Online Journalism Award Entry - General Excellence (2019)
Below we have explanations for some of the links included in this entry. Those that do not require additional description are just linked. Thank you for your consideration.
KBIA news director Ryan Famuliner is the founder and creator of Access Missouri. Famuliner collaborated with the MU Informatics Institute and the MU political science department to create the site originally, and the most recent development has been exclusively done by KBIA Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence.
In Missouri, there is a significant amount of information about the state legislature that is almost completely unsearchable on state government sites, because of the way it is stored – almost exclusively on .pdfs as daily journals. Before this project, getting comprehensive information on basic legislative action - a legislator’s voting records, attendance, bill sponsorship information, etc. - required hours of research spent poring through these documents.
There is significant need for awareness of the flow of money in Missouri state politics, and for the press and public to serve as watchdogs. This project opens up that information, creating a whole new level of transparency to the public. It also provides profile pages for group and individual donors, letting users track Missouri’s political donations by influencer instead of just by gift, something that normally requires extensive manual labor.
This allows KBIA to inform Missourians in ways that would never be possible in the traditional audio medium. Numbers are terrible for radio stories, and there’s almost no opportunity for self-driven discovery in our traditional medium. This project allows audience members to ask their own questions of the data and find their own answers. The project also seeks to inform the reporting of other news outlets in the state. Numerous television/radio stations and newspapers have incorporated Access Missouri into their election coverage by embedding the site as a whole on their website, or by pulling specific data into their coverage using the “embed” function you will see on many of the pages as you navigate through the site.
Development of the Access Missouri continues, and we have been sharing information with reporters interested in launching similar projects in other states. Over the years, we have received grant support for this project from multiple entities, including the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund and the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The site had a significant re-launch in 2018, and there will be many features added in the future as well, including effectiveness ratings and ideology scores for legislators, neural network-based bill labeling and categorization, automated news writing tools and other advanced analysis tools.
Life on the Spectrum:
How People in Jefferson City Experienced a Major Tornado and Its Aftermath
Facing a Ticking Clock, Missourians Seek to Preserve Black History:
MU Professor Emeritus Receives His Nobel Prize:
In 2018, Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri Dr. George Smith was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It was the first ever Nobel Price for work conducted at the University. To cover this once-in-a-lifetime event, KBIA Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence led a team of three reporters covering the story from on the ground in Stockholm. The team was there for a full week and produced numerous stories for on air and online. We ran stories every day on KBIA, and also aired Dr. Smith’s official Nobel lecture (which each Laureate is required to deliver in order to receive their prize) in its entirety. Here you see an example of a radio story we aired and posted online and a video we posted on our website and on social media.
Missouri Health Talks:
KBIA’s Missouri Health Talks is a project inspired by StoryCorps, the content of the pieces is conversations between people in our community who already know each other. They may be a mother and daughter, a doctor and their patient, or a person with a disability and an advocate. Aside from an intro and tag, a reporter is not present in the story, and the subjects discuss their stories about health issues, most often access to health care. This content plays well on the air, but when considering how to feature the content online, KBIA decided to create a completely new interface that would deliver the stories in the most optimal ways. Each story has a visual component, and is manually sorted and tagged in a way that allows for each navigation and discovery of other stories a user may be interested in based on topic or geographical area. The project also aspires to reach rural areas across the state, so a mapping feature has also been created as a primary element of the presentation. KBIA Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence designed and built this interface himself. These stories have consistently been among the most viewed and shared since the creation of this project.
Where they Stand: What Missouri Lawmakers are Saying about Governor Eric Greitens:
The scandals and investigations surrounding Governor Eric Greitens eventually led to his resignation in 2018, but it took many months for everything to unravel. In April, KBIA partnered with the Columbia Missourian to create a database logging all of the public stances state officials had taken on Greitens. KBIA Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence managed the project and also built the tool that displayed the results on a chart embeddable on our website.
University of Missouri to Restructure or Eliminate Several Graduate Programs:
Another example of KBIA Digital Content Director Nathan Lawrence’s charts in use.
