning or understanding about particular issues. Describe indicators of success, such as connecting people to needed resources or strengthening conversational ties across diverse neighborhoods. Did a partner see an increase in requests for related resources? Please include direct feedback from a partner(s) or from a person(s) served.

A groundbreaking initiative known as the Brinkley Student Employment Fellowship is a unique source of pride for us. Now in its fourth year, the fellowship provides job opportunities in WKU Public Broadcasting for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As the rate of individuals with autism increases each year, there is a growing need to develop job training opportunities for these individuals’ transition to adulthood. The endowed Brinkley Fellowship provides supported employment experiences to better prepare students with ASD for careers after graduation. The program accepts students from any major and provides a multitude of diverse job experiences.

Students gain valuable work experience in creating news content for radio, assisting with video productions for television, maintaining broadcasting equipment and supporting the organization through outreach efforts and administrative tasks.

The selected students are participants of the Kelly Autism Program Circle of Support – an autism support unit within the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at Western Kentucky University.

In 2019, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) awarded a $246,863 grant to WKU Public Broadcasting to develop and expand its ASD career-readiness training program. The project, titled “Embracing Differences, Finding Strengths: A Public Broadcasting Model for Autism Inclusion,” seeks to enhance awareness, improve understanding and increase acceptance of autistic individuals in the workplace.

In addition to enhancing the Brinkley Fellowship program, the grant supports a broader initiative to educate businesses and organizations on how to create a more inclusive work environment. A nationwide advisory committee works with the project’s team to ensure autism inclusion is part of the national public broadcasting system’s service mission.

Each year, the Brinkley Fellowship hires an additional two students who apply through a formal job application process and interview. As the Fellows complete their first year of student employment, they remain on staff for the reminder of their academic career at WKU.

The WKU Public Radio news team created approximately 250 hours of original local news programming during Fiscal Year 2023. That number represents our efforts in identifying the most important news and information impacting our service area of Kentucky, southwestern Indiana, and northern Tennessee.

The WKU Public Radio news team was awarded 1st place in the category of Best Short Newscast in the 2023 Kentucky Broadcasters Association Impact Awards. This competition includes entries from radio stations across the commonwealth, both public and commercial, in both large and small markets.

WKU Public Radio host/reporter Alana Watson won 1st place in the category of Best Special Series/Documentary for a series of stories she produced about the challenges facing Kentucky residents who travel out of state to receive abortion care after the procedure was almost totally banned in the commonwealth.

Reporter Lisa Autry was also awarded 1st place in the category of Best Use of Sound for her story about the Honor Flight Bluegrass program, which took a planeload of local military veterans to see national monuments and war memorials in Washington D.C.

The local news team at WKU Public Radio shared approximately 520 news stories with our partner stations in Kentucky Public Radio (KPR). That means information, voices, and perspectives from our communities were broadcast during the statewide KPR newscasts heard weekdays on members stations Louisville Public Media, WEKU in Richmond/Lexington, and WKMS in Murray/Paducah, as well as during those stations’ local newscasts in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. These local news stories are also shared on station websites and social media channels.

4. Please describe any efforts (e.g. programming, production, engagement activities) you have made to investigate and/or meet the needs of minority and other diverse audiences (including, but not limited to, new immigrants, people for whom English is a second language and illiterate adults) during Fiscal Year 2023, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2024. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.

Bowling Green, Kentucky, is home to one of the largest per-capita refugee populations in the U.S. The city hosts the International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency that, for decades, has been helping people flee war and political and religious persecution, and start new lives in southern Kentucky.

The local news team at WKU Public Radio has maintained strong ties with the center, interviewing leaders and refugees for stories that spotlight their past lives and future hopes. Some of the stories produced in the fiscal year include update totals on the increasing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, and the Democratic Republic of Congo relocated in Bowling Green. The news team also interviewed the city's mayor about ways Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University, local businesses, and nonprofits can band together to help local refugees attain education and workforce skills.

We covered a unique annual tradition in our region: a naturalization ceremony for immigrants held underground in Mammoth Cave National Park, located in south-central Kentucky. We brought our audience the voices of some of the 27 new U.S. citizens from 20 different countries who took part in the ceremony.

Some of our local news focus also centered on issues surrounding the region's LGBTQ+ community, including reports on candidates for Kentucky govenor and other offices proposing policies that would target transgender youth in public schools, athletics, and LGBTQ+-themed materials in libraries.

WKU Public Radio continued airing a weekly four-minute radio segment called “The African American Folklorist.” The segment is produced by a Western Kentucky University student who, through interviews and archival audio/music, explores the history of Black people in our region and their contributions to the visual arts, culinary traditions, literature, music, and scholarship that have so greatly contributed to our region.

5. Please assess the impact that your CPB funding had on your ability to serve your community. What were you able to do with your grant that you wouldn't be able to do if you didn't receive it?

CPB grant support is an absolutely essential component of our overall funding. In addition to the support we receive from our community and university, CPB funding allows us to serve a very wide geographic area, covering parts of three states.

Our CPB grant ensures that we can continue to provide high-quality public radio programming and meaningful community engagement. This station faces considerable challenges when working to raise financial support in our community. Much of of coverage area is rural, not affluent, and does not fit traditional public radio listener demographics.

CPB funding strengthens our efforts and helps us acquire programming that would otherwise be unaffordable and unattainable for us.

Without CPB's support, our public service efforts would be tremendously diminished, and many in our region would be left without a local public radio service. A lack of CPB support would also affect the size and quality of our staff.

Being a fully-qualified CPB station also gives us access to resources and program providers that are essential for our operation.