Tracking Innovation
Grant supports WRVO's innovation reporting

WRVO is one of five Upstate New York public broadcasting stations receiving a boost in local reporting through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The two-year, $111,506 grant for a project called Innovation Trail supports staff at those stations—including WRVO’s Ryan Morden—and a central editor based at project lead WXXI in Rochester. The Upstate grant was one of seven awarded nationally to focus on particular issues impacting underserved populations.

Ryan Morden.The Innovation Trail follows Upstate’s emphasis on technology, innovation and green jobs as its economic future. Or, as Morden quotes his editor, Rachel Ward, as saying: “Upstate has put a lot of its eggs in one basket, and we’re counting the chickens.”

Morden joined WRVO in May 2009 as a morning producer/reporter after working in Seattle-area public radio stations. But the technology reporter job, which started this summer, represented a chance to tell richer, more expansive stories examining the region’s present and future.

Focus on people

Morden said his stories focus more on how technology and innovation affect people’s daily lives—not the gee-whiz latest-gizmo coverage one would see from traditional tech media. He is more likely to report on ways farmers employ the Internet, how residents of senior citizen complexes use technology to stay connected or how neighborhood groups deploy Facebook groups to promote a sense of community.

He also tracks progress of energy-related business startups, which politicians and leaders consider the next wave of economic progress. “We have a lot of great incubators, and great collaborations like the Creative Core and Centers for Excellence, but everything still seems to be in development,” Morden said. The 21st century economy likely will not be driven by giant factories as much as startups like the Web entrepreneurs and solar-panel manufacturers Morden has interviewed.

The other four stations (which also include WNED in Buffalo, WSKG in Binghamton and WMHT in Albany) also have TV outlets, so WRVO is the sole radio-only operation in the project. But Morden can still file multimedia stories on the project website innovationtrail.org.

“Having access to all five reporters will help WRVO as a journalism entity” in many issues connecting all of Upstate, Morden said. For instance, his story following up last year’s wind-turbine collapse in Fenner in Madison County resonates with all rural communities using or considering wind power.

“Public radio has weathered the economic recession and the journalistic recession,” Morden said. With many newspapers cutting back and other media consolidating operations or outsourcing news and programming to syndicated sources, a dedicated listener base and projects like the Innovation Trail have kept WRVO viable.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Innovation reporter—WRVO technology reporter Ryan Morden edits audio at his desk in the station’s offices in the Penfield Library building. His position—and role in the Innovation Trail project to study technology, innovation and the green economy—is supported by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

(Posted: Aug 30, 2010)