Saying goodbye to an NCME colleague — Ann Alquist

April 30, 2013 by Amir Zaman under NCME staff, Public Radio

by Charles Meyer, Executive Director, NCME


When a colleague leaves to pursue a new opportunity, it is a bittersweet occasion.  Sweet, because we cheer for the colleague and her future.  And bitter because we’ll miss the colleague’s valued insight.

Ann Alquist, Director of Radio Engagement, leaves NCME today to pursue new opportunities at Alaska Public Media. It is a great opportunity for Ann, and she is excited about contributing to another great organization.  We are delighted for her.  At the same time, we’ll miss her genuine love of public radio, and the deep knowledge and passion she brought to her work.

Over the last few years, Ann has been an instrumental part of NCME’s success helping public radio embrace the culture and habits for engaging communities effectively. She has tirelessly advised scores of stations across the country, helping them redefine staff roles and how they work inside and outside the station.  She constantly championed station work and progress, and fiercely advocated for practical ideas and tools that would help real people at real stations accomplish something meaningful today.

Along the way, Ann has been a dependable colleague with a sharp and wry sense of humor that we will miss. Ann is a great asset to public media and we look forward to seeing her contributions at Alaska Public Media.

Ann — Thank you for the knowledge, insights, and inspiration you brought to NCME, and to public media. We wish you the best in all you do. — The NCME Team

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The Kitchen Sisters Reveal the Power of Collaborative Production Via Localore’s The Making Of…

By AIR Media Strategist Jessica Clark

Kitchen Sisters hats“Some people are hat people,” Olivia Rose Griffin told Lauren Benichou, who reported on her 100-year-old hat shop for Localore project The Making Of…

It’s because they’ve been doing it a long time. And then there are some people who are like ‘oh, I don’t look good in any hat.’ They just have to practice. They’ve just got to throw hats on and get comfortable.”

For many public stations, collaborative production might feel similarly awkward. But award-winning producing duo Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva—known jointly as The Kitchen Sisters—have honed the practice to a fine craft. Over the past year, they’ve headed up The Making Of… at Bay area station KQED, mastering a series of increasingly ambitious collaborations—with the public, storytelling innovators, and local organizations. Their work offers models for stations seeking to update their style.

Cooperation at the Core

KitchenSisters nikki & davia“So much of the impulse to collaborate with an array of people and organizations comes from the fact that Nikki and I work collaboratively,” says Nelson.

Together, they’ve produced more than 300 stories for public broadcast, including a string of award-winning NPR series: Hidden Kitchens, Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project and The Hidden World of Girls. Nelson attributes their approach to previous work in team-focused environments— Silva’s in museums with a strong community focus and her own in filmmaking, where she says working with crews is “like being with an orchestra and bringing everyone to the highest level of their craft.”

Collaboration is also intrinsic to the design of AIR’s distributed Localore production, a 10-station public media innovation initiative with primary funding from CPB. In a unique three-way arrangement, each project is jointly produced by the lead producer, a public station, and AIR. Localore producers lead multidisciplinary teams that include designers, developers, reporters and station staff. In addition, AIR has encouraged these teams to work in tandem with audience members to document their lives and communities, in the process expanding the station’s reach into untapped corners.

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.11.44 AMFor the Kitchen Sisters, that meant reframing audience members as fellow makers, and inviting them to share their stories online and via a call-in line. Over the last several months, they have gathered more than 200 such stories. From this pool, they produce broadcasts, videos, and multimedia explorations on topics including the making of bespoke prosthetics, a jar of jam, data sculptures, a senior dog rescue service and others—some quite abstract and profound.



Tapping Fellow Innovators

To help explore Bay area creativity in all of its variegated glory, they’ve also worked with others who are forging new storytelling forms.

SoundCloud event

In January, the Kitchen Sisters co-produced a packed event at the offices of social audio platform SoundCloud to launch The Making Of…Studio with Zeega and KQED. An interactive storytelling team led by Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler and James Burns, Zeega has co-produced several of the Localore projects. They’re building an open platform that allows to users help “remake the internet” by creating immersive productions drawn from audio, video and images in the cloud. The Making Of… site invites participants to make their own “strange, beautiful experience,” and share it with others in the community.

In another experiment, the Kitchen Sisters partnered with reporter Charla Bear, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and digital storytelling platform Cowbird to tell the story of Ignacio Gonzales. Better known as “Notch,” he builds hot rods in his shop, Top Notch Kustoms, plus tiki bars on the side. He explains that his craft is “all about the stance and the style.”

