There are now enough public radio stations to reach more than 90 percent of the American public, and pubcasters have adding specialized stations to increase listening options in areas where pubradio already exists. So it’s rare that all-new stations arise, especially in the East, or can afford to get going with sparse populations. An exception: the twin stations of Cape & Islands Public Radio, WCAI on Cape Cod, Mass., and WNAN on Nantucket Island. Founder Jay Allison, a nationally prominent independent radio producer, surveyed colleagues nationwide for advice on the stations’ sound. A selection of the responses:
People consuming public affairs coverage because of duty or a fascination with policy create a demand for news with context, details, debate, and reason. But those watching public affairs in search of drama create a demand for covering politics as a horse race or morality tale with winners and sinners.
David Fanning, e.p. of Frontline, discussed the WGBH program’s evolving use of the Web Aug. 23, 2010, in accepting the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. At the same time, the Center honored the winner and finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. One of the four finalists was a reporting project, including a Frontline doc, “Law & Disorder.” The film about white vigilante activities in New Orleans was prepared in collaboration with ProPublica, the Nation Institute and the New Orleans Times-Picayne.
David Fanning, the founding executive producer of PBS’s Frontline series, gave this talk in 2009 as the annual James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting sponsored by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Thank you, Geoff Cowan and Dean Wilson, for your kind words, and especially for your invitation to come here to the Annenberg School to give the annual Loper Lecture. This also gives me a chance publicly to thank Jim Loper, for the years of work he gave not just to KCET but as a leader in public broadcasting. It’s an honor to be invited in his name. I would also like to thank Mr. Russell Smith for his sponsorship of this lecture.
The fact that the public radio audience is 82 percent white is a problem when the public we aspire to serve is becoming rapidly more diverse. It is absolutely imperative that we find ways to bring in new voices, and that we resist the urge to apply old filters to new ideas. …
“Let’s face it,” writes a prominent pubradio station news director, “despite 40 years of evolution, we have produced a lot of journalism, but we still lack full commitment. Especially local news commitment.”
The authors head the Public Media ThinkTank at American University in Washington, D.C. With backing from the Ford Foundation they’re working to distill the means and motives of a broader realm of public media, including public broadcasting. This is one of their first efforts. Public engagement is the semisecret success story of public broadcasting, and it shouldn’t be. The many community partnerships that flourished with public TV’s June broadcast of the special on caregiving for seniors, And Thou Shalt Honor, and the amazing insights that Story Corps brings to public radio shouldn’t be heartwarming, exceptional stories. They should be the norm.
This essay appeared in the Washington Post June 21, 2005, after Bill Moyers retired from hosting the PBS weekly public affairs program. I must be the luckiest man in television for having been a part of the public broadcasting community for over half my life. I was present at the creation. As a 30-year-old White House policy assistant in 1964, I attended the first meeting at the Office of Education to discuss the potential of “educational television,” which in turn led to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. When I left the White House that year to become publisher of Newsday, I did fundraising chores for Channel Thirteen in New York and appeared on its local newscasts.
Pat Mitchell, then president of PBS, delivered this talk May 24, 2005, at the National Press Club, in the midst of escalating news coverage of the conflict between public TV and Kenneth Tomlinson, then chair of CPB. Mitchell was preparing to announce recommendations for public TV’s future, but the Digital Futures Initiative report was delayed until December 2005, after Tomlinson had quit CPB and the dust was clearing. Since becoming president of PBS, I’ve often been at podiums like this one, with audiences like this one, although perhaps not as well informed or well prepared as a National Press Club gathering or one with so many familiar faces, those of friends and colleagues in public broadcasting. I appreciate the presence of national and local leaders of this great institution of which we are the current caretakers, and along with them, I am grateful to have this opportunity to make the case for the value and relevancy, and in fact, essential need for a vital and viable public broadcasting service in a democracy. Leading PBS at any time comes with bragging rights to be sure.