A few weeks ago, I asked our reporters and editors to choose the stories they considered of greatest significance or impact over this past year. These aren’t necessarily the most popular pieces of reportage, but in their combined 50-plus years of experience covering public broadcasting, our editorial team has a good instinct for what matters most to people in public media.
Tyler Falk, Current’s public radio beat reporter, chose these stories he reported in 2021:
- How pubmedia’s lack of openness, transparency around pay is hindering the push for fairer salaries
- How NPR and stations are working together to expand regional news
- With venues closed, event planners create virtual experiences to connect with audiences
Julian Wyllie, who covers public TV and federal funding, named his most important stories:
- Why independent documentary filmmakers want new and improved funding models
- As PBS exceeds profit projections, board approves $30.4M transfer to CEO fund
- CPB analysis finds steep declines in station underwriting, foundation funding
Digital Editor Mike Janssen pointed to a project he led this year: the Public Media Salary Survey, including the database Current published, Tyler’s story mentioned above and the webinar on pay equity in pubmedia that Mike hosted as part of Current’s “On the Money” content package. Mike said, “We responded to reader concerns, gathered a trove of data, and shed light on an issue that affects everyone and that many people are concerned about and want to see change.” The survey was also our most-read enterprise coverage of the year.
Managing Editor Karen Everhart also selected the salary survey and coverage as our most significant content of the year. She identified these additional articles as important exclusives:
- By joining forces, stations find new potential for boosting revenue and sharing content
- Fear, personal interest often hinder station mergers
- 5 takeaways from the expansion of public radio’s climate change coverage
I had a hard time choosing among the 423 articles and commentaries Current published in 2021. Decisions, decisions!
Our reporters’ regular coverage of unionization in public media (WHYY, Cascade Public Media, New Hampshire Public Radio, Marketplace, NPR’s digital staffers) stood out. Another important trend to watch is the growing number of acquisitions of digital and legacy media such as newspapers (WBEZ), alt-weeklies (VPM) and magazines (WTVP). I predict more unions and more acquisitions in 2022, and if they happen, you’ll read about it in Current.
Our coverage of diversity, equity and inclusion, whether it was filmmakers calling for greater transparency from PBS or stations’ new strategies to attract more diverse donors, is content you can’t find anywhere else.
Other big-picture stories I feel deserve a mention:
- NPR will roll out paid subscriptions to its podcasts
- Stations struggle to recruit, train next generation of broadcast engineers
- Study points to ways public media could build teen and tween audiences — and risks of not trying
Provocative commentaries by public media veterans Celeste Headlee and Eric Nuzum reflect how important it is to challenge the status quo, whether we’re looking at content strategy or DEI. In a time when public media’s workplace climate warrants urgent attention, Priska Neely’s “Follow this onboarding checklist to set your team up for success” is required reading for any supervisor or manager. And Jim Russell’s essay on “Why public media should just say no to Facebook’s money” made quite a splash.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a project that I believe really matters: Local that Works. All Classical Portland won the contest this year for its Recording Inclusivity Initiative. You can still watch our inspiring grand finale. Current also introduced Local that Works webinars this year, and in my opinion, the most compelling one was “Listening Up: How WFAE made inclusion the North Star of its content strategy.” Check it out!
This quilt of great content is bursting at the seams, and like a quilt, Current has public media covered. There were so many stories we didn’t get to in 2021, but 2022 is just around the bend, and we are committed to covering the important news and trends in public media for you. And of course, the people news, too.
We can only do this with your support. As a difficult year comes to a close, your donation to Current will be the bright spot — an endorsement of Current’s unique service and the need for an independent source of information by, for and about public media. I thank you for reading this column and for donating to help sustain this nonprofit news organization — public media’s media. Happy, healthy and prosperous new year to all.