St. Louis-based public radio collaborative covers intersection of race, identity and culture | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based public radio collaborative covers intersection of race, identity and culture

Mar 14, 2018

St. Louis Public Radio is taking the lead in a new public radio initiative called Sharing America.

Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Sharing America includes reporters at public radio stations in four cities and an editor based in St. Louis.

The collaboration covers the intersection of race, identity and culture. Holly Edgell, the editor of Sharing America, along with reporter Ashley Lisenby were guests Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air.

“We’re taking an intentional approach to bringing new voices, sources and stories to the airwaves,” Edgell said. “Our aim is to broaden the scope of public radio’s attention to these issues at a time when people are hungry for answers, and for honest conversations about who we are as a country.”

For Lisenby, the Sharing America reporter at St. Louis Public Radio, the collaboration comes at an important moment.

"It’s an incredibly exciting and challenging task to report on issues of race and identity in St. Louis. Aside from the delicate subject matter, communities and histories are nuanced," she said. "But people around the country are becoming emboldened to speak freely and take action on issues they care about. The people of St. Louis are no exception to this awakening. I, along with my colleagues, get to be the compassionate investigators of the dialogues and decisions that come of that renaissance."

The Sharing America team with Keith Woods, Vice President of Training and Diversity for National Public Radio. (Left to right) Erica Morrison, Michelle Tyrene Johnson, Ashley Lisenby, Vanessa de la Torre, and Holly Edgell.
Credit David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio



  • Erica Morrison, Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland)
  • Michelle Tyrene Johnson, KCUR-FM (Kansas City)
  • Ashley Lisenby, St. Louis Public Radio
  • Vanessa de la Torre, Connecticut Public (Hartford)

The CPB grant also encompasses hiring and training to deepen the pool of possible public radio employees.

First, the four Sharing America stations made efforts to look outside of public radio for journalists of color who could be good candidates for the reporter and editor positions. Of the five people on the Sharing America team, Erica Morrison is the only person from a radio background, having joined OPB from WBUR-FM in Boston. Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a journalist who is also a playwright and attorney. Lisenby reported for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before joining St. Louis Public Radio. Vanessa De la Torre was an education reporter for the Hartford Courant before joining the team. Edgell’s background is in television and digital news as well as teaching journalism at the college level.

“Training is big,” Edgell said. “We spent the first couple of months learning new skills. The writing is different. The editing is different. The production is different. And what we now have is a team of great journalists who work in public radio.”

Ways to connect with Sharing America:

In addition to training the reporting team, the four Sharing America stations committed to providing training to local non-radio mid-career journalists who may be interested in public broadcasting careers. In November, KCUR-FM hosted a group of journalists from a variety of backgrounds for a two-day session in basic radio and podcasting skills. Connecticut Public will follow suit in May, with the other two stations hosting their training sessions later.

“This is another way to bring fresh voices, perspectives and experiences to the ranks of public radio,” Edgell said.

Follow the #SharingAmerica team on Twitter: