U.S. attention to the rest of the world runs in cycles: When we’re at war or global tensions run hot, naturally our ears are alerted to foreign news and we check global maps to see if Pakistan is East or West of Afghanistan. (The answer is East.)

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In an election year or after a protracted overseas engagements, American interest swings the other way: Jobs, not Jihad grab attention; bailouts, not Bosnia end up on the front page.

No wonder that New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently lamented on Reddit:

“…For a decade or so after 9/11, the U.S. was quite interested in the world, an aberration in our history of insularity. Now I think we’re reverting the more normal situation where we’re quite inward looking.”

What can we do to keep audiences engaged?

Open call for new voices

The Public Radio Exchange, PRX.org, is opening the door wide to new voices and styles of non-U.S. storytelling with the Global Story Project. It’s a competitive open call for audio storytelling proposals from anyone: fresh reporting, reworking of archival or classic works, new approaches to production and, most importantly, a chance for new voices to be heard.

Certainly the style of the public radio show “The World” has moments of real spark. The soon-departing “The State We’re In“ broke new ground with genuine human moments. And NPR’s overseas reporting and Andy Carvin’s Twitter curating have set new “you-are-there” standards.

The goal of the Global Story Project is not to dive into the latest big story. We want to see if we can better explain the rest of the world to U.S. listeners through story and storytellers. Reportage would work. But so would audio journals, found audio, and historical audio in a new context.

PRX has less than $50,000 to offer up. But our experience says the money can go very far. It’s an experimental effort made possible by the Open Society Foundations. (Here are the criteria and how to apply.)

The Global Story Project is a chance to take some of what PRX has learned by building on the success of previous open story call-outs. (One of them resulted in the development of “The Moth Radio Hour.”)

The deadline is short: We need all proposals by October 15. And we really want the productions done by the end of the year. How many productions can we do? What will be the funding per program? That depends on the quality of the pitch and the guidance of evaluators inside and outside PRX.

We’re excited to get started. Join us and make a pitch! Questions? Contact us at prxhelp(at)prx(dot)org.

John Barth is the managing director of the Public Radio Exchange (PRX.org), an online distributor and archive of radio programs and audio that serves public radio networks, stations, producers, podcasts, satellite radio and commercial digital companies. He was the founding producer of the public radio business program Marketplace, went from there to run all of AOL’s news operations and business, and then was in charge of original content for the premium spoken-word site, Audible.com. He was the editorial director of the 2003 Public Radio Collaboration project Whose Democracy Is It? and forged collaborations with NPR, the BBC, Microsoft, PBS and Alibris.com. John has been a reporter, producer and news director at public radio stations in Missouri, Minnesota and Philadelphia. His radio work has been heard on NPR’s various programs. He was an adjunct at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and serves on its advisory council. He has also been a judge for the Third Coast Audio Festival, served on the board of the Public Radio Program Directors, and has advised many funding evaluation panels for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. John has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia (1979) and a B.A. in political science from the University of Delaware (1976). He lives in St. Louis.

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