Radio producer Kelley Libby doesn’t want to say exactly what she’s working on.
Instead, she talks about long walks around the city, seeing Richmond with fresh eyes, and interviewing people on perennial topics like Shockoe’s slave burial ground, the statues of Monument Avenue, and the proposed Maggie Walker statue.
“I can’t say, yet,” Libby says about the best stories she’s uncovered or compelling conversations she’s had. She’s in Richmond on a nine-month storytelling project on historic preservation and public memory for Roanoke-based Radio IQ/WVTF
“It’s about what is Richmond today, how are people making their mark here, who’s building a future here,” she says. “I’m capturing a portrait of a city that’s shedding its old identity, hopefully in favor of one that’s more inclusive.”
The project, UnMonumental, focuses on the voices and perspectives that may not have made it into daily news cycles.
Boston-based nonprofit The Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) hired Libby for one of 15 projects nationwide that pair public radio stations like RadioIQ with producers like Libby.
Adriana Gallardo of AIR calls “Localore: Finding America” a “journalism design project” meant to tell “hyperlocal stories.” Production launched Nov. 1 and will run through July of this year.
“What we’re trying to do is engage with constituents that public media isn’t,” Gallardo says.
Connie Stevens, news director of Radio IQ/WVTF, says it’s rare to be able to bring a producer on board, “take her out of the daily news cycle and be a part of the community.”
“A dream,” is what Libby calls the opportunity. “When I first got [the job], the word [AIR] told me was ‘repose,’” she says. “They wanted me to spend time just observing.”
Libby is building an audience for UnMonumental through its social media accounts (see its Facebook and Twitter accounts). She and Stevens are deliberately vague about what the final product will be in this journalism project that demands “exploration and experimentation” but say it will be more than radio, and will involve online communities and public spaces.
“Right now, we’re developing a mechanism for finding and sharing stories,” Libby says. She’s hired VCU instructor Chioke I’Anson as a community producer and collaborator to help her do that.
Listeners can hear some of Libby and I’Anson’s initial work on 92.5 FM as short news reports. Or, look for Libby walking across the city, microphone in hand.