Based on CCN’s survey of 95 public radio stations in 38 states:

  • More than three quarters of public radio stations in the survey reported some level of student involvement.
  • More than three quarters of current public radio-university involvement is limited to traditional internships.
  • About half of the public radio respondents broadcast student-reported stories that are edited by faculty or staff.
  • Only about 10 of the stations in the survey regularly partner with classes at a local university.
  • 91% of public radio stations want to collaborate more with local universities.

In their open-ended responses, public radio stations listed primary obstacles to expanding collaboration with universities, including:

  • Cost
  • Not enough staff to oversee student reporting
  • Inadequate institutional support from their university

Demand for more public radio-academic collaboration is high.

Public radio stations recognize the benefits of onboarding young reporters and working collaboratively with their local universities. They want more of it.

The old systems aren’t working.

Traditional internships have not forged close relationships between public radio stations and their local universities, or established student reporting as a fixture in public newsrooms. To formalize these partnerships and create sustainable pipelines of student reporting, universities need to lead by creating formal programs that are woven into course offerings, with dedicated faculty attention.

The field is ripe for growth.

At least 182 public radio licenses are already associated with universities, and these stations are enthusiastic about greater collaboration. With this infrastructure already in place, and several successful programs already serving as models, the potential for growth is high.

Table 1: Current Levels of Collaboration between Public Radio and Universities. n=95 partnerships. Click the image to open in a new tab.

Collaborations between public radio stations and universities are helping to fill critical gaps in local news reporting and expand the breadth of topics covered around the country. 

In Texas, Abilene Christian University students are filling news gaps and winning awards for their work with KACU 89.5. Mizzou's public radio teaching lab gives students hands-on experience in the KBIA newsroom. The Illinois Student Newsroom at Illinois Public Media produced more than 350 stories in 2021. Franklin Pierce students produced key public radio coverage in New Hampshire during Covid-19. And at Syracuse University, WAER engages the local community while offering over 100 students professional development opportunities.