Monday, April 09, 2007

How do we/How should we define ourselves?

I had the pleasure of meeting blogger Dave Winer at the 2007 Public Media Conference in Boston back February. On Sunday, Dave offered some very interesting thoughts on our changing world as it relates to public radio -- in the context of Sam Zell's purchase of The Tribune Company.

In his post, Winer writes:

Before the Internet, I listened to KQED. That meant listening to shows I wasn't interested in, like Pacific Time or Latino USA. Now, after having lived in Seattle, Boston and Florida, I'm an NPR listener. I found shows on WBUR that KQED doesn't carry. My favorite show comes from WNYC. I'm a fan of DIane Rehm who does her work at WAMU, but I first heard her on WJCT. I still listen to Fresh Air from WHYY, but I only listen to the podcast, and only when the program interests me.

In a few years, the transition to the Internet will be so complete that the link between the call letters and a local area will be meaningless. The stations won't even broadcast. Then someone at NPR will swallow the hard truth that the distinctions mean so little to anyone outside their industry that they might as well just collapse it down and call the whole thing NPR.

How would those in the public radio community react to these comments?

  • Many would react in denial, that the world really isn't moving this way.

  • Some would react in fear, that this is a big conspiracy brought about by a few of the major players in public radio to go directly to the listener and by-pass the local stations.

  • And a few would react with a nod of the head and agree that this is the way the world is moving to and that we had better get off our tails and act now together to map our future. Not everyone is going to be willing or ready to work together in this leap of faith ... but unless we do, we're facing the same reality as the newspaper industry.

For those who see this new world and want to lead public radio forward, now is the time to step up, clear your throat, and voice your opinion loud and clear that it isn't 1988, or 1995 anymore. It's 2007 and we have the opportunity to grab this new world and make it ours or allow the new world to pass us by.

I'm ready to grab our piece -- I hope others are ready to step up as well.

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