FACE TO FACE with the Future of Public Media

Posted on April 8, 2011

ITVS’ Steve Goldbloom reports from the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston. 


“Raise your hands if you work in public media? Citizen journalist? Media reformer?” A steady tide of arms lift and collapse as everyone’s eyes shift around the room to scope out each other’s company. This is how the moderator of Friday’s panel on The Future of Public Media chooses to break the ice. Among the panelists are Jake Shapiro, founder and CEO of Public Radio Exchange (PRX); Kay Shaw, director of Public Media Corps for the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC); and Linda Fantin, director of Public Insight of Journalism at American Public Media. Shapiro goes first, and it’s easy to see why his storytelling series The Moth has become an addictive force on the radio and online. He gives a compelling overview of his organization’s mission: to deliver stories widely that establish an emotional connection with audiences. With a couple million downloads a month, The Moth lives up to those expectations. 

Before leaving the conference, Jake Shapiro offered me (and documentary filmmakers) advice on how to use podcasting as a tool to attract new viewers. See below…


NBPC’s Kay Shaw spoke next about her organization’s goal to improve digital literacy in underserved communities. Her Public Media Corps (PMC) is doing just that in Washington, D.C. through public access points including: public media partners, public high schools, boys & girls clubs, and public libraries (you’re seeing a pattern here right?). Shaw was mobbed with questions after the panel but did promise to give BTB a video interview on Saturday, I just have to send her a text-reminder! American Public Media’s Linda Fantin made a surprise visit to represent the modern day shoe-leather reporter. Fantin cut her teeth as a beat reporter in a small town and her frustration with the current state of journalism echoes that of David Simon’s fifth season of The Wire

In short, Fantin described how news within a community requires the nuance and sensitivity, which stems most naturally from a reporter inside that community. In her experience, “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” As the session closed it was time for questions. The moderator explained on an overhead screen that we had the option to filter queries through a twitter hashtag #pubmedia. “Can we ask them in real-life too?” came a voice from the back. Yes, that would also work. More soon…    


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