When I was promoted last month to be JPR’s news director, I got a little flash of déjà vu. Mostly, that’s because this is the second time I’ve held that title in the JPR newsroom.
The first time was in late 2002. At that point, I was the only professional journalist on staff at the station. My main job was to lead an ever-shifting crew of eager students and community volunteers in the task of producing the Jefferson Daily. Some longtime listeners will recall the Jefferson Daily was JPR’s half-hour regional news magazine, sort of a local version of All Things Considered, which we aired weekday afternoons as part of ATC.
In 2005, I left JPR and moved to Europe. I spent most of the next 8 years shuttling between freelancing from France for US-based public radio stations and working in Seattle for NPR member station KPLU. By the time I returned to JPR in 2013 as a reporter and producer, the Jefferson Daily had been cancelled and the news department consisted of Jefferson Exchange talk show host (and news director) Geoffrey Riley, along with his producer, Charlotte Duren. I went to work as JPR’s first full-time reporter, mostly creating longer news features about events and issues in Oregon and California.
Fast-forward more than 5 years … JPR is now in a new, state-of-the-art broadcast facility with a newsroom easily four times the size of the one from which my crew had produced the Jefferson Daily.
During that time we’ve been gradually beefing up the news department. We began hosting OPB environment reporter Jes Burns, who works in the JPR newsroom but is assigned and edited from Portland. As part of that partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting, we air all of Jes’ reports on JPR and as well as posting them on ijpr.org.
Former JPR program director John Baxter returned part-time to help produce the Jefferson Exchange. He was later joined by April Ehrlich who serves not only as co-producer on the Exchange, but as local host of Morning Edition. April also does reporting on local and regional news. And Angela Decker joined the newsroom to share Morning Edition hosting duties. She does some reporting, as well.
Now that we’re in the new, larger facility, the next phase of JPR’s news department expansion is unfolding. With the hiring of a full-time news director (as the role expanded, Geoff Riley preferred to focus his energies on the Jefferson Exchange), we’ll be hiring to fill my former role as regional news reporter. Plus, we’ll be adding a new full-time reporter position.
By the time we’re done, the JPR newsroom will be home to five full-time journalists, as many as four part-timers and a smattering of freelancers, students and interns. We’re targeting the end of summer to have all the new staff on board and working to boost the news coverage we offer to our listeners and online viewers.
With this increase in news capacity, we’re refocusing on our commitment to serve our communities in Southern Oregon and Northern California. The issues we’re facing in this region—rural economic development, affordable housing, environmental protection, wildfire and smoke impacts, strained local school and public safety budgets, increasing homelessness and more—require an informed citizenry. To come together to work on solving these problems, we need to have a common base of knowledge and understanding.
That’s our job; to delve into these complex issues, to look at them from different angles, to seek a diversity of informed view points and to highlight potential ways of making things better.
As JPR gears up to bring the resources of a bigger, more focused newsroom to bear on this challenge, I’ll make one promise; that we’ll do our utmost to use the skills, talents
and professional know-how in our news department to deliver to you the news you need, to be that informed citizen our
Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for more than 25 years. After a stint as JPR’s News Director from 2002 to 2005, Liam covered the environment in Seattle, then reported on European issues from France. He returned to JPR in 2013 as a regional reporter. Now, Liam is once again News Director, overseeing the expansion of the news department and leading the effort to make JPR the go-to source for news in Southern Oregon and Northern California.