Thank You, StateImpact Reporters!

Celebration! Stateimpact cake.

Danny Debelius / NPR

For two years the StateImpact team has used this blog to document best practices and discuss methods, to tout awards and take note of civic impact, to demystify data and plug cool tools. This post is none of that.

This is a love letter.

It is a warm hug and proud pat on the back to the reporters who made this project something to talk about. To John O’Connor, Sammy Mack and Sarah Gonzalez in Florida; Emilie Saunders and Molly Messick in Idaho; Kyle Stokes and Elle Moxley in Indiana; Amanda Loder and Emily Corwin in New Hampshire; Molly Bloom, Ida Lieszkovszky and Amy Hansen in Ohio; Joe Wertz and Logan Layden in Oklahoma; Marie Cusick, Susan Phillips, Scott Detrow and Katie Colaneri in Pennsylvania; and Terrence Henry, Mose Buchele and Dave Fehling in Texas. You’ve rocked this thing out, and it’s been such a treat to watch.    Continue reading

10 Tips For “Owning” An Issue: Take-Aways From StateImpact

The full StateImpact team in front of NPR's old HQ.

Becky Lettenberger / NPR

The full StateImpact team in front of NPR's old HQ.

Two years ago, StateImpact launched with a goal to train the next generation of public radio journalists. With an editorial lens focused on explaining state policy, our reporters would be as comfortable blogging, shooting pictures, using social media and creating data visualizations as they are reporting with a microphone.

As NPR winds down the two-year pilot that initiated the project and our states continue StateImpact on their own, it’s the network of reporters who now cover issues “StateImpact style” that is the project’s most important legacy.

We learned a lot from StateImpact — both at NPR and at our partner stations. If you’re thinking of starting a similar project, or just refocusing your newsroom, here are our top takeaways. Continue reading

Four Takeaways From A Bountiful Awards Season


Gary Craig / Flickr

It’s been a good awards season at StateImpact!

Last weekend, we learned that two projects produced under our banner won PRNDI awards, given by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated. StateImpact New Hampshire’s “Getting By, Getting Ahead” won first place in the multimedia category. And StateImpact Florida’s story on the use of spanking in Florida schools won first place in the nationally edited news feature category.

This came on the heels of more good news a couple of weeks ago. Two of our seven regional winners in the Edward R. Murrow Awards went on to win national Murrows. They were StateImpact Pennsylvania’s “Perilous Pathways” series on abandoned wells and StateImpact Indiana’s documentary “Progress Report.”

Numbers-wise, StateImpact has won 84 local and national awards so far. Every one of our eight state projects has been recognized for the excellent work they’ve produced.

Of course, awards are only one measure of editorial success. Not every meaningful story gets a plaque.

But if you look at the StateImpact work recognized this year, a few themes emerge: Continue reading

Behind “Bottom Rung,” StateImpact Idaho’s Look at Low Wages

                                    Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Across the country, the number of workers earning minimum wage was going down. But in Idaho, it was going up.

Going up a lot — 63 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Suddenly, Idaho led the nation in the proportion of workers earning minimum wage. Previously, Idaho sat in the middle of the pack among the states. In just one year, Idaho had fallen from Number 30 to Number 50.

StateImpact Idaho reported this bad news back in February. But reporters Emilie Ritter Saunders and Molly Messick didn’t want to leave the story there. The numbers felt like a symptom of something deeper that had been turning up in their reporting on Idaho’s economy for almost two years.  Continue reading

Susan Phillips Chosen As Knight Science Journalism Fellow

Becky Lettenberger / NPR

StateImpact Pennsylvania's Susan Phillips

As a reporter covering the energy boom for StateImpact Pennsylvania, Susan Phillips has hung out with the residents of Dimock, a plastic surgeon making house calls in the village of Rae, and even a hitchhiking shale gas poet.

Now, she’s headed up to Cambridge to hang out with academics — and other immensely talented science journalists like her.

Susan was one of 12 journalists chosen for the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT in 2013-14. That means she’ll get to spend nine months taking classes, attending seminars and going to boot camps with some of the world’s preeminent energy researchers.

Susan is looking forward to immersing herself with so many smart people, and to developing sources who can deepen her reporting on energy and environmental issues in the future.

“One thing about this beat, she says, “is that there’s a plethora of studies and conclusions coming out every other day that contradict each other. It’s hard to know, if you don’t have a science background, what to believe and what not to believe.” Susan says it will be good to find “sources you can trust, and check with in terms of — is this a story or is it not a story? If it’s a story, what should I look for? What questions should I ask about it?”

As a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, Susan will be free of deadlines for almost a year. She’s also required to design her own course of study and take at least one science class per semester at either MIT or Harvard. Susan isn’t yet sure what classes she’ll take, but there’s one thing she knows she wants to get out of it.

