A letter from our executive director on Current’s role in public media

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Fierce battles are raging in our republic. Many are fighting to save our democracy; many are working feverishly to save public broadcasting. This is a time to take a stand for what is important, what is worth fighting for.

I’m fighting for truth and justice, inclusion and unity, peace and joy, creativity and wonder. To me, these values are what public media is all about.

I’m also fighting to keep Current going because I’m a believer. I believe that public media is a force for good in our country, and that Current is a force for good in public media.

This is why the dedicated staff at Current come to work each day, to produce timely and in-depth news coverage; it’s why we report on public media’s diversity imperative and hold virtual career fairs. It’s why we’re introducing the Local that Works awards contest this year, and why we launched the #IamPublicMedia campaign.

It’s also why we push for access to data about public media’s financials, fundraising performance, debt, salaries, and audience. Our purpose is to provide readers with what they need to know to be informed citizens of the public media world and responsible stewards of a precious national resource.

You count on Current to cover the real challenges facing public media, but we can only do so if you are willing to share what’s really going on. Best practices emerge through the cycle of innovation: trial and error, introspection and feedback, analysis and modification, honesty and transparency.

What does it mean to be bold at this time? To tell our truths. On the record. In my two years at Current, I’ve been surprised to learn just how few people are willing to speak openly for fear of alienating some force more powerful. That kind of fear only applies in a world where power flows down, not up, which is precisely the paradigm public media aims to flip with its unshakeable commitment to fact-based news, documentaries about the human condition and universally available, commercial-free children’s television.

Current, too, is trying to be bold. We are telling our truth: We need your investment. As more readers moved from print to online, many ­— including some larger institutions in the system ­— simply stopped paying for their subscriptions or cut back to just one or two copies of Current. These decisions cut into our revenues and shifted the burden of sustaining Current to fewer and fewer institutions. Indeed, it largely fell to one — the Wyncote Foundation. Wyncote still has our back, but they want to know that you have our back, too. And so do we.

We’re introducing a paywall on our website to move toward a more sustainable business model, one that looks to all public media organizations to contribute in an equitable way towards the coverage and services Current provides. We believe these are important and essential to the vitality of public media itself, and hope that you agree.

As a field that generates $3.5 billion annually, and has reaped $1.9 billion in the spectrum auction, public media should be able to sustain a vibrant, leading, trade publication that informs and connects us and challenges our thinking. Current is evolving and innovating to deliver on that promise, but getting there will require more from all of us. Are we in this together?

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