CPB’s American Graduate initiative has set its sights on targeting dropouts, but another project in public media, Ed Zed Omega, is zeroing in on “rise-outs” — students who are excited to learn but feel that high school is failing to meet their needs.
When Jim Pagliarini and Judy Diaz say public TV should pay more attention to a younger audience, they’re not thinking of viewers in their 20s and 30s. Their Next Avenue project, based at Twin Cities Public Television, aims at Boomers, the big generation now between the ages of 45 and 65, with its biggest numbers toward the younger end. In contrast, 60 percent of PBS’s audience is over 60, Diaz says, though it has many Boomer viewers. “We’re not reaching them, and we’re not engaging them now,” says Diaz. Boomers — “that’s an NPR audience,” she adds.
The makers of Liberty!, which airs Nov. 23-25 on PBS stations, are trying nothing less than to renovate the dusty reputation of the country’s founding fathers and their revolution. “People sort of consider it inherently boring — long-ago, far-away people in funny wigs, saying profound things you don’t quite understand,” says Ronald Blumer, writer and co-producer of Liberty! Not so! The producers summon up Ben Franklin to look viewers in the eye, and dozens of his contemporaries to admit they don’t know what will happen next in this Revolutionary War.