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Breaking Coal Ash Story Launches National Pilot

A New Model for Local News

(July 19, 2011—Louisville, KY)  On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, 89.3 WFPL expands on an earlier breaking story about coal ash from LG&E’s Cane Run power plant. Environment Reporter Erica Peterson deepens her investigation into a report commissioned by LG&E, its impact on homeowners, and the broader context that shows that Louisville is only one chapter of a much larger story.

WFPL’s investigation has been possible, in part, because of its participation in Story Exchange, an initiative that offers a new model for local journalism. Story Exchange is a crowd-funding project of Public Radio Exchange (PRX), supported by the Knight News Challenge and is a collaboration among PRX, Spot.us and Louisville Public Media. Public Radio Exchange selected Louisville Public Media’s 89.3 WFPL to be the pilot public radio station in this program.

Story Exchange proposes a solution to the decline in local journalism by providing a funding model that pays for costly investigative reporting while ensuring the independence of the news source. In the case of coal ash, 18 citizens and one group pooled their resources -- in micro pledges ($5, $10, $20) -- to fund a subject they deemed worthy of investigation.

WFPL.org and Story Exchange list the prospective stories, the individual supporters and the amounts they pledge, keeping track as they inch toward a story’s funding goal. PRX explains, “Station editors and managers are always in control of the pitches and which stories are completed. Best of all, the donors are identified and their contributions small enough that no one person has the power to influence coverage.”

According to Gabe Bullard, WFPL’s News Director, “Story Exchange allowed us to take a topic that we already knew was important to the community and find out just how important it is, then hone in on it in a way that's very difficult to do in a newsroom in 2011.”

 WFPL’s environment reporter, Erica Peterson, was given the time and resources to investigate the story. Bullard adds: “Erica has done a tremendous job of digging through data and studies and sorting out hours of interviews to produce this series. It truly exposes something of critical importance not just to the people living near the Cane Run Road power plant, but to everyone in the area.”

 Louisville Public Media operates the city’s three public radio stations, which include 89.3 WFPL, 91.9 WFPK, and Classical 90.5 WUOL.

 For more information contact Todd Mundt at tmundt@wfpl.org, or (502) 814-6500 or visit wfpl.org.