WLRN strives to design a model of innovation to serve South Florida

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September 26, 2014 by Mabel Domenech

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Mabel Domenech is the foundation and corporate relations associate at Friends of WLRN. Knight Foundation supports WLRN Public Media to advance excellence in journalism and promote sustainability.

Journalism is a valuable method of inquiry. As a public service for the dissemination and analysis of information, it fulfills a crucial role in our society. The news media is the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs. Access to free information plays a central role in creating a system of checks and balances in distributing power equally among governments, businesses, individuals and other social entities. Access to verifiable information gathered by independent media sources is a service to ordinary citizens, empowering them with the tools they need to participate fully in their political, economic and cultural communities.

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"WLRN Public Radio and Television to bring more media innovation into its newsroom and improve news services with $200,000 from Knight Foundation" - Press release

As passionate stewards of journalism’s crucial role, WLRN is deeply dedicated to making things better. The support of Knight Foundation will enable us to improve our news content and delivery with solutions focused on the wants, needs and desires of our audience.

Our goal is to make WLRN the round-the-clock source of news and information about and of interest to South Florida. We want to be there – on every communications platform – available to listeners when and where they want to interact. More than a broadcaster or even a multimedia network, we intend to become the primary communications utility that enables the two-way transmission of news, culture, phi­losophy, concerns, beliefs and values, and aspirations from South Floridians to South Floridians. We see a promising future for our enterprise, one filled with big ideas about the leadership role WLRN can play in South Florida’s and the nation’s media evolution.

Early on, the senior management here recognized the changing media landscape and acknowledged the need to innovate the newsroom. Our partnership with the Miami Herald—which began over 10 years ago—positioned our reporters to be two to four times more productive than the average station reporter by giving us access to journalistic resources of the Miami Herald and maintain a positive revenue stream during the economic recession. Today, WLRN Public Media remains the nation’s only public radio news enterprise embedded in a major metropolitan daily newspaper newsroom. In addition, our recent partnership with NPR Digital Services has developed a long-term business model that reaches a more diverse audience and builds a more sustainable future.

These and other successes contribute to WLRN'’s history of receiving regional and national awards for journalistic and investigative reporting. In 2013, WLRN Public Radio and Television received three national Edward R. Murrow awards for feature reporting, sound and investigative reporting - which we shared with The State Integrity Investigation.

WLRN’s senior team sought out new and different resources to help WLRN reach new heights. The search for strategic teammates led to a complementary pair of world-class innovation companies based in Pittsburgh, Pa. Specifically, an educational company named LUMA Institute and a design consultancy named MAYA Design.

In the process of vetting LUMA+MAYA, we came to realize that the disciplined practice of human-centered design could assist in everything from employee engagement to innovative solutions for content and delivery systems. The cathartic moment occurred when we went to Pittsburgh for LUMA’ s “System of Innovating for People” and recognized thiswould not only provide for a paradigmatic shift in the news department but also provide a cultural / DNA shift within the institution when all the assessments were used and applied to the TV, underwriting, membership and marketing departments here.

We believe WLRN must be active in its communities in outreach events that engage the audience, must cover stories that help South Floridians gain a better “sense of place” of where they live and work, and must innovate its small number of content verticals for in-depth coverage. In doing so, WLRN’ s strategic aims align with and support the larger Knight interests in advancing media innovation and promoting informed and engaged communities.

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