Rural Mainstreet Radio Evaluation Standards – A New Introduction
By Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D
Creating one’s own evaluation standards is good practice for any nonprofit, whether given special authorization or not. It creates opportunities for productive mission-focused discussion, creates ownership in the project, gets people on the same page, and generates enthusiasm for progress.
“Mainstreet Radio,” a special broadcast radio series started in 1987 by Minnesota Public Radio, had the mission of reporting from rural Minnesota to all of Minnesota. While the project was still in its planning stage, MPR chose Rainbow Research, Inc. to help its four-person team of journalists articulate its vision, aspirations, and benchmarks of quality rural journalism it could then use to guide its development of stories.
Rural Minnesotans had been clamoring for some time to get “rural programming” aimed at them. MPR’s development director heard this at “listener advisory committee” MPR’s meetings specially convened at most of the network’s stations outside the Twin Cities Metro. Network leadership recognized the funding opportunity as a way to strengthen its entire network, and created the “Mainstreet Radio” series which ran for decades first with support from the Northwest Area Foundation and then with several other institutional funders and an expanded listener base throughout the state.
Rainbow Research staff convened a day-long meeting of MPR’s on-air rural programmers to extract and clarify answers to the question, “What would quality rural radio sound like?” This proved to be a terrific exercise, and the resulting single page of “evaluation standards” hung in each team member’s cubicle as they worked on their next production.
After a number of “Mainstreet Radio” broadcasts were produced on-air, Rainbow Research convened focus groups with the listener advisory committees to gauge how well actual productions squared with the standards. This too proved a highly productive way to check in with the ultimate consumers of the work, and further align the next generation of programming.
Bottom line: Creating one’s own evaluation standards is good practice for any nonprofit. It creates opportunities for productive discussion about mission and quality programming, creates ownership in the project, and generates enthusiasm for progress. Each staffer had these standards in hand and used them to help them be creative.
Another major lesson for philanthropic effectiveness: A good let-alone from its principal philanthropic partner, Northwest Area Foundation, gave MPR the much-appreciated space to create its own evaluation standards for “quality rural journalism.”
Sharing without modification is permitted if authorship is credited.
Original report to Minnesota Public Radio can be cited this way: Mayer, Steven E., Rural Mainstreet Radio Evaluation Standard. Minneapolis: Rainbow Research, Inc., 1987.
How to cite this cover article: Mayer, Steven E., Rural Mainstreet Radio Evaluation Standards – A New Introduction. Minneapolis: Effective Communities Project. Downloaded from EffectiveCommunities.com, [month, date, year].