This June at the 34th annual conference of Public Radio News Directors Inc., members will be asked to vote on a new name for the organization. Last summer, a record number of participants gathered in Philadelphia for the PRNDI conference. During the business meeting, members passed a motion to consider a proposed new name during this year’s conference in Washington, D.C.
Acting on that motion, we formed the PRNDI Identity Committee, made up of public media reporters, editors, producers and news managers from a wide variety of stations, including large urban newsrooms and smaller ones that serve rural audiences. Some of the members of this committee are long-time active members of PRNDI; others had little experience with the organization. All of them are passionate about the future of public media and share the desire to build an organization that supports this work and the people who do it.
Over a period of several months, the Identity Committee wrestled with what this organization is and what we want it to become. Out of those deep conversations, the committee chose a name that PRNDI members will consider at this year’s conference in June: Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA). The committee and the PRNDI board agree that whether we call ourselves news directors, reporters, producers or editors, it is journalism — the practice of journalism as a public service — that binds us.
More than three decades ago, public radio newsroom leaders came together and formed an organization to advocate for themselves and for local journalism. They became mentors to one another as their newsrooms grew, and they created an annual gathering to train and support each other. That organization and its annual conference came to be known as PRNDI.
Today, PRNDI supports approximately 110 public radio member stations and more than a thousand journalists working in public media. Our annual conference draws hundreds of editors, news managers, reporters and producers from across the public media system for several days of training, mentorship, support and fellowship.
As the public media landscape changes, PRNDI must grow and change to be an organization that represents and advocates for journalists across public media. This is a shared conviction among our members and our governing board. Last year, the PRNDI board enacted two very important changes to ensure the growth of the organization: the hiring of a full-time executive director and business manager; and the creation of a sister organization, the Public Media Journalism Foundation. PMJF is a 501(c)(3) that will help ensure the financial future of PRNDI. The board and members agree more adjustments are inevitable as we strive to meet the needs of all members.
Over the years, we have heard some version of the refrain “I didn’t think PRNDI was for me” from public media journalists who are not news directors. While support for news managers is embedded in the DNA of PRNDI, we believe that today leadership is not reserved for one stratum of a newsroom, a show or a project — that it is not solely the domain of news managers. We want to bolster leadership from multiple directions.
This especially matters now as more journalism happens beyond the traditional structure of a newsroom. The spirit of mentorship and coaching, of raising consciousness and learning, can come from throughout our shops. We will continue to support longtime and emerging news managers while we also support public media journalists who may not have any interest in becoming managers but whose voices and perspectives make an important imprint on their stations and their communities. Or perhaps they will want to be managers someday, just not yet, and their influence is important right now.
As the members of this organization consider approving the name Public Media Journalists Association at our June business meeting, we will continue to serve public media journalists more completely. We are rising to and endeavor to become a leader and champion for:
- The mission of public media, defending and teaching its principles and practices.
- Emotionally safe newsrooms that foster a culture of respect and trust for all.
- Training journalists in all roles they may play.
- Mentoring and supporting existing and future newsroom leaders.
- Efforts to build inclusiveness in newsroom staffs, sources and material produced.
- Local journalism.
- Collaborations and partnerships that will help strengthen public media.
- The defense of journalism and ethical journalistic practices, especially when they are under attack.
- The craft of journalism.
- Connecting stations and journalists across public media to each other.
The steps we have taken so far and the proposed name we are asking our members to adopt in June are part of our ongoing evolution. We are listening to you and will continue to listen and respond as we strive to be the organization that represents journalists across public media.
PRNDI’s 2019 Conference will take place in Washington, D,C., June 13–15. Pre-conference training sessions will be June 12 and 13. The conference agenda and registration form can be found at prndi.org.
The PRNDI Identity Committee is:
- Terry Gildea, Executive Director, PRNDI
- Alicia Zuckerman, President, PRNDI; Editorial Director, WLRN
- Erin Hennessey, KNKX
- Teresa Collier, Mississippi Public Broadcasting
- Maryanne Zeleznik, WVXU
- George Bodarky, WFUV
- Ashley Lopez, KUT
- Kelsey Proud, WAMU
- Emily Kwong, formerly with KCAW, currently the Above the Fray Fellow at NPR
- Johnathon Reaves, KASU
- Caroline Ballard, Wyoming Public Radio
- Candice Fortman, formerly with WDET
Terry Gildea became PRNDI’s first executive director on July 1, 2018. He had served on the PRNDI board for five years as an at-large representative and as president. Gildea led KUER’s newsroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, as news director 2011–17. Alicia Zuckerman is president of PRNDI and editorial director at WLRN in Miami, where she’s in charge of planning and editing feature stories, enterprise and other long-form audio.