Marfa Public Radio 2020 Excellence In Innovation Murrow Submission

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced our journalists and producers to think differently about how to serve our audiences. There were so many stories to tell and voices to hear from, but how could we encourage safe practices and responsibility in our communities, while still reporting in person ourselves?

With that in mind, Marfa Public Radio created “Tiny Porch,” a music series meant to fill the interstitial space on our airwaves. Inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, our series featured musicians across Far West Texas. The idea was simple, these musicians would record a cover song — ideally one that was helping them get through the pandemic.

We asked they record it from their porch, or front yard, as a way to suggest that the best way to enjoy things right now is at a distance.

We felt the songs — which were also shared widely across our social media accounts — were are an opportunity for listeners across Far West Texas to come together, while being apart.

As the need to limit social interactions intensified last year, events were canceled or dramatically changed from how they would’ve been done in previous years. Take Marfa Independent School District graduations for example. The 26 graduating seniors last year would normally have had a prom and a ceremony to celebrate them. But that changed.

Instead, the school held a parade and at the same time, the radio station read senior bios and students’ future plans over the air. Afterwards, the radio station played a special playlist curated by the students themselves.

Here’s to the #ClassOf2020 Marfa Shorthorns

Posted by Marfa Public Radio on Friday, May 15, 2020

In the same spirit, Marfa Public Radio created “Dancing On Your Own,” a region-wide socially-distant dance party.

In honor of the cancelled parties, rescheduled weddings, and online graduation ceremonies, the radio station decided to host a live music show, where we invited listeners from across the region to join us for a Zoom dance party. While Marfa Public Radio was covering the news of the pandemic and providing daily resources for our residents, it was equally our job to provide levity and an escape, however brief, during this difficult time.

For the holidays last year, we wanted to do something similar.

The winter holiday season was a little different to say the least. But we wanted to help keep our listeners connected to family and friends, however far apart they were. So we opened up the airwaves with another special live music show, where we read and played special messages for those families and friends who couldn’t be together.

Outside of our reporting on the pandemic last year, the staff at Marfa Public Radio, worked to figure out the other ways we can serve our communities during these difficult times. And we did that, from providing moments of joy to capturing personal milestones, we reached our communities in ways we hadn’t before through a little innovation.

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