Joining Forces With Cultural Hubs

Along the way, the Kitchen Sisters have shared The Making Of… stories at a series of events—including a feature slot in a sold-out Pop-Up Magazine live event last April, and a stint as hosts at the Third Coast Competition awards.

But all of this has just been been a warmup for what looks to be their biggest collaboration yet: a two-day celebration to mark the closing of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a three-year expansion process. On May 30-31, The Making Of…@ SFMOMA will attract an estimated 12,000 people a day to a pop-up-style event featuring local makers of all stripes.

Magical Cinema Snowglobe from JD Beltran on Vimeo.

Artists who have been featured in the series will be on hand to demo their inventions, such as Evan Holm, whose Submerged Turntable simultaneously celebrates human culture and mourns its eventual loss, or JD Beltran and Scott Minneman, whose Cinema Snowglobe marries digital video technology with nostalgic tourist tchotchkes. SFMOMA architects and designers will also reveal the story of The Making Of…a Museum.

A smorgasbord of locally produced delicacies will be available—from underground Korean restaurant FuseBOX, karaoke ice cream truck TreatBot, cheesemakers Cowgirl Creamery, heirloom jam-maker The Still-Room, and others—and creators will share culinary origin stories. In addition, KQED and the Kitchen Sisters will invite locals to submit videos about what they are making for the chance to demo their productions at the event in a series of hour-long sessions.

Nelson says that co-producing this event with SFMOMA “is like coming full circle,” after many years of making “cinematic audio” that aims to tell stories visually. “We were always gathering 3D materials,” she says—a topic the pair wrote about for Transom. Now, they are able to bring The Making Of… to life in a way that celebrates, as so many of their stories do, “people who are possessed, with a passion, with a mission—people who are building something new.”

Want to learn about how other Localore producers are connecting with publics and community partners in fresh and surprising ways? Catch up on the monthly series featured on the NCME blog, and join us for a webinar on April 10th at 2:00 EST for Go Outside: New Visions For Community Engagement from AIR’s Localore. 

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WDET Evolves its Engagement

March 11, 2013 by radioanngal under Audience Engagement, Content, Impact, Public Media System, Public Radio

by Ann Alquist, Director of Radio Engagement

My professional heart was born in local news. I know most hungry producers and reporters want to get on the national shows, but I have always loved the process that’s necessary for local news. Drilling into our cities’ and towns’ issues can be the most gratifying work and with a sense of almost immediate impact. Most importantly, it feeds our sense of mission to get our communities – warts and all – reflected on the air.

I see this mindset on steroids at WDET in Detroit. They’ve partnered with local organizations to catch trucks illegally driving through Mexicantown in the southwest part of the city. They’ve convened off-mic conversations that have diversified the station’s news sourcing and audience. Now the station has taken a page from public television’s community engagement playbook: take advantage of an existing national conversation on a controversial topic and leverage a well-known, well-respected national radio program to spark a discussion locally.

This American Life, hosted by the iconic Ira Glass, touches millions of Americans with riveting stories that speak to the universal human condition. Sadly, experiencing gun violence appears to be increasingly a universal human condition – which TAL decided to tackle in two parts with a profile of the effect of gun violence at Harper High School on Chicago’s south side. WDET broke format, airing the episodes in its weekday schedule as well as its regularly scheduled weekend time. The station also interviewed the TAL producer on its flagship public affairs program The Craig Fahle Show to facilitate a local conversation about gun violence and youth in Detroit.

On its face, what WDET did isn’t all that revolutionary. But the station broke some taboos: interrupted regular programming by airing a national show multiple times outside of its time slot. That doesn’t come intuitively to public radio – because we are so fiercely local in our news production! Every hour that goes to a national show could be an hour to cover our communities, to convene critical conversations. But it’s a reminder every once in a while to take advantage of compelling national content that speaks to our communities as well. We’ll always bring our fierce localism to public radio and as WDET has shown us, it’s possible to connect the two to create a meaningful dialogue about tough topics.

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Mapping Sounds in the Live Music Capital of the World

Producer Delaney Hall celebrates this weekend’s public launch of the Austin Music Map with KUT team members Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon and Haley Howle.

“You’re reanimating people with this stuff!” exclaims musician Jon Dee Graham, the self-dubbed Mayor of South Austin. He is leading Delaney Hall—the producer of Localore project Austin Music Map (AMM)—through the retrofitted formal dining room of a ranch house, crammed with enough equipment for a mad scientist’s lab.

Tucked away in suburban Travis Heights, Hall reports, Top Hat Recording is one of Graham’s favorite secret neighborhood spots. AMM’s mission is to reveal such out-of-the-way venues, and document them in collaboration with the musicians and fans that frequent them.

