• Lab
  • AndroidForMobile Foundation at
    HOME
              
    LATEST STORY
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
    Feb. 22, 2012, 2 p.m.
    Sunrise over Miami's Biscayne Bay

    A partnership too valuable to give up: Why The Miami Herald and WLRN are sticking together

    The radio station is moving with the newspaper out of downtown offices because it believes partnerships will play a big role in public radio’s future.

    View of the sunrise over Biscayne Bay from the Herald's newsroom

    Last summer,  to a Malaysian casino developer for $236 million, sending two news organizations looking for new homes. The Miami Herald had occupied the space since 1963, and for the past eight years, WLRN Radio had reporters, scoops, and a newsroom with the Herald. (Full disclosure: I’m a former WLRN employee.)

    So with the Herald moving into a former military complex 10 miles west, in the neighboring city of Doral, WLRN’s news operation had a choice to make. WLRN’s non-news operations already occupy a separate building in downtown Miami, so the radio news team could have just moved there. Instead, WLRN will follow the Herald west and build new radio studios together.

    “Parting ways was never really on the table,” said , managing editor at the Herald. “Someone is going to break something big and you have print, radio, online, and video right in the middle of it.” With other collaboration models in the works — for instance, the Knight-funded plan in Macon, Georgia, to put a j-school, a public radio station, and a newspaper all under one roof — it’s worth looking at how the WLRN-Herald collaboration works.

    Sharing both ways

    Last year, WLRN and the Herald collaborated on , an investigation into deplorable practices at assisted-living facilities. One radio reporter and three print reporters were assigned to the investigation, and the team produced a series of print and stories.

    Print and radio reporters collaborate on daily coverage, as well. Print reporters often duck into the radio studios to give updates on breaking stories. Radio reporters and on the Herald’s website.

    WLRN and the Herald sometimes borrow reporters from one another. For example, runs the Herald’s video studio and produces a on business and personal finance. WLRN provides Edirol audio recorders and audio training to Herald reporters. Veteran print reporters sometimes produce sound-rich features to compliment their published work. Herald reporters often gather raw audio in their reporting process, and WLRN hosts and producers weave these sound bites into their newscasts. The radio department will be fully integrated into the Herald’s new building; the ‘WLRN-Miami Herald News’ co-branding for all radio news content will remain in place.

    Managers at the Herald and WLRN wouldn’t discuss the cost of building the new studios. WLRN general manager said the model would likely follow the existing arrangement: The Herald covers the cost of construction and WLRN provides the radio equipment (microphones, mixing boards, some of the studio’s audio-editing software). WLRN employs the radio staff; the Herald employs the print reporters. WLRN also plans to create a shared workspace for Herald and WLRN reporters in its downtown Miami offices.

    Building capacity to weather disruption

    As the Herald’s staff has shrunk through layoffs and attrition, WLRN’s news staff and budget have grown. Radio news director Dan Grech attributes this growth in part to WLRN’s investment in reporting partnerships. The station has secured two grant-funded positions — a reporter for , funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Local Journalism Centers, and a reporter for , the NPR effort formerly known as the Impact of Government project. WLRN has hosted one and is preparing to welcome a second in the coming months.

    Grech says the multipronged investment in reporting partnerships is a proactive move. A former Herald print reporter himself, Grech says he feels an urgent need to get ahead of the impending assault to terrestrial radio from the Internet in .

    Grech said he believes the end of the antenna age could massively disrupt public radio’s business model, and he thinks WLRN’s partnership with the Herald gives radio a stronger hand to play in terms of brand equity and sheer reporting horsepower. For example, WLRN placed an experienced radio reporter in the for 20 hours a week. During her first month on the job, Grech says the reporter produced about 30 stories. He credits her productivity in part to her working closely with the Herald’s seasoned political reporters.

    “I estimate my reporters are two to four times more productive because we work with Herald reporters,” said Grech. “Disruptive technology has not hit radio yet, but I believe it’s coming. We need to build up capacity now while times are good.”

    POSTED     Feb. 22, 2012, 2 p.m.
    SHARE THIS STORY
       
    Show comments  
    Show tags
     
    Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
    Bad news from Mashable, BuzzFeed, and Vice shows times are rough for ad-supported digital media
    The rapid growth of Google and Facebook continues to take its toll on digital media companies.
    Asking members to support its journalism (no prizes, no swag), The Guardian raises more reader revenue than ad dollars
    The Guardian revamped its ask and its membership offerings — moving from 12,000 members in the beginning of 2016 to 300,000 today.
    Beating the 404 death knell: Singapore news startups struggle to cover costs and find their footing
    Political news reporting doesn’t seem to be holding up well as a business in the city-state. And it’s even harder when you’re seen as “alternative” media.