KQED beefs up news for radio, web audiences
San Francisco’s KQED has expanded its news operation — radio and online — adding eight to its staff and nearly $1 million to its annual spending, the station announced July 19. New output includes additional local newscasts on its FM schedule and an all-news website, kqednews.org, that integrates the station’s own coverage with news from NPR and PBS.
KQED’s newsroom began producing 10 additional radio newscasts per weekday, nearly doubling its previous output of 6. News Fix, blog of breaking news coverage, will debut in August, as well as a newscast devoted to regional and state business news, California Money, according to Jo Anne Wallace, radio v.p.
“This is just the beginning. It will change and evolve and grow as we acquire more resources and learn from the experience,” Wallace said.
The revved-up news operation will enlarge KQED's news and public affairs staff from 75 to 83, using $764,000 redirected from the its 2010 budget, which ends Sept. 30.
The station already spends more than $14 million annually on production, program acquisition and promotion of news, according to John Boland, president. “It’s a very smart investment and a way to take a lot of the work that’s already underway and make it much more impactful,” he said.
The station plans to pay the bills by selling underwriting for the newscasts and seeking more donor support. “I’ve made a personal commitment to fundraise for the news initiative with major donors,” Boland said. “It’s my impression that there’s a high degree of interest and support for this.”
Several journalists have joined the KQED team or will sign on soon. Julia McEvoy, a senior editor at Chicago’s WBEZ, begins directing the multimedia news service next month. Joshua Johnson, formerly with Miami’s WLRN and the Miami Herald, is already anchoring the newscasts. Also on board are Mina Kim, a general assignment reporter, and two multimedia producers — Amanda Stupi, an online producer and veteran of Youth Radio; and Lisa Pickoff-White, formerly with California Watch, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s multimedia statewide news service. “There’s lots of journalistic experience in this group,” Wallace said. Other hires, including the news blogger, are still pending.
The news expansion has been under discussion for well over a year and predates the dissolution of KQED’s planned partnership in the Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news startup formerly known as the Bay Area News Project, according to Wallace. The Citizen, funded by philanthropist and KQED Board member Warren Hellman, was to be a partnership including the station and UC Berkeley’s j-school, but it abruptly dropped KQED as a partner in January.
The experience of planning that project was still useful, however. “All the planning and thinking we did during that time really contributed to what we’re launching now,” Wallace said. “Some of the specifics are different, but it really helped us . . . sharply focus on what the need and interests are of our region,” she said.
Boland, a KQED veteran who was PBS’s chief content officer for nearly four years before he succeeded Jeff Clarke as president in March, promptly put the news expansion on a fast track. KQED inventoried its news and public affairs output and determined that, when combined with the web-based news streams available from NPR and PBS, “we already had a considerable wealth of content and resources,” Wallace said. “He really helped formalize a vision for this and encouraged us to think about starting almost immediately.”
Boland’s push to “make the whole greater than the sum of its parts,” as he describes it, works in part because of new branding, he said. “KQED Radio News” was replaced with “KQED News.” “We created a single brand that includes all platforms — TV, radio and online and created KQEDnews.org within KQED.org,” he said. “This is the place that is providing the public an integrated, coordinated package of local, national, and international news and public affairs coverage with commentary.”
Boland also revived partnership talks with the Bay Citizen, which launched its news service in May, and a meeting of the editorial teams is imminent. KQED already works with a wide variety of news organizations, such as the Center for Investigative Reporting, Youth Radio and regional newspapers. “Most of these partnerships are not financial — it’s really just an exchange of value,” Boland said. He’s aiming for a relationship that brings the Bay Citizen’s reporting to the attention and notice of KQED’s sizable audience.
“They’re a nonprofit noncommercial public service organization and we want to be noncompetitive and complimentary,” Boland said.
Web page posted Aug. 3, 2010
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