Eric Athas

Senior Digital News Specialist

Eric Athas is on NPR's Editorial Coaching and Development team. He works with Member Stations and NPR journalists on social media, headlines, content strategy, coverage planning and other projects.

Prior to joining NPR in 2011, Eric was a digital editor and producer at The Washington Post.

Eric graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in journalism. While he was a student at UMass, Eric was the editor of the daily newspaper, co-founder of the campus's first digital magazine, and a blogger for

Ways to Connect

So you have a newly designed Core Publisher web site that's responsive and looks beautiful. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when you're creating stories in Core Publisher (or any content management system) to make sure you get the most out of it.

Russ Gossett / NPR Digital Services

What types of audio do people want to share and listen to? An ongoing experiment here at NPR Digital Services aims to understand more about that question. You can read more about that here.

(Russ Gossett/NPR Digital Services)


Chances are you’ll listen to this audio – at least 56 percent of you:



That’s what our experiments in making audio more sharable have shown so far. You’re more likely to listen and share interesting sound if it’s packaged with a good headline and an image – and recently we’ve discovered the type of audio matters, too.


Your City Made a Top 10 List. Now What? [VIDEO]

Sep 18, 2014

Do you live in the coolest city in the country? The most expensive? The least expensive? Or somewhere in-between? Rankings, Top 10 lists, surveys, state-by-state data — there's a lot of information out there about where your town stacks up.

In a webinar on Thursday, September 18, we discussed how to cover lists and rankings in a meaningful way. Boise State Public Radio's Emilie Ritter Saunders and KERA's Eric Aasen joined us to explain their own methods for covering these types of stories and shared some of their favorite examples.

Russ Gossett

Audio stories are full of interesting moments, but we rarely see those moments shared widely on social media. In a webinar on September 11, 2014, we talked about how NPR Digital Services and stations are experimenting to create shareable sound. We also heard from Nashville Public Radio's Mack Linebaugh and Emily Siner about how their newsroom creates social audio.

Watch the webinar below:

Russ Gossett / NPR Digital Services

In October 2011, we experimented with one Member Station and a Facebook feature that allows pages to geotarget stories to cities and states. In 2013, that small experiment grew into the Local Stories Project, a collaboration between NPR Digital Services and 33 member stations to create interesting, shareable stories about towns, cities, states and regions.

Today we're excited to announce the next chapter of the Local Stories Project: A public-facing homepage, new social platforms and three new stations. 

Rich Black /

There are lots of tools you can use to experiment with audio storytelling – radio, digital, social, community engagement, quizzes. With Audiograph, KALW found a way to combine all of that into into one unique project.

Audiograph is a weekly feature at KALW. It uses "the sounds of voices, nature, industry, and music to tell the story of" the Bay Area.

Russ Gossett

By now you’ve likely come across Digg’s terrific piece on viral audio. And if you haven’t ventured beyond the headline, it’s worth a read. The piece picks apart this question: How come audio never goes viral?

That’s a question we’ve been exploring over the past year here at NPR Digital Services. We set out to solve the viral audio challenge and we’ve discovered a few things worth adding to the conversation

(Keep in mind: these finding are based on a small sample size.)

Serious Stories Can Be Shareable, Too

Nov 13, 2013
Russ Gossett

We’ve heard this a lot lately: Fun stories, not serious stories, work on social media.

But we’ve found otherwise. You can shape serious stories to make them shareable and more informative for the public. We’re not talking about watering down serious journalism — we’re talking about crafting stories for the digital audience.

This happens every day in the Local Stories Project, which curates the most shareable member station content and distributes it through the NPR Facebook page. We’ve seen that people have an appetite for interacting with important stories that affect their lives. We found similar results in our research into the types of local stories that foster engagement.

Still, we wanted to be sure. Can serious stories actually get as much attention as fun ones on social media? And how can reporters and editors shape serious stories so that the audience will like, share, comment, retweet, etc.?

To help answer these questions, we reviewed 809 stories from the Local Stories Project that we then classified as either fun or serious. These were station stories that were posted to the NPR Facebook page and geotargeted — only people in each station’s local region could see them.

The surprising results offer insight into how serious stories can be shareable.

How do you make a serious story shareable?Through the Local Stories Project, we’ve found that serious stories can be just as -- and sometimes more -- shareable than fun stories. See our definitions of serious and fun stories.

9 Types of Local Stories that Cause Engagement

Aug 8, 2013
Russ Gossett

When you come across a story about your town, city or state, what makes you want to share it?

What makes a good headline?

This webinar covers how you should think about headlines, how you should approach them and some ways you can go about writing them.  

Some good headline writers to watch include: Gawker, Quartz, The Atlantic WireForbes and The Two-Way

In the latest NPR Digital Services webinar, we heard from Blair Hickman, the Community Editor at ProPublica.

Blair walked us through the life of ProPublica's  investigation into U.S. patient safety and the important role communities played in the process. 

Here are the five steps ProPublica takes for community-powered investigative reporting.

Is there a world renowned professor at a nearby university? How about a famous local chef? A local filmmaker, artist or writer? The people who make up your community don't have to just be sources in stories — they can be part of the storytelling process. This is the idea behind Cognoscenti, WBUR's new ideas and opinions site. The site is made up of contributors from Boston's community of thinkers and influencers.

In this webinar we had a conversation with Iris Adler and Frannie Carr Toth, who run Cognoscenti.

Via Flickr user Dave77459/Creative Commons

UPDATE Sept. 3, 2014:

For the latest on The Local Stories Project, check the public homepage at and Twitter account @NPRLocal.

Original Post:  

What is the Local Stories Project? In a nutshell, it’s a collaborative project between NPR Digital Services and stations. We take local public media stories, make them shareable and deliver them to the people who care most about them. The result: huge spikes in traffic to member station sites, hundreds of shares and localized community-focused comment threads.

We started this project in 2011 as a Facebook experiment with one station. We're now partnered with 33 stations in 28 cities, with more to come. We invite all interested public media stations to apply for the next round here.

So, how does the Local Stories Project work?

Russ Gossett

Here at NPR Digital Services we've conducted a study to determine the 9 types of local content that cause the most engagement and sharing. Go here for background on the study including results.

Designer Russ Gossett created an infographic that you can print and tape to your cubicle or desk. Find that here.

Russ Gossett

Here at NPR Digital Services we've conducted a study to determine the 9 types of local content that cause the most engagement and sharing. Go here for background on the study including results.

Designer Russ Gossett created an infographic that you can print and tape to your cubicle or desk. Find that here.

As we've said before, social media is great for sharing your own station's content. It's also a valuable tool for finding story ideas. Here are 11 examples of stations using social media to create content.

Yes, social media is great for sending out tweets and posting stories on Facebook. It can also be a valuable tool for staying on top of what’s going on in your local area or within your beat. There’s an ocean of story ideas, sources, news tips, photos, videos, firsthand breaking news accounts and local voices out there. A lot of it is untapped and below the “mainstream” radar. 

Here are 5 tools you can use to go scoop them up.

Welcome to the social media part of our training! This page has everything you need to guide you through the next three weeks, so bookmark it -- or better yet, always have it open in your browser.

The next three weeks will focus on the practical ways you can use social media for reporting, audience growth, story mining and content creation. 

November 12-16