THE PROJECT — WHAT IS SHARED STATE?
Shared State is a narrative podcast from Montana’s leading nonprofit newsrooms that examines our current political moment through stories about the complex people and beliefs that shape our state. In its premiere season, as 2020 political candidates paid lip service to upholding “Montana values,” reporters from Montana Public Radio, Yellowstone Public Radio and Montana Free Press turned to the state Constitution’s preamble to better understand Montana’s political identity and ethos. The ensuing project explored how long-standing values are manifesting in contemporary debates over policy and culture.
In the months since the project aired, our reporting has won awards for journalistic excellence, earned widespread praise for its civic insights, and been used in high school and college classrooms across Montana.
The second season of Shared State will feature stories about people, groups and communities transitioning through — and out of — political quagmires.
In a state that has historically touted divided government, bipartisan solutions and helping neighbors out of ditches, today’s dynamics seem closer to a zero-sum game. This season will explore political tensions, conflicts and resolutions from all corners of our state to help us understand the chapter we’re in, and what could happen next.
We’re hungry for stories about people digging in their heels or searching for common ground, and where that journey takes them. Our hunch is that any number of Montana individuals, families, neighbors and communities are facing (or have gone through) their own unique disunion. Was your grandmother at the center of Conrad’s most intractable school board fight? Are your neighbors still talking about a beef that started 50 years ago? Maybe you have the secret story about how an essential back-room policy deal actually came together. Critically, we want to know how people did or didn’t confront the tension before them, and whether the core “problem” was ever finally resolved.
These stories can be historical or contemporary. They can be hyper-local or statewide. Pitches that end up being part of Shared State will be character-focused and rich in scenes. Above all, these stories will explain a political dynamic in a way that sparks empathy, curiosity or newfound insight into a complex situation.
WHO CAN PITCH US, AND HOW?
For this season, the Shared State team is excited to accept ideas, tips and full-fledged pitches from anyone who has a story rooted in Montana. We are looking for community insight and you-better-sit-down-for-this dramas. Reach out with ideas and leads by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Tip” in the subject line.
If you’re a reporter or journalist with a piece in mind, we are excited to hear from you. Shared State will have a budget for freelancers this season — while we can’t afford to work with everyone, we are committed to paying contributors a competitive rate. If you’re thinking about pitching us, it will be helpful to know:
— This is a narrative audio project that will take significant time and resources to report, edit, and produce. Experienced audio journalists are encouraged to submit.
— Our episodes are typically between 20 and 30 minutes long. We encourage you to listen to our first season to get a sense of what we sound like.
— Print journalists with an awesome story to tell will work closely with our producers and editors to make their piece sound great. Please be prepared for an intensive and rewarding process — this is a highly collaborative effort.
— As a big team with different skills, we are people who like to learn new things. We hope you do, too.
In your pitches, please tell us:
— Who’s involved in this story? Who are the characters listeners will likely meet?
— Briefly explain the conflict or tension — why do you think this will grip a wider audience?
— Is there anything about this story that reflects a broader political tension in our society?
— What does this teach us about working through divides or transitioning to something new? Please explain.
— Why do you think you’re the right person to tell this story? Please share past reporting experience, personal knowledge, or details about your passion for the subject.
Please send pitches to the Shared State team by emailing email@example.com with “Pitch” in the subject line before Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. We will read everything we receive.
The Shared State team