The following post is from Jessica Clark, who is the media strategist for the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), which produced the Localore competition.

From Fargo to Austin, and Boston to the Bay Area, 10 public stations across the country are now poised to ramp up their innovation capacity. They’ll be incubating projects led by winners of the Localore competition — announced today — who include independent and station-based producers, distinguished documentary filmmakers, gamers, data journalists, and front-edge developers.

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Localore, produced by the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), is a $2 million project that tasks independent producers with leading collaborative teams to invent new forms of reporting and storytelling. Localore’s mantra is “go outside” — their productions will reach beyond public media’s core platforms and traditional audiences. More than $1 million comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support the lead producers in developing 9-12 month projects with the stations, with additional funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Wyncote Foundation.

Localore is the second in a series of projects spearheaded by AIR that tap producers to reinvent public media, building on the legacy of the successful Makers Quest 2.0 project (MQ2). This time around, makers weren’t the only ones submitting their big ideas. Stations were also invited to strut their stuff, on the Station Runway, where 61 of them posted short, evocative audio and video profiles to entice producers to collaborate with them.

The result was an unexpectedly moving portrait of a diverse industry seeking new talent and strategies to engage a broader public. Sparking broad interest, Localore.net has drawn in nearly 7,500 unique visitors since its launch in mid-September.

the winners

Working with a Selection Committee, AIR matched promising producers with stations and then made the final selections:

  • Jennifer BrandelWBEZ, Chicago: Curious City: Let’s Get Answers will prompt audience members to pose, rank and help to answer relevant questions about community and news topics through online and mobile tools. Designed to democratize editorial research and story selection, the project will make the reporting process transparent at every step, and surface key issues for further exploration.
  • Anayansi Diaz-CortesKCRW, Los Angeles: How do immigrants’ ideas of self and place shift in an era of always-on communication? Multiplatform documentary Sonic Trace will explore the relationship of Latin American immigrants to their home communities. Diaz-Cortes will gather stories from both sides of the border, with a focus on three evocative places: “Tres Puntos” in L.A., Koreatown kitchens where Oaxacan cooks are rising in popularity, and a mobile recording booth in local food trucks.
  • Julia DrapkinKVNF, Paonia, Colo.: iSeeChange is a crowdsourced reporting project that will draw from participants’ everyday observations about shifts in the weather. Inspired by successful “citizen science” projects, Drapkin will elicit photos, quotes and art submitted by local ranchers, coal miners, and others vitally affected by environmental shifts — showcasing debates about climate through a mobile documentary unit, weekly broadcasts, and multimedia explorations of each season.
  • Ken Eklund — Twin Cites Public Television, Minneapolis: What should today’s high school seniors know before they head out on their own? This question will drive Get Real Ed, a participatory alternate reality game that asks users to provide real-world solutions for the nation’s pressing dropout crisis. The game will revolve around five fictional “OpOuts” led by the strong-willed Edwina, whose interactions with participants will both shape the game’s trajectory and prompt lively dialogue about the state of U.S. education.
  • Delaney HallKUT, Austin, Texas: Beyond Austin’s much-documented music scene lie the “third places” where musicians regularly meet, perform and commune: front porches, backyards, garages, sidewalks and churches. Austin Music Map (AMM) is a collaborative documentary and performance series exploring Austin’s diverse sonic subcultures, and offering users a digital map to discover and learn more about such spots. The project will culminate with a celebratory music festival.
  • Todd Melby — Prairie Public Broadcasting, Fargo, N.D.: Through embedded reporting from the oil patches and “mancamps” of North Dakota, Black Gold Boom will catalyze discussion about the local and national impacts of the region’s rush to drill. An interactive site featuring multimedia portraits of workers who have streamed to the state and the families they left behind will accompany a related photo exhibit mounted in local businesses. Data-driven reporting and mapping of active oil wells will provide deeper context for individuals’ stories.
  • Erica MuKALW, San Francisco: A roving crowdsourced storytelling project based in the Bay Area and Oakland, Pop-Up Radio aims to build connections between these disparate communities through a series of playful events and broadcasts. Mu will gather stories in 2-month cycles around six themes — via a mobile recording booth, online, and in concert with community partners such as schools, youth media programs, libraries and barbershops.
  • Julia Reichert and Steven BognarWYSO, Yellow Springs, Ohio: These veteran documentary filmmakers and Dayton residents will produce a participatory documentary, examining how residents of Dayton — one of America’s “fastest dying cities” — are reinventing themselves in a new and unstable economy. Producers will ask residents: “Who was I before the bottom fell out? What happened that changed my life? Who am I becoming, or trying to become now?”
  • Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson (the Kitchen Sisters) — KQED Radio and Television, San Francisco: Northern California is America’s ground zero for innovation. Two of public media’s most influential native institutions join forces to bring together a young, diverse collaborative team from inside and outside public media to bridge dynamic communities of invention in new ways. They’ll tap the worlds of interactive media, Berkeley School of Information, transmedia documentarians, and young ethnic producers to create THE MAKING OF … an exciting, yearlong initiative reflecting the universality of craft across culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic divides.
  • Val WangWGBH, Boston: Planet Takeout highlights the role that Chinese restaurants play as vital crossroads between cultures in neighborhoods in Boston and beyond. This participatory, multiplatform documentary project aims to break down barriers between the Chinese immigrants running these hyperlocal establishments, and the diverse customers they serve, through mobile storytelling, face-to-face dialogues, and an interactive site documenting the restaurants’ eclectic visual flavor.

A New Breed

These producers represent a “new breed,” observes Localore Executive Editor Noland Walker, “one that can perhaps best be described as a ‘skilled adaptor.’” They are willing to make sacrifices: to move away from their homes, and to bring together and lead a team of collaborators in a new way to make something that will benefit the station and local community.

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Noland Walker

Mounting this competition was just the first step — now that the winners have been announced, the real work of reinvention begins. Producers will begin launching the projects in March, and we’ll be tracking their progress on AIR’s blog, across Twitter via the #Localore tag, and on Facebook.

Watch this space — once things get rolling I’ll be back with an update.

Jessica Clark is AIR’s Media Strategist, and an internationally recognized reporter and expert on the transformation of public interest journalism. She writes regularly about public media innovation and policy for MediaShift.