A Murrow winner goes micro-local

August 27, 2018 12:00

How well do you know your city?

Pretty well, right? After all, you report on it every day.

So here’s a little quiz: On your next trip into the newsroom, think about each block as you pass it. Who lives or works there? What moments in your town’s history have happened there? What’s the last story you covered there?

You may find you know less about your area than you thought.

We’re not always covering our communities as completely as we think.

The neighborhoods we live in may get more attention simply out of familiarity, while others come up only in crime reports or are missed altogether.

What better way to really get to know your community and its characters than a micro-local approach? One podcast’s block-by-block storytelling is uncovering a “tapestry of stories hidden in plain sight,” and has earned a National Murrow Award for Large Market Radio News Documentary in the process.

“Out of the Blocks” from WYPR is a “simple concept: One hour of radio, one city block.”

The show brings the rich soundscape of Baltimore to life in episodes like “2100 Edmondson Avenue,” where an auto repair shop, a church, a sandwich place, a used appliance store, a soul food diner each reveal a story of hope, scars, faith, service or just getting by.  

Available on air, by podcast and online, the show also includes an interactive, map-based audio tour using a platform called izi.TRAVEL, which allows users to create audio and multi-media guides for travelers. “Out of the Blocks” listeners can use it to bring each spot on the map to life and explore the audio and photos from each chapter of that block’s episode.

Local newsrooms have not only a mission but a business imperative to produce the in-depth local coverage only they can. And how else might you discover that the manager of a soul food joint is a mother figure for the neighborhood or that the man behind the counter of a sandwich shop is a Kashmiri journalist?

The approach is innovative and replicable, too; listen to a special “Steal This Podcast” episode for guidance on how to produce an interview piece along with the raw materials, including an uncut interview, score and interview tips.

Aaron Henkin, the show’s creator, shared more about how to get to know your city’s stories at Excellence in Journalism 2018 in Baltimore as part of a "What it takes to be a Murrow winner" session.

In the meantime, give “Out of the Blocks” a listen to learn a little about 2018's EIJ host city.