Current is marking the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act by illuminating the experiences that inspired people to choose to work in public media. Every week, we are sharing their stories using the hashtag #IAmPublicMedia. Current is also collecting longer contributions, like this one. If you’d like us to feature your story, submit it here.
Public radio is embedded in my being. It’s the only thing my parents listened to in the car, and I lived in a suburb, so I’ve been listening since childhood. Sure, I was a captive (seatbelted) listener at first. (Quite an audience development strategy, by the way.) But by early adulthood, I was choosing to listen. There was nothing like it on the air, and there still isn’t. There was nothing like it on the internet because there was very little internet at the time.
As a young adult whose identity was still in flux, I was drawn to the global perspective that crossed geographies, the inclusive perspective that crossed lives and means, the cultural gems, the credibility, the storytelling. Public radio fit my values and my emerging identity perfectly. I tried out other careers (literally two in two years), but I remember keeping NPR in my sights. I jumped when I saw the right job description, and, by my mid-20s, I was in D.C. at the Great Mothership. My parents heard my name in the All Things Considered credits and stopped bugging me about going to grad school.
Over the years, I left public radio but then returned, because even as our media choices have exploded, there’s still nothing like it. In addition to its on-air and online qualities, our field has amazing people I get to call colleagues and friends. Our system has depth, breadth, steadfastness, and best of all, the love and respect of millions. For all of its flaws, I honestly feel that public media is as essential as ever. That’s why I came and that’s why I stay.