Public multimedia journalism project focuses on Northwest

Idaho Public Television and Boise State Public Radio share Kunz, who splits his time between the two organizations shooting video, gathering and producing radio features, while also writing for the EarthFix website

Idaho Public Television and the state’s largest public radio station, Boise State Public Radio, teamed up in 2011 to bring the unique journalism initiative to the state. EarthFix is a public media project that generates multimedia content focused on environmental issues throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Funded through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, EarthFix operates out of Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Ore. That’s where editor David Steves coordinates radio, television and online stories from journalists in Seattle and Richland, Wash., Medford and Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho.

“We are on a mission to become an indispensable source of news fixed on the environment of the Pacific Northwest,” explained Steves. “We are pioneering a new way of doing journalism. We’re not a radio project. We’re not an online newsroom. We produce content for various platforms.”

Kunz said, “As a lifelong Idaho resident, I feel like many of the big-city stations seem to forget we are even here. I feel my stories bring people’s attention to Idaho and show them what life here is like. Idaho politically is very different from Portland or Seattle, so I see my work bringing a new view point to the collaborative stations.”

Other partner stations for EarthFix include KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). It’s funded through a nearly $1.5 million grant through CPB over two years. After that, it’s up to stations to sustainably support the project.

EarthFix is one of seven regional collaborations around the country funded through CPB grants and known as Local Journalism Centers.  This effort is aimed at increasing local reporting on relevant issues at a time when newspapers and other media outlets have shrunk. In the Southwest, for example, public radio stations including KJZZ in Phoenix, Ariz., and KPBS in San Diego now operate “Fronteras: The Changing America Desk.” It’s focused on the shifts in culture throughout the Southwest including border issues.

CEO and President of CPB Patricia Harrison said in a statement as the projects launched, “The Local Journalism Centers will enhance public media’s ability to meet the information needs of local communities at a time when access to high quality, original reporting is declining.” Harrison added that public media has a long track record for providing “independent and in-depth coverage of local issues and public policy. The need for that coverage is even greater today, and we have a responsibility to ensure that journalism can continue to thrive and serve the needs of our democracy.”

That’s in part what makes EarthFix a unique journalism initiative. It delivers environmental stories around the Northwest and it engages people in the conversation. “We aren’t just pushing stories out for audiences to consume; we are convening conversation and engaging our community members,” said Steves. To do this, the project uses social media and community engagement events around the region to help connect the “public” with public media journalism.

Sadie Babits is the news director at Boise State Public Radio and a member of the Press Club board.