It was raining in Baltimore Sept. 23 when independent producer Jay Allison delivered his “benediction,” the traditional closing speech of the Public Radio Program Directors annual conference. The bleary, conferenced-out audience listened closely. Allison, who learned the nonfiction radio craft when NPR was a startup and went on to start up a few radio institutions himself, reminded attendees why perseverance matters. They gave Allison a standing ovation before dispersing under the dark sky.
Programmer Shelia Rue received the Don Otto Award at PRPD. The veteran programmer and workshop instructor for Public Radio Program Directors was honored for career contributions to the field at a presentation during the association’s conference last month in Baltimore. Rue, p.d. at Tampa’s WUSF since 2008 (and lately its classical sister station, WSMR), previously directed programming at KUSC in Los Angeles and WUNC in Chapel Hill, N.C. She also ran her own consultancy, SR Sound Programming, and shared her expertise with other programmers by running PRPD’s training workshops. The award honors the legacy of an influential mentor to the founders of PRPD, the late Don Otto — a “proactive, innovative and creative thinker,” said Steve Olson of Audience Research Analysis, announcing the award Sept. 22 .
Universal Subtitles, a project of the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation, is looking for long-form public media projects to translate into multiple languages through its crowdsourcing network. In January the project worked with the PBS NewsHour and volunteers to produce translations and subtitles of President Obama’s State of the Union address. Within 17 hours, the speech had been converted to nine languages, said Nicolas Reville of PCF. Now Universal Subtitles has partnered with American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, APM said at the PRPD conference. The aim is to extend public media’s reach and value by creating and publishing reports in multiple languages, said Joaquin Alvarado, APM’s digital innovation chief.
There’s some heavy-duty soul-searching going on in public radio. The Public Radio Program Directors conference, Sept. 20–23 in Baltimore, sidelined its usual celebrations of pubradio’s audience growth and its journalistic ascendency. Instead, participants grappled with big questions about challenges ahead and wondered aloud about how to move forward after a year of political calamity at NPR. Progress reports about ongoing reforms were freighted with a new urgency: giving exposure to innovative new programs, raising stations’ ambitions for local reporting, opening the field to more diverse voices and listeners.
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