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Grant Money Will Help NPR Explore Issues

$17 million will also enable focus on digital realm

National Public Radio has received grants from four foundations and three individual philanthropists totaling $17 million to help the public media organization extend and deepen its coverage as well as fund NPR and six member stations create a local-national listening platform.

This work is receiving support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wallace Foundation and Ford Foundation, and individual contributions from Paul Haaga, acting president & CEO of NPR, and Heather Haaga; William Poorvu, former vice chair of the NPR Foundation and trustee emeritus, and Lia Poorvu; and Howard Stevenson, former chair of the NPR Board and NPR Foundation trustee, and Fredericka Stevenson.

“NPR is responding to the increased demand by audiences for flexibility in consuming content seamlessly across various digital platforms,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of Journalism and Media Innovation. “The platform will allow listeners to engage in new ways with NPR and its member station partners, making the quality journalism that is so important in a democracy more accessible, especially for a new generation.”

Over the past few years, the growth in NPR’s audience on digital platforms has climbed, extending the organization’s weekly on-air reach. NPR is adapting both its platforms and its newsgathering models to take advantage of that shift. Building on the success of efforts like Code Switch, the news unit covering race, ethnicity and culture, and “Planet Money,” reporting on the global economy, NPR is developing multidisciplinary teams to produce in-depth coverage of key beats. Code Switch, which launched in April 2013 with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has boosted NPR’s reach to new audiences in its first six months, and now support from the Ford Foundation will enable NPR to continue building on the work of Code Switch.

NPR will also bring this approach to two expanded areas of coverage: education (supported by The Wallace Foundation and the Gates Foundation) and global health and economic development (with support from Gates). NPR expects to launch its expanded education and global health and development reporting in spring 2014.

According to a release, NPR and six member stations are also collaborating to enable listeners to move seamlessly among clock radios, Internet-enabled cars, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. The Knight and Gates foundations, together with Paul and Heather Haaga, William and Lia Poorvu, and Howard and Fredericka Stevenson, are behind this effort. The majority of the Knight Foundation’s gift is comprised of matching grants to the six stations: KPCC Southern California Public Radio; KQED(FM) Public Radio San Francisco; Minnesota Public Radio; WBUR(FM) Boston; WHYY(FM) Philadelphia; and WNYC(FM) New York.