A Guide To Indiana Public Broadcasting’s New Voices
Loyal WBAA listeners might have heard some unfamiliar voices on the air reporting state-wide news over the last four months. Those voices belong to a group of new reporters referred to within Indiana Public Broadcasting as “the RJC,” and in a more official capacity, “IPB News.”
Navigating the world of public radio can sometimes feel like swimming around in a bowl of alphabet soup. There are so many acronyms. (WBAA, NPR, PRI, APM…) It can get confusing! Here’s the breakdown:
“RJC” stands for “regional journalism collaborative.” This is a fancy name for a group of reporters and editors who comprise a “regional newsroom.” Indiana Public Broadcasting’s regional newsroom is seven reporters spread out across four stations. About half of the reporters are brand-new to Indiana Public Broadcasting. The other half consists of existing network reporters who have shifted to work inside the collaborative.
Even though the reporters are spread out geographically at different stations, they work together as a single team, creating news that’s then sent to all the Indiana Public Broadcasting stations in the state. Each reporter also has a specific beat to cover, so the state-wide news is more in-depth and comprehensive. Where the reporters are stationed has a lot to do with where lots of the action on their beat happens.
Here’s the lineup:
Annie Ropeik, based at WBAA in West Lafayette: Annie covers business, from agriculture to the steel industry, while also finding more offbeat stories to cover, such an upcoming feature about economics and 4-H fairs.
Sarah Fentem (me) also based at WBAA: I cover health and science along with my duties as a local reporter for WBAA. I’ve published stories on topics ranging from data-driven reports on the state’s Hepatitis and HIV epidemics to state-wide and federal legislation battling the opioid use epidemic.
Nick Janzen, works at WBOI in Fort Wayne: Nick focuses his time on energy and the environment. Nick’s expertise in coastal science (he is from Louisiana) means he can delve into science-based stories about the ecosystems around Lake Michigan that might scare less-experienced reporters away.
Jill Sheridan of WFYI in Indianapolis: Jill also covers health and science. She always finds a human face to put on stories about health policy and trends. Jill’s reporting often focuses on healthcare disparities among different demographics.
Brandon Smith, Indianapolis: Brandon is most likely the voice most WBAA listeners already know. He’s been covering the Statehouse for five years and now brings that experience to the RJC. The election cycle means Brandon has been super busy covering legislation as well as Mike Pence’s surprise vice-presidential nomination.
Claire McInerney, at WFIU in Bloomington: Claire is also a familiar voice to Indiana Public Broadcasting listeners. Claire’s covered education as part of the StateImpact Indiana team and, like Brandon, has shifted to work with the new collaborative. She has been tirelessly covering the state’s standardized testing saga for the past two years.
Peter Balonon-Rosen, also at WFIU: Peter, who also covers education, loves deep-dive stories about hard-to-tackle topics. In his short time in Indiana, he’s written stories on the implications of school advertising and the lack of diversity in teacher training programs.
The collaborative is headed up by Managing Editor Sarah Neal-Estes in Bloomington, who worked in public radio in Alaska before teaching audio reporting at Indiana University (She actually was my teacher before she was my boss.) Lauren Chapman, in Indianapolis, is the RJC’s digital editor. She works with the reporters to translate their sound into online stories with nifty graphs, visuals, and videos.
Indiana’s regional journalism collaborative is funded by a two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the goal of creating more local news coverage.
For BAA listeners, there are two main benefits of the new reporting system:
- Because the RJC has hired multiple new reporters, there will be an increase in state-wide coverage. Because the reporters have a specific topic to specialize in, that state-wide coverage will be more in-depth and comprehensive than when multiple stations were covering things in a piece-meal fashion.
- Because state coverage is being taken care of by the reporters, there will be an increase in local coverage as well, because reporters at local stations can focus entirely on news happening in their communities.
Stay tuned to BAA to hear the latest state and local news! While our stories do air occasionally on other programs, you will always be able to catch the RJC during the local newscasts during All Things Considered and Morning Edition.