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KCUR Will Lead $1.9 Million National Election 2020 Initiative

Donna Vestal, KCUR's director of content strategy, will leave her post to lead 'Elections 2020: Listening to America.'

We’re heading into a national election season. In these divisive times, public media understands it has a tremendous responsibility to fully share the stories and concerns of all Americans.

First, and most importantly, we must listen.

Toward that end, KCUR is taking the lead on an ambitious initiative intended to strengthen public media’s ability to incorporate community and citizen perspectives in local, regional and national coverage related to the election.

Election 2020: Listening to America” is being funded through a $1.9 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The project, as well as KCUR’s leadership of the effort, was announced Wednesday at a public media meeting in Minneapolis.

Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president, journalism and radio, summarized the goal in a press release: “The Listening to America project will ensure that election coverage is informed by insights from citizens talking about issues that matter to their communities.”

That’s a tall order. But KCUR is embracing the challenge because we believe it is so important to our country’s future. We also understand the considerable potential of collaborative journalism, which has long been a guiding force in our work.

We will build a support network for stations across the country to gather data and engage communities through listening events, public forums and outreach, and through engagement tools on social media platforms. Collaboratively, we will work with stations to produce multimedia election reporting on specific issues, incorporating diverse community perspectives.

Ultimately, we hope this work also will provide insights, stories and content for national broadcast collaborators such as NPR, PBS and podcast producers.

KCUR will soon start hiring a central team to support these engagement and editorial activities across the system.

I am leaving my position as KCUR’s director of content strategy so that I can oversee this project, along with the Kansas News Service and Harvest Public Media. (You might have noticed a posting for director of journalism for KCUR, which will pick up where I left off guiding the news and talk teams.) Our expectation is this transition will help us continue building our local journalism in new and exciting ways.

As for Election 2020, KCUR is being supported with guidance from a cohort of stations across the country.

This is a diverse country, and we are a public media system of diverse stations with different connections to our communities. Our news leaders are united in our commitment to understanding and accurately representing the communities we serve.

We begin, by listening.

Donna Vestal is the director of content strategy for KCUR. You can reach her at donna.vestal@kcur.org.

Donna Vestal is the Managing Director of America Amplified: Election 2020.
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