As members of the JPR Foundation board and Southern Oregon University leaders have been engaged in discussions during the past several weeks about how best to govern JPR, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the value of what we do each day and why it’s important. As I’ve listened to numerous stakeholders who care deeply about JPR’s service to the region convey their goals for our organization, it seems to me the essence of our mission and our work boils down to a few core concepts:
Context - In an age when people seem to be chronically distracted by rapid fire, short blips of often useless information, context has become a rare commodity. While we know what happens around the globe faster than ever, fewer and fewer “information age” news organizations tell us why things happen and how they came to happen because it’s complicated, takes more time and is expensive. Public radio’s journalistic values, both nationally and locally, continue to focus on giving context to listeners about events and issues that affect our lives.
Tolerance for diverse perspectives – So many media outlets, especially radio stations, have given up on the notion that citizens really do want to hear perspectives that are different from their own. The result, blessed by a misguided FCC, has been a more polarized media landscape where people can “turn the channel” to hear different political viewpoints (which they rarely do because it’s more comfortable to have one’s views confirmed rather than challenged). Elected officials and media pundits then lament that we have a more polarized electorate and body politic and wonder why. Public radio continues to believe that media outlets serve our democratic society best when they explore diverse, opposing perspectives in a fact-based, tolerant and thoughtful way.
Building a regional cultural identity – The people who live in the small cities and rural towns JPR reaches each day call the State of home because they value the quality of life our region affords. By sharing the special attributes of the communities we serve, exploring ideas about how we address common problems and convening people to attend events that enrich the human intellect and creative spirit, JPR helps build community and creates a sense of regional identity.
Radio remains a great wireless technology – Each morning I wake up and turn on my radio, boot my computer and flip on my cell phone. My radio is always “on” first with the programs I want to hear. While emerging media technologies have many benefits for delivering content in more convenient, accessible ways — which JPR continues to embrace — radio is still a reliable, cost-effective modern wireless technology for providing inspired programming to people.
Reaching out for what we don’t have while celebrating what we do have – JPR seeks to carefully balance our program mix between programs created in our and studios and programs we acquire from national and international sources. In reaching out for high quality national and international programs we acknowledge we are part of a bigger community and connect to expertise, ideas, art and culture that are not within our grasp here at home. By proudly featuring the work of our talented local staff and volunteers – like the spirited R&B tunes of Craig Faulkner on American Rhythm, the inspiring classical music selections chosen each day by Don Matthews and Valerie Ing-Miller, the amazing ability of Jefferson Exchange host Geoffrey Riley and producer Lisa Polito to make a complex issue understandable and cool new music discovered by Open Air hosts Maria Kelly, Brad Ranger and Eric Teel – we have created an institution that is authentic, relevant and uniquely our own.
Trusting our audience – If you come to work each day assuming you’ll be speaking to a smart, open-minded audience with a natural curiosity about the world – and know that if you get something wrong they’ll tell you in a clear, good-faith way (and very likely keep sending you a check because they know no one’s perfect) — anything is possible!