What was the highlight of your year in public media in 2018? And what is your wish for public media in 2019? To bring the year to a close, we asked our readers to answer these questions for us. Here are the responses we received. Feel free to add your thoughts in a comment on this post, and best wishes to you for a great holiday and a Happy New Year! We’ll see you Jan. 2. — Your friends at Current
Jarl Mohn, President/CEO, NPR
Highlight of 2018: Seeing how many more people came to NPR and public radio for their news as others were cutting back or weakening their coverage and standards.
Wish for 2019: Reimagining the compact NPR has with our local partners. We have such an amazing opportunity to increase our service, audience, revenues and impact together.
Clifton Chadwick, National Underwriting Sales Director, Koahnic Broadcast Corp., Albuquerque, N.M.
Highlight of 2018: When my colleagues at National Native News collaborated with FNX and Indian Country Today to present the first Live Election Night Coverage from Indian Country.
Wish for 2019: More funding for local journalism.
Kurt Mische, President & CEO, KNPB-TV, Reno, Nev.
Highlight of 2018: Excellent financial support from our community, and that our weekly outdoor series, Wild Nevada, has been picked up for national distribution through American Public Television. We began our 35th anniversary year in September.
Wish for 2019: That we figure out digital rights for our programs, and that we protect our franchise programs from walking across the street to other networks after we have made them household names.
Consuela “Sway” Steward, Training and Employee Engagement Specialist, KPBS, San Diego
Highlight of 2018: At our station, we are putting more emphasis on the worth and engagement of our employees. I moved into a role that has never existed at our organization (training and employee engagement), and, to prepare for the future, we have invested in leadership training for all executives and managers/supervisors. We also implemented a new mission/vision/values structure and are in the process of aligning everything we do to our new MVVs.
Wish for 2019: More emphasis on meeting younger generations where they are… they (we) are the future of the industry, and right now the public broadcasting system is not reaching our potential when it comes to connecting with millennials and GenZ. If we don’t act now, irrelevance is just around the corner.
David Brugger, consultant and former president of the Association of Public Television Stations (now America’s Public Television Stations)
Highlight of 2018: Elevation of Loren Mayor at NPR. Best decision in pub media in a long time.
Wish for 2019: Acceptance of change by those stations who need to feel less comfortable.
Brandon Echter, digital managing editor, Science Friday
Highlight of 2018: I could talk about a lot of the cool projects Science Friday did this year, but I think my highlight came in just under the wire, just last week. A few weeks ago, a 7-year-old girl named Nina hand-wrote a letter and sent it to our office: “Is it okay if you guys can study about the asp caterpillar?”
It turns out Nina is a budding scientist! She had accidentally gotten stung by one of these poisonous caterpillars while playing with her friends at school and was looking for more bugs to study — she loves ladybugs and keeps them in a box called “Ladybug Land.”
Not only did we find a caterpillar scientist, we brought Nina on the air to ask the researcher her questions herself. It was such a great encapsulation of the things that make public media great — connecting people with experts, serving our communities, educating the public, all that fun stuff. And yes, she was amazing on air.
Wish for 2019: Support your long-suffering digital team! Public media has long been filling the gap left behind as local newspapers and outlets shutter, but in many ways we still neglect digital journalism. It’s the place where, sometime pretty soon, most Americans will be getting their news.
At many shows and stations, digital teams are often small, overworked, brought into the reporting process late when assisting, and misunderstood by their counterparts on the radio/television side and management. While there have been some promising developments in the recent past — the good work PBS Digital Studios has been doing, the acquisition of Gothamist and its sister sites by local public radio stations, Bay Curious from KQED adapting every story they do for digital, and the awesome stuff we do at Science Friday 😉(seriously, have you seen some of our digital features?) — public media still has a long way to go.
My wish is that public media embrace their digital teams — not just as support for other content, but using their expertise to craft stories that natively live in digital spaces. Especially local stations.
I should say here that Science Friday has been really good in this regard, thanks to an experimental culture and support from management, but I want everyone to have what we have!
Ernesto Aguilar, Program Director, National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Highlight of 2018: For me, 2018 was the year public media’s collective sense of purpose was challenged in positive ways — by our donors, audiences and one another — to better live by the ideals of education for all Americans and a richer democracy. That highlight was created by many beacons. We saw CPB make important commitments to rural communities, in response to the tremendous needs of these regions. Public media organizations embroiled in scandal in 2017 were called to right their ships this year. And those organizations that made ill-advised decisions heard about it from contributors who expect better of us. We were together asked to be more innovative, engaging and inclusive. 2018 was at points exquisitely joyful as it was humbling, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Wish for 2019: Many organizations in rural areas, but also in huge cities, were faced in 2018 with a changing of the guard. Even now, more and more leaders of a certain age, whose wisdom and patience have steadied so many organizations for decades at turns, are quietly planning to embark on their next chapters. My hope in 2019 is that all public media organizations give compassionate thought to and planning for leadership transitions. How do we gently and intentionally pass the torch to the next generation to carry? How are we promoting from within and putting our promising voices on track to represent us when we’re gone? What talents must we cultivate in future managers working in a rapidly changing space, and how do we empower them to live up to the potential we see in them? Change is a constant, of course, but my hope for 2019 is that public media leaders can steer their organizations to embrace what are undoubtedly fruitful opportunities.