Greitens Advisor Accused of Past Sexual Harassment Rejoined Campaign After Leaving Administration
This was an exclusive investigative piece reported by Nathan Lawrence, which he uncovered by utilizing KBIA’s own Access Missouri interface. Lawrence also built the timeline tool you’ll see displayed in this web post.
The True/False Podcast:
The True/False Podcast is a true collaboration with the renowned True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Mo. Programmers from the festival interview filmmakers about the art and craft of documentary filmmaking, while producers at KBIA handle pre and post-production. In 2018 the podcast featured interviews with numerous Oscar-nominated directors. The podcast is produced primarily as a podcast. While some segments air on KBIA, its primary audience is online and mobile audiences.
The Obvious Question:
In 2018, KBIA launched "The Obvious Question," a podcast that focuses on the realities of living with a disability, but goes beyond the simple, obvious questions. The podcast focuses on the actual ways that disability impacts a life – things like love, sex and dating, fashion and the complexities of friendship. It seeks to educate and enlighten listeners through a combination of personal anecdote and journalistic interviews.
The podcast is produced primarily as a podcast. While some segments air on KBIA, its primary audience is online and mobile audiences.
The show is helmed by 21-year-old Madison Lawson, who is a journalism student at the University of Missouri, as well as co-host/producer Rebecca Smith and producer Aaron Hay, who are both KBIA employees.
Lawson, who has two rare forms of muscular dystrophy, has limited lung function and uses a power wheelchair, draws on her personal experiences to inform the reporting within "The Obvious Question." She speaks to topics that will raise the audience’s awareness of disability – some in simple ways and some in profound ones.
For example, In the episode “How Do You Pee?” Lawson sat down with her long-time best friend to talk about the persistent barrier non-accessible bathrooms have been in her life. Through sharing personal and vulnerable stories about this topic, she offers suggestions to able-bodied listeners on what they can do to be more accommodating.
Similarly, in the episode “Can You Even Walk a Runway?” Lawson talks about one of the things she loves most – fashion. She recently was a model for a designer at Kansas City Fashion Week, and Lawson spoke with the designer, who has a form of muscular dystrophy herself. They spoke about the ways fashion neglects the disabled form whether that is through design, representation or accessibility.
Show Me The State:
Missouri has had a curious history, with many iterations and incarnations powered by changes in its political, cultural and religious climate. KBIA’s newest podcast, Show Me The State, explores Missouri’s strange and misunderstood past as it relates to the present.
Each episode focuses on one particular piece of folklore and investigates what really happened, why did it happen and how has that shaped the state today?
The Show Me The State team looks at ghost stories, legendary political maneuvers and hometown heroes across the state. Host Kristofor Husted sits down with the people who know the story best to get as close to a first-hand account as we can.
As you may have noticed, the tool that displays The Obvious Question and Show Me The State above is unique. That’s because it’s another tool built internally at KBIA. We wanted to create an interface that was less cluttered and complicated than our website, but also allowed for more content (like photos or videos) than third party podcast distributor pages (iTunes, Stitcher, etc), and that was agnostic to which podcast app a user chose to listen through.
KBIA’s digital content director developed the tool, called “Podcastle,” as an open-source project, wanting to share the work with any others that can utilize it — so far, two other public radio stations have switched to using it and some of its different pre-packaged themes as their primary destination for podcast promotion.
This link shows you the GitHub page for this tool.
Helping Other Stations:
KBIA open sources a great deal of its original news development work for other radio stations and news outlets to adapt. This list is not exhaustive, but some examples of KBIA’s open source projects that have been used by other stations or news outlets include:
- iFramer, a tool that lets users manage and post non-iframe embed codes where script tags are not allowed.
- Velour and Lede, a set of web frameworks designed to augment existing packages for web development like React and Bootstrap with functionality commonly needed in a newsroom environment.
- Musher, a tool that takes stories out of the NPR API and adapts them to the formats that Amazon’s Echo interface and Apple News’ publication service want them in.
- Audioboop, an accessibility-first audio play built for use in the popular web framework React.
Other Interesting Facts
- KBIA’s contributions to open source serverless infrastructure projects like Zappa, AWS Lambda Toolkit and GatsbyJS have helped dozens of other news outlets deploy modern web solutions.