August 10, 2017

Geoff Brumfiel, NPR’s science editor, figures people will only remember two things from 2017: “Trump and the total solar eclipse,” he said. “So you might as well go big on the solar eclipse.”

Like a lot of national news organizations, NPR is going big with a plan for covering the Aug. 21st event on all platforms with help from member stations around the country.

NPR already has collaborative groups of member stations covering energy and the environment, state government, the military and veterans, education and health, but this is the first time NPR member stations have come together around a celestial event. Last month, Brumfiel and Ken Barcus, NPR’s Midwest bureau chief, put out the call for story pitches.

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Now, they’ve narrowed them down to four. Coverage of the eclipse will include StateImpact Oklahoma’s Joe Wertz in Oklahoma, KQED’s Lauren Sommer in California, WKU’s Lisa Autry in Kentucky and coverage from Carbondale, Illinois’ WSIU.

The collaboration is part of a larger push at NPR to function more like a network. NPR’s Michael Oreskes spoke last month about creating stronger ties between NPR and member stations to help fill in gaps left from a receding local newspaper landscape.

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The science desk doesn’t normally get to work with those member stations, Brumfiel said, so it’s been nice to talk to reporters around the country and find how open and interested they are in collaborating, he said.

“It takes work, it takes coordination and it’s not seamless,” he said. “But I’ve been impressed by how well it’s worked and how enthusiastic the member stations have been.”

NPR will also have 22 videographers around the country filming the eclipse for a documentary-style video post-eclipse. All Things Considered will include reactions from people as they watch the eclipse. And NPR’s kids’ podcast, Wow in the World, is looking for kids to cover the eclipse from their own hometowns.

This is first eclipse Brumfiel has covered, and the member station collaboration around it will end when the eclipse does. At least for now.

“It’s never too early to start planning for 2024, right?”

Correction: An earlier version of this story added an extra letter to Geoff Brumfiel’s name, it has been corrected. Also, the call for ideas was last month, not last week. We apologize for the errors.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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