When Jeff Young began his job as managing editor of the nascent Ohio River Network earlier this month, one of the first things he did was set off on a road trip. Visiting his three-state newsroom, said the public media veteran, was an essential step in building trust in the new regional journalism collaboration.
Spanning Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, the Ohio River Network consists of seven public media partner stations—led by Louisville Public Media—tasked with producing “hard-hitting, high-quality multimedia journalism that examines the region’s economy, energy, environment, agriculture, infrastructure, and health.”
When public radio got started in the 1970s, said Louisville Public Media president and general manager Donovan Reynolds, “everybody thought they had their own independent fiefdom,” but now stations that once saw each other as competitors have become collaborators.
The most pressing news doesn’t stop at state lines, Reynolds said, not least the problems stemming from the Ohio River, which is the most polluted waterway in the country. And he’s been alarmed to see the consequences of major newspapers retrenching to the urban core, leaving behind smaller community papers that, he said, haven’t always had “the staff or resources, or sometimes even the guts to take on controversial issues.”