Public Media Journalism

Public media represents the largest, non-profit news system in the U.S, with more than 4,300 journalists based at local stations. This mission to provide high-quality, innovative, fact-based journalism has never been more closely aligned with America’s need for news and information. The sharp decline in the number of local newspapers, the loss of nearly one-quarter of all newsroom employees over the last 10 years, and the growing reliance on revenue-driven social media platforms as news providers makes public media journalism an increasingly critical source of trusted news.

As steward of the federal appropriation for public media, CPB supports multimedia journalism that is fair, accurate, balanced, objective, and transparent, and created in a manner consistent with local stations’ and producers’ editorial independence. Over the past 15 years, CPB has helped sustain this ecosystem by investing a total of more than $150 million in discretionary funds to journalism. This is in addition to the money directly allocated to stations on an annual basis.

By leveraging this critical public support and the trust that stations have built in their communities over decades, public media newsrooms have grown at a time when traditional newspapers have crumbled. While some positions have been eliminated due to the coronavirus pandemic, other stations have added reporting capacity during this national emergency. The growing reach and impact of public media journalism has been aided, in part, by station investments in strategic partnerships and mergers – scalable solutions – that have allowed them to better serve the local information needs of a strong, civil society.

In addition to supporting more than 1,500 public media stations across the country, CPB seeks to increase the capacity of public media to create diverse and engaging journalism by supporting public media collaborations, such as America Amplified, a public media network producing innovative journalism from community engagement efforts, and national news organizations including PBS NewsHour, and FRONTLINE, which is developing investigative journalism projects with local news organizations through the Local Journalism Project; as well as NPR.

Through years of strategic focus on digital innovation, diversity, and dialogue, CPB has cultivated a network of local and regional public media news organizations that, in partnership with national producers, strengthens public media’s role as a trusted and relevant news source.

Public media stations in the U.S. are locally managed and operated. CPB supports capacity-building by funding station collaborations that add editorial staff, encourage pooled coverage and other efficiencies, and support enterprise reporting.

Journalism Collaborations

Since 2009, CPB has invested more than $42 million to help launch 41 local and regional news collaborations. These innovative partnerships connect 150 public media stations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. The objective is to fill the void in local “news deserts” left by newspaper and other commercial media cutbacks in communities across the country.

These collaborations have fostered a vibrant multimedia network of high-quality local and regional journalism with national reach. The Ohio Valley ReSource and Side Effects Public Media, for example, have provided multi-faceted coverage of the opioid crisis in Appalachia and across the Midwest. Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR in Kansas City, has brought coverage of agricultural issues to national audiences. And the CPB-funded America Amplified combined community engagement and collaboration to produce innovative, locally based reporting with national appeal on the coronavirus pandemic, racism and the 2020 election.

Map CPB has supported public media journalism collaborations since 2009 to add editorial staff, encourage pooled coverage and other efficiencies, and support enterprise reporting. They have helped develop a collaborative culture to strengthen local journalism across the public media system.

Integrity and Leadership

CPB recently funded the Editorial Integrity and Leadership Project, which provided training to 100 public media newsroom leaders in editorial integrity, utilizing active learning strategies to reinforce public media’s unique firewall, statutory obligation to balance, objectivity, accuracy, fairness and transparency. CPB also provides financial support for the Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations, a station-led effort to renew core principles of editorial integrity amid evolving roles and expectations, new technologies and platforms, and shifting notions of accountability and transparency.

This steadfast commitment to integrity and transparency has positioned public media as America’s most trusted entity, according to recent national surveys, including a June 2018 Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey that found that Americans are most likely to rate PBS News and NPR, along with the Associated Press, as being “not biased at all” or “not very biased.” An annual Marketing & Research Resources Inc. national online pollconducted in January 2020 found that Americans rated PBS and its member stations No. 1 in public trust among nationally known institutions for the 17th consecutive year.