“I’m hoping to learn about new energy sources on the horizon,” she says. “On one hand, there’s what the new research is and technologies involved with clean energy. But also, what’s the next fossil fuel development they’ll go after?”

Big congratulations to Susan, who expects to wind down with StateImpact in late July. The fellowship starts in Cambridge in mid-August. She can return to WHYY when the program finishes in May 2014.

See the full list of science journalists chosen for the Knight Science Fellowship this year.

Here’s more background on the fellowship.

And here’s an article from MIT News about it.

StateImpact Wins Seven Regional Murrow Awards

The Radio Television Digital News Association released its list of winners for the Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards today. And StateImpact’s work was all over it.

Our teams in Florida, Idaho, Indiana and Pennsylvania won a total of seven regional Murrows for their work in 2012.

Here’s the full StateImpact list:

  • StateImpact Florida’s “13th Grade” reports, a series on the remedial education crisis, won for investigative reporting in Region 13.
  • StateImpact Idaho’s Molly Messick won the best writing award in Region 1 for her piece on the diverging economic fates of loggers and ranchers in rural Idaho.
  • StateImpact Idaho won in the hard news reporting category in Region 1 for Emilie Ritter Saunders’ work on Idaho’s doctor shortage.
  • StateImpact Indiana’s “Progress Report” won in the news documentary category for Region 7.
  • StateImpact Pennsylvania won both of Region 11’s awards in investigative reporting for radio. That includes an award for Scott Detrow’s work on abandoned wells and Susan Phillips’ examination of a rule that requires doctors to keep quiet about what they know about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
  • StateImpact Pennsylvania also won in the news series category of Region 11 for several Scott Detrow stories related to the impact of Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom.
There were two other awards given to StateImpact station partners that our reporters had a hand in. In Idaho, Emilie and Molly contributed to KBSX’s award-winning 2012 election coverage. And in Texas (by matt – source), StateImpact reporters Mose Buchele and Terrence Henry contributed to KUT’s award-winning “Forged in Flames” project about the 2011 wildfires in Texas. 
Congrats to all these teams for much deserved recognition! According to RTDNA, there was a record number of submissions this year, so there was a lot of competition. All of our regional winners will be considered for a national Murrow award this summer. Good luck, gang!


Four Ways StateImpact Idaho’s Legislative Coverage Rocked

Becky Lettenberger / StateImpact

Emilie Ritter Saunders, Molly Messick and Sadie Babits of StateImpact Idaho.

Idaho’s legislature adjourned yesterday, giving Boise State Public Radio reporters Molly Messick and Emilie Ritter Saunders and news director Sadie Babits a chance to catch their breath. I’ve been really impressed with StateImpact Idaho’s legislative coverage this year. Here’s four reasons why:

Animated Explainer Adds Color to Gas Tax Debate

Three cheers for StateImpact New Hampshire’s Emily Corwin, who found a way to take conversations in the state legislatures about raising the gas tax to improve the state’s roads and found a way to make it interesting, engaging and even, dare I say, adorable. Emily collaborated with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sara Plourde, digital producer extraordinaire, to create this animated video:

How on earth did they do it, you ask?

Well… Emily wrote the script and added notes throughout, denoting what sorts of visuals she imagined might help illustrate each segment.  Sara then worked her magic and added her own style to Continue reading

StateImpact Network News: March 18 – 31

Around The Network

  • WLRN announced that reporter Sammy Mack is joining the StateImpact Florida team.
  • Logan Layden and Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma led a discussion of water issues March 20 at a community “On Tap” event sponsored by KOSU.
  • The Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy invited Susan Phillips of StateImpact Pennsylvania to talk about “emerging issues in shale gas development” as part of its webinar series on public policy.
  • Chris Satullo and members of the web team at WHYY presented a webinar to public media managers highlighting how their NewsWorks site is adapting its strategy to deal with the challenges of a “sideways world.”
  • Terrence Henry had a New York Times byline (print and web) thanks to KUT’s partnership with the Texas Tribune. The article on wastewater disposal wells credited StateImpact Texas.
  • The NPR team doesn’t physically move until April 12, but our mailing address is now officially 1111 North Capitol St. NE, Washington, DC 20002
  • Continue reading

StateImpact Florida Adds Sammy Mack To Reporting Team

Sammy Mack

Sammy Mack will report for StateImpact Florida from Miami.

Sammy Mack is joining StateImpact Florida as a Miami-based reporter. She’ll collaborate with Tampa-based reporter John O’Connor in continuing the project’s award-winning coverage of education in Florida.

Mack has worked in just about every position in the WLRN-Miami Herald newsroom. She’s been a producer on the shows Topical Currents, the Florida Roundup, Under the Sun, and the Morning Edition newscasts. Most recently, as special projects editor, she oversaw the editorial side of the re-launch. Continue reading