WBEZ’s Front and Center Literacy Series Call for Pitches, deadline Feb 29

Hey audio folks. WBEZ has just put out this call for pitches for a new series on literacy. FYI, all pitches should have stories connected to the Great Lakes Region: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario, or Quebec. Details HERE and below. 


Front and Center: Literacy series

Call for Pitches – 2012

In 1990, then-President George H. W. Bush and the nation’s governors adopted the goal that all of America’s adults be literate by the year 2000. That goal was never met. Over 20 years later, literacy is still staggeringly low. In cities like Chicago and Detroit, it’s estimated nearly 50 percent of the adult population has trouble reading. And ironically, the last comprehensive and federally-funded assessment of adult literacy took place nearly a decade ago.

The issue is more important than ever in this changing economy. With a decline in manufacturing and a boom in technology, more jobs require strong reading and writing. And if you don’t have those skills, you may not earn a living wage.

The literacy series will examine the cost of low literacy and strategies to move forward. The series will air regionally in May of 2012.

We’re looking for pitches from station reporters and independent journalists throughout the region for radio stories, slide shows, photo essays, documentaries and other multi-platform components that can help us understand how important literacy is to our future and economy.

We imagine the literacy series as a richly-textured collection of special shows and compelling stories, including enterprise reports about the region’s literacy problems, as well as profiles and first-person narratives about the ways that reading and writing affects our lives.

Here are some statistics to help put the problem in context.

  • In Chicago, half a million adults can’t read, write, or speak English well enough to meet their own goals for education or employment

  • More than 60 % of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate

  • Experts estimate that nearly 40 % of adults in Chicago’s Lawndale community have less than a high school education and only 35% are employed

  • 54% of working age adults in extreme poverty have only a high school diploma or less

  • 84% of the need for English as a Second Language courses in Illinois is not being met

  • Over 40 million Americans age 16 and older have significant literacy needs.

  • 43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty

  • 70% of people with the lowest literacy skills have no full or part time job.

  • Workers who lack a high school diploma earn a mean monthly income of $452 compared to $1,829 for those with a college degree.

  • Misread or misunderstood prescription labels cause up to 7,000 deaths each year

  •  Low health literacy causes an additional $73 billion in health care costs

Among the questions we’re interested in answering are: How is federal education policy impacting literacy?

  • What’s the role of the library in affecting literacy?
  • How will changes in the GED change standards of literacy?
  • How will the Common Core initiative change the way we teach kids to read?
  • Has the quality of educational TV and/or textbooks affected kids reading experiences?
  • How has the economy affected family literacy, including bedtime reading?
  • What’s the cost of childhood literacy?
  • How does the brain work when we’re learning to read? How does that change as we age?

  • What sectors of the economy are most likely to get away with low literacy and why?

  • What’s the link between literacy and poverty?

  • How is the elderly population dealing with literacy problems?

  • How does literacy affect the deaf or disabled?

  • How is bilingualism affecting literacy?

  • How is the prison population dealing with concentrated low literacy?
  • How has slang, code-switching and vernacular changed the way we communicate?
  • How has word processing and diminished emphasis on penmanship affected literacy?
  • How has the internet changed the way we read?
  • How does low literacy affect your health and proper use of prescription drugs?
  • How is the adult literacy problem being addressed? What’s working? What’s not?
  • How is the literacy issue affecting the changing workforce?


What are the stories we should be telling in your community?

Our freelance rates range from $300 for a profile or audio postcard 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 with literacy series pitch in the subject line should be submitted to:

Sally Eisele, managing editor


Aurora Aguilar, project editor


Deadline: Call for pitches closes February 29, 2012

*statistics come from Literacy Works Chicago, Literacy Chicago, Begin to Read, Heartland Alliance, National Institute for Literacy, White House Conference on Aging

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