Social Relevance and Innovation in Public Radio

** Research paper available by request



         Since its birth, National Public Radio has been denied steady funding by the government and has therefore been focused and reliant on its audience for funding. This study explores National Public Radio’s (NPR) efforts to appeal to audiences by staying relevant and innovative in the face of changing technology and new media. The study content analyzes five years of news media coverage of NPR stations for news values and key messages. Out of 1,853 articles that were analyzed, about 23 percent were related to the stations’ efforts to remain socially relevant and innovative. Those articles were then examined using descriptive analysis to identify prevalent themes within social relevance and innovation. Six themes emerged from the descriptive analysis. Three of those themes are innovation-related — strategizing, investments and future journalism, and online strategies — while the remaining three are social relevance-related — audience and diversity, activism, and social media. These six themes were then interrelated to reveal a linear relationship of a social relevance and innovation movement based on NPR’s methods and stages of change, from formulating strategies to actively participating in the community. Results indicate an audience-centered priority and a continued commitment to act in the public interest. Potential implications of the results and directions for future research are discussed.


National Public Radio, public media organizations, social relevance, innovation


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