National Public Radio has launched a dozen, topic-focused online
news sites; the seeds of its Argo Network venture to produce in-depth local
The sites aggregate coverage from NPR stations on a dozen
issues including global health, climate change, public safety, education,
politics, the military and immigration.
The stations are using common tools and Web platforms to populate
the sites with stories, but the flow goes both ways, with the stories then
available to NPR member station sites, third-party sites and NPR.org.
With the sites including photos, links and videos, they further
narrow the distinctions between local radio and TV news operations as both increasingly
compete for eyeballs online.
The network was created with a $3 million grant from the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which hands out government money for
noncommercial radio and TV, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and
is, in part, a response to concerns about the health of local journalism and
community engagement in a tough economy and a business being remade by
competition from the Web.
It is a pilot project, but if the dozen sites prove a success, NPR
is looking to extend it to other stations.
Each site is run by a different station. For example, WAMU in
Washington, which bills its site as DCentric, Race and
Class in the District; while WNYC New York's is called The Empire,
Everything you need to know about New York state politics and governance.
The venture gets its name from from ancient Greek Mythology. Argo
was the ship the Argonauts (literally "Argo sailors") used in their quest
to help Jason find the golden fleece, which in this case would be local
journalism, "critical to communities and the nation."
name, says NPR spokeswoman Danielle Deabler, "compares to public radio's
quest on their public service mission to develop and deepen local
newsgathering capacity. And we wanted a name for the project that people