Aiming High

Oct 31, 2014

Depending on the speed of the US Postal Service in delivering this month’s Jefferson Monthly to your mailbox, JPR will either be in the final days of our Fall Fund Drive or will have just completed the campaign.  As we reach out to our listeners once again to ask for your continued support, it’s always energizing to step back from the day-to-day to remind ourselves of the big picture. To do that, I thought I’d share with you excerpts of the writings of some of public broadcasting’s leaders, practitioners and visionaries.  Taken together, they put in context the work JPR tries to accomplish each day while also conveying the aspirations of our national public broadcasting community.

Voices from leaders in the public broadcasting community echo the work that JPR seeks to accomplish on a daily basis.

“We need to hold on to the very same values that have undergirded public radio for the past 40 years, the ones that assert that accessible, in-depth, fact-based journalism and high-quality cultural programming are essential to a healthy democracy; that media can and should serve people while respecting their intelligence even when they don’t comprise a desirable consumer market; that media are capable of building bridges of understanding among diverse communities; and that it is a good thing for media outlets to be rooted in local communities.  But we also need to be completely different... The first thing we can do, indeed must do, is throw open the doors to new people. If public radio is to be truly public and play an essential role in society, we cannot live in a gated community. 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.” 

Bruce Theriault, Corporation for
Public Broadcasting
Senior Vice President for Radio

“Writing for the ear is everything on radio. A strong narrative line carries a good story and makes for irresistible listening. NPR reports are written, edited, and then rewritten and reedited to make them more lucid, more literate. Our aim is to use language carefully. We try to hire people who can write, and think; how they talk is less important. We shy away from personality cults built around a fresh face, a fancy hairdo, or a booming voice: what we want is to hear from people who have something to say, and their natural way of saying it is okay.”

Bill Buzenberg, Former NPR News
Division Vice President

“I believe a liberal education is what we’re about. Performing arts, good conversation, history, travel, nature, critical documentaries, public affairs, children’s programs—at their best, they open us to other lives and other realms of knowing.  The ancient Israelites had a word for it: hochma, the science of the heart.  Intelligence, feeling and perception combine to inform your own story, to draw others into a shared narrative, and to make of our experience here together a victory of the deepest moral feeling of sympathy, understanding and affection.  This is the moral imagination that opens us to the reality of other people’s lives.”

Bill Moyers, PBS host

“Public broadcasting needs to be open to any and all points of view. I think we want public broadcasting to be about finding facts and debating them from as many rational points of view as can be found. The topics should be intelligent design and evolution; Christian marriage and civil union; heterosexuals and gays; choice and the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade; taxation and tax-cutting...  The points of view should be from the left and the right, from the public sector and the private sector, from buyers and sellers, from Americans and from non-Americans.”

Reed Hundt, Former FCC Chairman

“Ours is a medium of intimacy and heart – of humanity and humility and honesty … We must always aim for the extraordinary. Okay is not good enough.  Fine is not good enough.  Good is not good enough. Extraordinary — every day, every hour, every second.  We must fight with every breath to infuse our airwaves with energy, passion and life … I believe that it’s okay for us to have revolutionary hearts. It’s okay for us to want to make this world a better place.”

David Isay, StoryCorps Founder

“… public broadcasting is a nonpartisan and unapologetically vigorous advocate of public life. It’s the exit from the squirrel-cage discussion of fairness and balance.  As members of the public, we need to know more about the underlying problems of our society and government.  We don’t need someone to calibrate neatly between two extremist opinions or stake a middle ground between predetermined left and right positions.  We all need help cutting through the noise created by loud, unproductive arguments.”

Patricia Aufderheide and
Noëlle McAfee, Former Heads
of the Public Media Think Tank
at American University

It’s big stuff, worthy of a big effort. And we hope, when you listen each day it is evident that all of us here at JPR are trying to make our little piece of the world a better place.

Paul Westhelle, Executive Director
Jefferson Public Radio

Thanks to Current.org for collecting these writings and for making the full texts available online.