CPB, NPR partner with public media stations to launch Gulf States Newsroom, with hub at WBHM in Birmingham

Alabama’s WBHM will lead the collaboration with Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Louisiana’s WWNO and WRKF public radio stations.

WBHMJoomlaLeaders from NPR and five stations in the new Gulf States newsroom met at WBHM in Birmingham, Ala., in January to discuss metrics, regional reporting beats and the business agreement.  Front row, from left: Chuck Holmes, WBHM; Bruce Auster, NPR; Teresa Collier, MPB; Elizabeth Brock, APR; Pat Duggins, APR; Kathy Goldgeier, NPR; Gigi Douban, WBHM; Dianne Brace, NPR. Back row: Russell Lewis, NPR; Paul Maassen, WWNO; Will Dahlberg, WBHM; Chris Turpin, NPR; Patrick Madden, WWNO; Ronnie Agnew, MPB; Kyle Gassiott, WTSU.Public media stations WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama, Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, Mississippi, and WWNO in New Orleans and WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have joined together to launch the Gulf States Newsroom. 

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NPR, this innovative collaboration will increase coverage of news events in a region at the intersection of many of today’s most pressing issues, according to the news release distributed by CPB and NPR. 

Working together as the Gulf States Newsroom, the stations will be better able to coordinate and expand their local and regional reporting, as well as provide content to national broadcast news programs and digital platforms.

CPB is providing a 44-month grant totaling $1,276,299 to launch the effort. With support from NPR, the grant will enable the creation of six new beat reporting positions and two editing positions dedicated to regional coverage to be based in each state. In addition, the Gulf States Newsroom will hire a full-time managing editor, based at WBHM in Birmingham, who will direct news coverage and content collaboration among the regional partners and national news outlets.

“CPB believes in the power of local journalism to support a vibrant civil society,” said Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president for Radio and Journalism. “Collaboration is a force multiplier in providing high-quality local journalism. Working with each other and NPR, these stations will offer greater breadth and depth in their news coverage to serve the people of the Gulf region.” 

“We are excited to work with stations in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to bridge the widening local news gaps and increase the power of our regional newsroom collaborations,” said Nancy Barnes, NPR’s senior vice president for News. “We need strong editors and reporters covering local news across the country so we can better serve the public, both locally and nationally, and tell the full story of what is transpiring in all corners of America.” 

The Gulf States Newsroom joins statewide newsrooms in Texas and California that received early support from CPB and have been expanded to serve as regional hubs for NPR. The Gulf States Newsroom marks the first time the organizations have collaborated to fund and launch a regional newsroom, part of a larger commitment by CPB, NPR and NPR member stations to enhance local reporting capacity and coverage of issues close to home for many Americans. The collaborative work comes at a time when local commercial news outlets are quickly disappearing and many people across the nation are losing access to — and connection with — the news events of their communities and states. With the addition of Gulf States Newsroom, CPB has invested more than $37 million in 36 public media collaborations since 2009.  

“Our region, sadly, has been dubbed a ‘news desert,’” said Chuck Holmes, executive director and general manager of WBHM in Birmingham. “The Gulf states need more journalism, and this collaborative effort gives us much-needed resources and the means to coordinate and leverage our coverage. WBHM is proud to play the lead role with our partners to extend and expand our newsrooms and enhance our ability to produce impactful news reporting and storytelling.”

“At a time when we are seeing a precipitous decline in quality journalism and investigative reporting, this collaboration will go a long way toward filling that void,” said Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting. “I’m very excited that we will work collaboratively with our friends in Louisiana and Alabama. The high-level journalism we will produce will emphasize the importance of civic engagement and citizen enlightenment.” 

“Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama rank at or near the bottom among states on many measures of health, education, environmental quality and social justice,” said Paul Maassen, general manager of WWNO New Orleans Public Radio and WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “The Gulf States Regional Newsroom aims to help local public radio stations to fill the gap left by legacy media and build a better-informed populace on issues that matter across the region.”