Chicago Public Radio Call For Pitches about the Great Lakes Region, deadline March 24

From a colleague: Chicago Public Radio has a call for pitches for a new project called Front and Center. Freelance rates range from $500 for a short audio or video feature to $5000 for a half hour documentary with multi-media components. Stories are about the Great Lakes Region and it sounds really fantastic. Please help spread the word!


The vast expanse freshwater in the Great Lakes have always defined this region and allowed it to prosper. But the lakes were also an easy dumping ground for toxic industrial, manufacturing and human waste.  Now many here are looking at the lakes to play a critical role in rebuilding and transforming the region as it looks to the future.

Some call it a “freshwater economy,” others label it a “blue” economy.  We want to look critically at whether these efforts to re-work and re-define the region around clean freshwater are viable, sustainable and do-able and plan a series to air regionally in June of 2011.

We’re looking for pitches from station reporters and independent journalists throughout the region for radio stories, slide shows, photo essays, documentaries and other multiplatform components that can help us understand how important the Great Lakes are to our future, how new industries are being born right now that are framed around our access to freshwater, and how ongoing efforts to clean up, restore and revitalize the Great Lakes face enormous challenges.  Some ideas of the kinds of stories we’re looking for include:

  • Experts say that if the 20th century was the century of oil, the 21st will be the century of water.  There is growing scarcity throughout the world, yet this region is like Saudi Arabia. What are the implications of that for development this century?
  • The 2008 Great Lakes Compact was an agreement to ban future water diversions – how did it come about and how effective will it be?
  • In the “water wars” over access to the Great Lakes water, who are the winners and losers?
  • Are there examples in the region of economic growth or change building on freshwater resources?  We’re looking for stories on things like the new high-tech water business; green energy; bottled water; and the economic benefits of shoreline revitalizations.
  • There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on a healthy Great Lake ecosystem, including sportsfishing and recreational boating.  But in terms of fish, the lakes are almost entirely bioengineeried, with millions of non-native species introduced every year.  How sustainable is that industry?
  • How has the 2009 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative helped the effort to restore the lakes?  What has worked and what hasn’t?  What are the prospects for continued funding and if funding is cut, what are the prospects for Great Lakes health?
  •  What about the dozens of unmediated toxic hot spots throughout the region – we’re looking for examples of areas that have been cleaned up, and others that remain toxic.
  • One of the biggest threats to the Great Lakes is invasive species like the Asian Carp.  In fact an entire bureaucracy has grown up around fighting off the enormous fish, including a newly appointed Asian Carp Czar, and “rapid response” teams designed to go in quickly wherever the fish is found.
  • Another ongoing problem is the huge amount of sewage and wastewater that still flows into the lakes.  What’s being done to mitigate that and what more needs to happen?
  •  What is the impact or potential impact of climate change on the Great Lakes?
  •  What about better efforts to conserve water – how are water using industries in the region working to re-tool to conserve water?
  • There’s a debate going on in the US and in Canada over various efforts to close down the “front door” into the lakes – the St. Lawrence Seaway and to shut the “back door” through the engineered Chicago River.  Both are efforts to keep the lakes free of new invasive species, but both are problematic and controversial.
  • One of the more challenging aspects of trying to control the water in the Great Lakes and to restore them is the fact that they straddle an international border.  What are those specific binational challenges?
  • A major new energy source – tar sands from Alberta Canada – may be refined and distributed through the Great Lakes – what are the implications of that new industry?
Our freelance rates range from $500 for a short audio or video feature to $5000 for a half hour documentary with multi-media components.
You can pitch around these themes or propose your own.  We look forward to your submissions.  All pitches should include ideas for multi-platform treatments.
Pitches should be submitted to:
Sally Eisele, WBEZ managing editor
Deadline: The deadline for submissions is March 24, 2011
Questions? Email Sally or call her at 312 948-4621

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