Since the spring, Hall has been building multilayered profiles of spaces and performers with her team at KUT. This past weekend, they threw a party to introduce the project to the community, including live performances, a photo booth, storytelling stations, and a preview of AMM’s immersive website. Click here to read more.. »

Don’t let this chart scare you.

October 22, 2012 by kksparks under New Media, Online Engagement, Public Radio

This slide from Nova Spivack’s NCME presentation (coming up this Wednesday) may be a bit daunting. After all, it suggests that online engagement will be even harder to come by in the future as message quantity increases and attention spans diminish.

But never fear, there are ways organizations can cope with message overload and decipher the torrent of information for invaluable data and insights.

If you’d like to hear more, join us Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. ET for an Expert Speak presentation with entrepreneur and Bottlenose CEO Nova Spivack.

Visit our site to register or see more details.

WQED Gets its Game On:
A Q&A with Jen Stancil

October 18, 2012 by kksparks under Education, Engagement Trends, New Media, Public Radio, Television

Middle school students at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center stand in awe of a realistic Star Wars exhibit. Photo Credit: Devon Tutak

Everyone’s talking about gaming. From alternate reality to educational games, online games that seek to engage, educate, raise money or just plain entertain are popping up everywhere.

Public media station WQED is taking a unique twist on the gaming trend with its Game On! Institute, designed to show students that creating games can lead to successful careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

We recently spoke with Jen Stancil, WQED’s Executive Director of Education Partnerships, about the station’s work with gaming. Jen talks about how WQED leveraged partnerships and game mechanics to score big. Click here to read more.. »

How Libraries Help Hear Here Surface Stories Beyond the Headlines

October 17, 2012 by kksparks under Community Engagement news, Engagement Trends, Public Radio

by Jessica Clark, AIR media strategist

When Oakland library assistant Anthony Propernick introduced the Hear Here team to 5th-grader Lita Hernandez, an aspiring chef and pharmacist, he knew she’d have something interesting to say. But what he couldn’t predict was how sharing Lita’s story with listeners would connect her with a surprising new mentor.

Based at KALW, Hear Here is one of the 10 CPB-funded Localore projects across the country building public stations’ capacity to experiment with emerging storytelling approaches that engage a broader range of community members. Lita’s story – and the response it generated – was just one of many surprises the Hear Here team has discovered along the way.

Click here to read more.. »

3 Tips for Conjuring “Free Magic” from WBEZ’s Localore Project Curious City

September 18, 2012 by kksparks under Creative Practices, Engagement Trends, Journalism, Public Radio

 by Jessica Clark, AIR media strategist

While idling bumper-to-bumper on Chicago’s highways, WBEZ listener Mike Cunningham wondered: “What are the rules around the reversible lanes on the Kennedy Expressway? Has the idea worked?”

For an answer, he turned to Curious City, one of the ten Localore projects across the country designed to help stations invent ways to involve a broader swath of the public. Led by producer Jennifer Brandel, the project encourages Chicagoland community members to submit questions to WBEZ through an interactive site built by tech partner Zeega, to vote for their favorite questions, and then to follow along with WBEZ reporters as they head out seeking answers. Curious City gives a voice to what listeners like Cunningham are wondering about Chicago, and gives the station a better way to take the community’s pulse. Click here to read more.. »

Want to partner with a museum?
Start the conversation here.

September 12, 2012 by kksparks under Public Media System, Public Radio

NCME’s Jess Main follows up on her post Public Media Goes to the Museum with some insights and tips on how to kick off your partnership with a museum. 

“I’d like to partner with a local museum, but every time I get close to picking up the phone I don’t call, because I think, ‘Oh, they’re not going to want to partner with my organization.’”

Click here to read more.. »

My “aha!” moment

September 12, 2012 by kksparks under Journalism, Public Media System, Public Radio


by Ann Alquist, NCME’s director of radio engagement


This week at the Public Radio Program Directors conference, all of us will share how we are building audiences, providing greater service through our content…and engaging our communities.

Community engagement has become a buzzword over the last few years. It’s not easy to define because everyone has their own idea about engagement. More often than not, people explain it by saying: “I know it when I see it.”

Or felt it. I had my “aha!” moment working at a community station in Minneapolis. When you have few resources and aren’t first in the market, every day can feel like a constant grind just to be noticed. Like any news producer, I was focused on content. I had classical news training. I knew the tenets. But something was missing. I didn’t realize what it was until something awful happened. Click here to read more.. »