As experts fret about the future of journalism amid constant cutbacks and downsizing, three Tampa public broadcasters have joined a $10.5 million initiative to reverse the trend.
WEDU-Ch. 3, WMNF-FM and WUSF-Ch. 16/WUSF-FM will join forces with three other Florida public broadcasting stations under a new project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is developing seven local journalism centers across the country.
In Florida, the stations will receive $1.2 million over two years to create multimedia journalism content focused on health issues, hiring a team of eight people at a time when many newsrooms are still shrinking staffs.
Officials from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced the initiative Thursday, outlining projects in several regions — from a Southwest collective focused on cultural shifts among Latinos, Indians and white Americans at the border to an initiative in upstate New York exploring how technology may spur economic development.
The Central Florida project, dubbed the "Healthy State Collaborative," also includes WGCU in Fort Myers, WMFE in Orlando and WUFT in Gainesville.
WUSF will coordinate the Florida effort, assembling a team of five reporters, an executive editor, a senior multimedia manager and a "community engagement specialist" to create stories that spark discussion. The journalism centers are expected to produce reports for TV, radio and the Web, using social media and online resources to reach an audience younger than the typical public broadcasting consumer.
"Working with other public broadcasting stations around the state is a great way to share resources and reach a much broader geographic area," JoAnn Urofsky, general manager of WUSF, said in a statement.
WEDU general manager Dick Lobo said the station will use the project to revive its Smart Health series, airing whatever material the team creates.
According the Project for Excellence in Journalism, 5,900 jobs were lost in the newspaper industry last year, while 1,650 positions vanished at local TV newsrooms across the country.