Alaska Public Media given boost for local broadcasts

washington — A grant of nearly $1 million is being provided to Alaska Public Media as part of a two-year plan to strengthen local news for rural communities.

The nonprofit Cooperation for Public Broadcasting, or CPB, awarded the $936,000 grant to the Alaska Public Media, which is made up of radio and TV media outlets.

Lori Townsend, news director for Alaska Public Media, or APM, said the funding will help deepen “the connection between the local community and its public broadcasting station.”

Investing in this way, she told VOA via email, means “the community will continue to support the local and regional journalism they can only get from their local newsroom.”

Townsend said the grant will allow Alaska Public Radio to help rural station partners better reach remote areas that have less coverage.

An NPR-member station, Alaska Public Radio produces national and state-specific daily news programming such as Alaska News Nightly. The award-winning statewide program has been broadcast for over four decades.

The stations also relay national and international news through NPR and the BBC. But many of the 733,400 Alaska residents receive important information in their regions from local stations, information such as emergency messages related to fires, earthquakes or other disasters as part of emergency messaging system for the state.

Most of Alaska’s communities are not on the road system and public radio is a lifeline, said Townsend.

“The public radio system in Alaska has been a more than four-decade model of collaboration and providing critical news, information and public safety service to Alaskan communities,” she added.

Federal investment in rural communities is critical for the 99% of the U.S. population who have access to public broadcastings, said Brendan Daly, of CPB. The nonprofit oversees federal investment in public broadcasting.

Rural and Indigenous communities depend on the state’s public media for news and public affairs, said Daly. “This is especially true in Alaska, which is such a large and rural state.”

The two-year grant will be used to fund reporters and editors, travel and equipment.

“The editors and reporters will mostly likely be a mix of new hires and existing Alaska journalists, currently working in the APM network and other newsrooms in Alaska,” said Townsend.

Stations will apply to host the new hires, Townsend said. The idea is to put the staff in stations across the state to make it easier to collaborate.

“We are in an exciting time of increased recognition of the importance of journalism in supporting and strengthening the bedrock of democracy,” said Townsend.

She added that the Alaska desk will work closely with communities on local priorities and on “elevating voices that are seldom heard.”

The plan is to produce stories that “resonate with not only Alaskans, but the rest of the nation and world, as geopolitical conflicts and world resource needs draw more attention to the Arctic,” she said.

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