A 3-year $6 million grant from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting awarded to KPCC has paid off in boosting diversity at the Los Angeles public radio station.
As a result of the grant, which launched the One Nation Media Project, KPCC hired more Latinos and almost doubled Latino listenership since 2009.
“We’ve done a pretty good job, but there’s still a lot more work to be done,” says Edgar Aguirre, KPCC’s Managing Director of External Relations and Strategic Initiatives. “The system needs so much more Latino talent.”
The outcome of KPCC’s effort was analyzed by the Latino Public Radio Consortium, which released its conclusions in a report titled the “Brown Paper.” It shows the station’s diversity efforts did not alienate other listeners by trying to appeal to Latinos, but rather, contributed to a 27% growth of KPCC’s total audience.
The CPB-funded One Nation Media Project was conceptualized to provide quality news programming with a focus on English speaking Latinos in the region and consisted of three main components:
1) The launch of a newsmagazine program with a Latino/a co-host – which it did, hiring A Martínez in 2012 to co-host a weekday morning show after a year-long search. After a failed pairing with Madeline Brand, the show was revamped and relaunched as “Take Two,” effectively matching A with Alex Cohen as his new co-host.
2) Recruitment of ethnically diverse journalistic talent to expand and grow the newsroom – in addition to longtime staffers, KPCC hired several Latino reporters and producers.
3) Diverse community engagement through broadcast, digital, and live event platforms – in the past two years, the station has coordinated more than 30 live events to build connections with Latino businesses and community leaders.
According to the “Brown Paper,” four “essential elements” helped the One Nation Media Project achieve increased Latino listenership at KPCC: strategic direction, community engagement, culture change and relevant content and tone.
Changing the culture meant having everyone involved buying in to the diversity plan. Years of research showed KPCC executives and board members the importance of attracting new, diverse audiences.
“We need to be relevant,” says Aguirre. “We hope other stations around the country replicate our efforts and succeed in diversifying its workforce and audience.”
But in some instances, it wasn’t smooth sailing. In the report, KPCC President Bill Davis acknowledges the station environment was “mostly white, mostly monolingual, not digitally native.” Bringing in younger, digitally savvy and bilingual staffers caused a rift.
“We should have done more work on-boarding the new hires and working with the established staff who were worried that they were going to be replaced,” says Davis.
As a newcomer, A did not feel welcome at first. He told the author of the report that he felt that people on staff ostracized him and refused to engage with him. “It took at least a year before I felt like I wasn’t in a foreign country.”
When asked if KPCC would have displayed the same commitment to diversity if it had not received the $6 million grant, Aguirre says the station would have moved forward with their diversity plan.
“The wheels were already in motion years before the grant. We had been doing research on how to make our content more relevant to Latino audiences,” Aguirre insists. “The grant gave us the financial resources to do what we wanted and needed to do.”
KPCC’s most prominent and visible Latino talent is A Martínez, who co-hosts “Take Two” every weekday morning. But Adolfo Guzmán López is one of the oldest staffers. He has been a reporter for the station for the past 15 years.
Here’s a list of the Latinos in the station’s newsroom, as provided by KPCC:
A Martinez, co-host, Take Two
Evelyn Larrubia, Assistant Managing Editor
Oscar Garza, Sr. Producer The Frame
Adolfo Guzmán López, Education Reporter
Elizabeth Aguilera, Sr. Reporter, Health Desk
Leslie Berestein Rojas, Immigration and Emerging Communities Reporter
Erika Aguilar, Orange County Reporter