How Can Public Radio Include All People?

Submitted by keith woods on Fri, 06/04/2010 – 3:46pm

Session Convenor:
Keith Woods

Session Reporter:
Keith Woods/Davar Ardalan

Discussion Participants:
Ruth Seymour; Sonya Bernard-Hollins; Linda Jue; Annie Shreffler; Lou Rutiglino; Ryan O’Toole; Matt Renner; Lori Robinson; Kwan Booth; Latoya Peterson; Peggy Holman; Frank Witsil; Maureen Federo; Cheryl Fields; Blake Roberts; Kat Aaron; Chris Rabb; Sono Hashisaki; Andrea Silenzi; Chris Smith; Davar Iran Ardalan

There were several themes that emerged; some questions, some challenges, some suggestions:

— Black communities are losing coverage in newspapers and are losing black-oriented commercial radio. Can public radio share its content with some of the commercial stations that are small and hardly competitive? Would that introduce people to public radio and drive audience there?

— Public radio needs to go beyond its content comfort zone; cover and include people who will come to radio when it looks/sounds more like them. We discussed whether this “build it and they will come” philosophy holds up.

— Connect with people like Farai Chideya who can bring younger, hipper audience to public radio. Find voices who don’t sound like more of the same on NPR.

— Can you go beyond content and programming? Can you host events — lectures, forums, sponsorship of events in communities; concerts, etc.? (Example: Singles nights held by WNYC). Get community relations people to make connections between the programming and the audiences we seek.

— Bring greater diversity to the ranks of those who decide who’ll get interviewed, what will get covered. Are they representative of the people you’re trying to reach?

— Lori: Is the commitment there among NPR leadership to follow through and make something happen. Keith: Yes. But there are many ways that commitment at the top is undone below. Change will come if momentum and critical mass push the effort forward.

— There are three ways public radio can make a difference re: diversity:

1. Improve opportunities for entry into public radio (internships)

2. Create “artists in residence” to bring in more talent;

3. Support the work of independent producers via AIR

— NPR needs to put marketing/outreach support behind programs for people of color; needs to make it possible for people of color to step beyond the “urban” shows.

— Go into communities and cover local events that have national resonance — community forums or conversationsĀ  that deal with big issues shared by communities across the country; post-produce the events, maybe put content around it and give it back to the public;

— Report on events that all people share — family reunions, life transitions (Bar Mitzvas, Quinceaneras, etc.), proms, etc. — that allow people access to diverse ways common events are experienced.

— Tell listeners, users, people in social networks what you’re working on and ask them what questions they want asked; infuse all of journalism with voices, ideas, questions with this diversity of voices;

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