Time for “big think”

You may have heard about the challenge grant from the Knight Foundation to NCPR and the Adirondack Community Trust. $600-700 thousand over three years is a big chunk of change for us, and NCPR’s audience can and should expect a correspondingly big result. To put the gift in perspective, it’s about twice the amount NCPR received through 2001-2003 to launch our web operation.

We asked for funding to accomplish three goals: 1) to deepen the reach of our news department into local communities, 2) to train and mentor a new generation of public media journalists and producers, and 3) to better integrate our operations across all media platforms, traditional and new.

We didn’t just pick those goals out of a hat. The resources for public service journalism are shrinking everywhere. The “hometown” radio station is in most places a memory, newspapers are in free fall, and TV stations are trading in expensive boots-on-the-ground journalism for chatter and “infotainment.” The public radio demographic, both producers and consumers, is aging faster than the population as a whole. If the investments of the last 40 years are to continue to bear fruit in the future, we need to pass the torch. Lastly, the predominant features of the new media landscape are fragmentation and dilution. We need to become smarter and more agile to provide a consistent level of public service across all the platforms where people expect to find their news, information and culture offerings.

So we have a lot to think about. And we need you to put on your thinking caps, too. Over the next few months we will be reaching out via surveys, in focus groups, in your email, and face-to-face, to do a “big think.” We believe the listeners and supporters of public radio in aggregate comprise a think tank unlike any other. You can start the conversation now, on any or all of the three goals, in a comment below. I’ll keep an eye on the comment thread and pass along your contributions.

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1 Comment on “Time for “big think””

  1. Hollis says:

    Looking at goal 2 (since thinking about training and performance is a big part of what I do, it interests me), I have a couple of questions to get the ball rolling.

    What does it mean to be a public media journalist or producer? How is someone in those roles different from someone who works for a corporate newspaper, production studio, or conventional TV station? When you think about the new people who are available, where do they need help in adapting to the ‘public media’ world? Do they need help with technical skills like interview tactics, storytelling, grammar and language mechanics, driving in the Adirondacks in winter, audio production, vocal performance and speech training? Or are the issues you see more about attitude, the will to tell compelling stories while remaining balanced on the important issues, the concept of having not one ‘boss’ but thousands, and the old sacred obligation to ferret out and tell the stories that most need the light of day?

    When you look at the new people out there and compare them to the folks who currently wear the mantle of public media guru-hood, what differences do you see? Which of those differences seem most important? That’s where I’d start building your mentor program.

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