KVNF has embarked on an ambitious and unique project. It's called iSeeChange, an online almanac produced by Julia Kumari Drapkin, with stories broadcast on KVNF. The iSeeChange Almanac is part of Localore, a national media initiative.
The iSeeChange Almanac is a gathering place for locals to share stories about their weather observations and how those things impact their lives.
Then scientists are asked to explain why what people see happening is actually happening.
At the iSeeChange launch, guests at The Paradise Theatre on Jan. 21 heard from Dr. Benjamin Cook, a NASA-Goddard scientist, and ended the evening viewing an IMAX film, "The Hubble Space Telescope Documentary."
Two key people essential to iSeeChange sat down for interviews recently and showed their different views about the project. Sally Kane, KVNF executive director, shared from the management perspective and Julia Kumari Drapkin shared from the science journalist point-of-view.
"I heard about iSeeChange and there was a resonance in me for one of its missions which was to introduce more of risk-taking journalistic practices to address this multi-media technological convergence," said Sally Kane. "And to have, conversely, independent producers understand why stations don't take a lot of risks."
It's a disconnect that she has seen for many years. "Here's a neat way we can bring some experimentation and do a little of our own research and development with regard to technology while at the same time helping producers to understand what it takes to run a station," Kane said.
iSeeChange is not only online, but the stories are heard on KVNF. The result is that farmers and ranchers who might not have been listeners before are intrigued and involved in The Almanac.
The Almanac is a tool used by the news department. It's cost effective to have citizens submitting stories. "The Almanac is a tool to bring those stories to us," Kane said. "We can do the work of crafting the stories and fact checking."
KVNF has been expanding its coverage of agriculture and iSeeChange is enhancing the results.
"We try to look at change as a much broader topic, whether it's personal or internal change, weather change, the climate. We tried to look at it through the lens of seasons because Colorado is a state that has four distinct seasons. Visually and weather-wise we could really sink our teeth into seasonal change as a metaphor for looking at change in a e broader picture," Kane said.
"I don't want to see a world where public media is defined as national content, a one-way pipeline to all the country people. I want those of us who live here to have our own voice in the conversations. The potential for local to global is very strong with this project. We're pushing our experiences out front."
This project has already brought surprises for Kane. One is the interest of scientists in the project which is weather and climate focused. "The science community is sitting on all this data, and not the most sophisticated at communicating with people about it. This whole idea of 'Flip the Script' where the citizen observations are fueling questions to the science community ... creates a different kind of conversation for scientists to have with people. It takes it out of talking down to the lay person, but brings it up to more of an exchange," she said.
Kane believes both public radio and the science community are under fire and under funded. "So, we have to challenge ourselves to have strong communication to the American people for the value of what we do."
Julia Kumari Drapkin comes to KVNF after an interesting career as an Associated Press photo journalist in Sri Lanka during their civil war. When she returned home to Louisiana, Katrina hit. As an environmental journalist she wanted to not just cover the disaster but to discover where the story began. From there she went to Pubic Radio International for their show, "The World." That was her first radio reporting job at giant WGBH in Boston. She has covered science for seven years. All that led to coming to KVNF.
"As we have been designing this and I have been reflecting on my role as a journalist. So much of our world is careening from story to story, disaster to disaster, and we have no institutional memory to really absorb that real people's lives are always changing all the time," Drapkin said.
iSeeChange has been developed with the community's perspective in mind.
"As a journalist it's a great way to keep in touch with people," Drapkin said. It's a personable way to find out how people are handling the drought, how their harvest is doing, how their smudge pots are working in the orchard.
"iSeeChange is convening the public media, with public science and the public in one place," Drapkin said. "It's like the three legs of a stool."
"We're not having honest conversations about climate change and how climate extremes are affecting daily American lives," Drapkin said.
When Drapkin first came to KVNF, there were those who were afraid that the project would cause discord between those who believe in climate change and those who don't or between liberals and conservatives.
"But I've been surprised. The conversations that we've had with the people who don't believe in climate change are so nuanced and so smart. I'm so looking forward to bringing the taste of that intelligence to the people in D.C. who make decisions. A lot of the assumptions are that people in rural communities stay away from science. No! Every farm and every ranch is a living science experiment. Ranchers work with genetics and DNA ... and are much more involved in how the weather affects their lives.
"People in the North Fork Valley are seeing the same things that scientists and climatologists are seeing. The difference is a scientist will write a paper about that, where a citizen will make a decision about that in their life. It may be an economic decision in their life. That is just as important to document and understand. We envision The Almanac as the place where that conversation can happen," Drapkin said.
Share your photographs, stories and observations online at www.thealmanac.org.blog comments powered by Disqus