Stories that North State Public Radio (NSPR) reported on the impacts of the historic Camp Fire and the global COVID-19 pandemic recently have been recognized as national award winners.
The Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA) released the 2021 awards list in late June, and two series from the NSPR newsroom took home prizes in the Small Market Radio category.
“‘Radio saves lives,’ that’s what one of our listeners said to me the day before we launched our COVID-19 Special Coverage,” said NSPR News Director Sarah Bohannon (Journalism, ’13), who oversaw both projects.
Bohannon and NSPR took those words to heart, airing a multitude of special episodes with a singular focus on each topic, just as the station did during the Oroville Dam spillway incident in February 2017 and the Camp Fire in November 2018.
“At NSPR, our job is to be there when our community needs us,” Bohannon said. “I’m proud to say we were.”
NSPR earned first place in the Audience Engagement Program category for its series, “Hunger in the Burn Scar.”For survivors of the deadliest blaze in California history, the pandemic was a disaster upon a disaster. But before either the 2018 Camp Fire or COVID-19 hit the region, food insecurity was already pervasive.
Through a community engagement grant from USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism, NSPR produced a program about the prevalence of lasting food insecurity in the burn scar more than a year after the fire. The program contained five 30-minute episodes, and the reporting included months of engagement efforts, including tabling in communities affected by the fire and a survey about food insecurity that received more than 100 responses and was shared with community agencies who lacked data.
The station also earned second place in the Continuing Coverage category for “COVID-19 Special Coverage.” Three days before the pandemic triggered California’s shelter-in-place order, NSPR’s news team created a 30-minute daily program covering COVID-19.
Series episodes contained a newscast of the latest numbers on local and statewide cases and deaths from the virus, features and interviews with public health, law enforcement and political officials, scientists, agencies, nonprofits and community members. NSPR sustained this robust coverage of COVID-19 for 90 episodes—airing from March 16 to July 31—with the team working remotely.
“NSPR found a way to inform the area about an enormous and rapidly changing story while overcoming technical challenges,” said NSPR reporter Andre Byik. “I’m gratified we did so much good work in and for the community.”
PMJA handed 203 awards to 88 organizations, recognizing the best work in public media journalism from across the country. Stations compete against others with similar-sized newsrooms, and judges reviewed nearly 1,300 entries overall.
NSPR is a national award-winning, non-commercial National Public Radio member station and service of California State University, Chico featuring the best programs from national and international sources, as well as locally produced news, music and information shows. In partnership with CapRadio since October 2020, NSPR has been serving the communities of Northern California for more than 50 years and can be heard on KCHO 91.7 FM Chico, KFPR 88.9 FM Redding and smaller translators in Burney, Chester, Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta, Greenville, Hayfork, Oroville, Weaverville and Westwood. NSPR can be heard online at mynspr.org.
NSPR began broadcasting from CSU, Chico in 1969 from a room behind Laxson Auditorium with a signal that extended to the Chico city limits. Over the years, it acquired KFPR in Redding and, through broadcast translators, gradually expanded its signal to serve valley and mountain communities across the North State. The station eventually moved to its current home at 35 Main Street, where it currently operates and broadcasts under management by CapRadio in Sacramento.