Inauguration Day 2017 ushered in a new presidential administration, unprecedented media coverage, and a fresh batch of questions about how our democracy functions.
In those basic questions, NHPR saw an opportunity to inform and engage audiences in a new way.
NHPR’s Civics 101 is a podcast and broadcast series that tackles the basics of how the U.S. government functions, from the role of the White House Chief of Staff to the inner workings of the National Security Council, to the Emoluments Clause.
While it is produced at a local station, Civics 101 was designed to reach as broad an audience as possible. The segment topics are audience-generated, coming to the show through the Civics 101 hotline, email, social media, and the public-powered journalism platform, Hearken.
Podcast segments are kept to an easy-to-digest length, edited for broadcast on NHPR, and posted to PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, for carriage on member stations across the country. Perhaps most important, by focusing on the basics, Civics 101 avoids hot-take political coverage and is able to approach potentially thorny issues from a non-partisan angle.
Civics 101 has further broadened its reach among teachers and students. In August 2017, NHPR hired an Educational Outreach & Engagement Producer to collaborate with educators and create supplementary newsletters, videos, explainers, lesson plans, and classroom materials for the episodes.
Civics 101 produced 86 episodes in 2017
- Chief of Staff (1/19/2017)
- Executive Orders (2/7/2017)
- The Nuclear Codes (3/13/17)
- The Congressional Budget Office (4/4/17)
- Separation of Powers (6/14/17)
- Government Shutdown (9/19/2017)
The Civics 101 weekly newsletter, Extra Credit, includes episode recaps, suggesting reading lists, and pop quizzes.
Civics 101’s Educational Outreach Producer, Nick Capodice, leads classroom initiatives and creates episode-based newsletters, teaching guides, explainer videos, and in-class activities.
Sample Lesson Plan:
Sample In-Class Activities:
Sample Explainer Videos:
With an aspiration to bring these topics into the public square, NHPR hosted a free, Civics 101-themed trivia at a local venue. (See poster at right.)