Doug Mitchell: ‘Our service is to the people’

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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.

I have to go all the way back to my freshman year in college when I did NOT listen to public radio. I wanted to be a DJ at the campus radio station as I listened to that station a lot. But I got a lot of shade from them. My knowledge of rock-and-roll was as good as theirs, (I listened, remember) but I was ignored. I think they thought of themselves as “gods.”

I walked a few feet down the hallway and spoke to the GM at the public radio station on campus, and he was more than welcoming. To get started, I announced classical music. My parents are big classical and opera fans, so I had heard the composers’ names a lot growing up. Then, I moved to the newsroom and was coached, mentored (yelled at) by the news director. Stayed 3.5 years there and decided, someday, I’d work for NPR.

I spent a summer as an intern in D.C. for an Oklahoma congressman, met a few people from NPR that summer and stayed connected. Two years later, I was brought out as an applicant for a position on ATC. I didn’t get it, but became convinced I could work for NPR.

So, I moved, nagged them for nine months, got hired and, as of June 1 this year, I’ve been with NPR in some form for 30 years.

Sound familiar? It should. How many people have followed a path similar to that? I’m in public media because we are supposed to not just tell stories, but be a reflection of them, too. We are a public service. Our service is to the people, those who listen and those who could listen, if we invited them in. I’m here to open the door.

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