From Inside to Outside: Public Radio in America

Public Radio in the United States is a sort of fearful mistress to those who spend their lives trying to contribute to her. She is a large woman, plain enough to be your neighbor, she even makes a fantastic coffee cake that you devour during events at the community hall (funerals, conception announcements [they have these in PublicRadioVille], the occasional birth [that hasn’t been aborted]) and she sometimes even gives you a neighborly hug.

You knew she had some social anxiety, but you would never have guessed she was a changeophobe. She hasn’t moved the recliner in her living room for 30 years. She still has one of those massive satellite dishes in her backyard, I think it needs a mechanic to keep it going.

Enough with the playful analogy. How should public radio look as an organization if it is going to continue to be relevant?

One of the wonderful things I saw while travelling the country working as a consultant for NPR was the diversity. Sure there was great diversity in the gender/sexuality/race sense, but that is not what I am talking about.

I saw a great diversity of definition and perception. Different ideas about why public radio is successful, different ideas as to what the listener wants, different perceptions of the management of public radio.

Diversity of Reality of sorts. Poor stations, rich stations, passionate people, painfully boring people, incredibly engaged people, lifers, radicals. Wise Gurus, crown princes, senseis and spoiled children.

Does Public Radio need to change?

Can public radio be relevant at all?

In the next few days and probably weeks I will start to dump what I managed to learn while I was doing my work at NPR, both about National Public Radio and the entire Public Radio system in the United States.