Talking Public Media: Conversations About Media & Democracy

What, exactly, is “public media” in an era of vanishing newspapers, expanding Internet and wireless networks, empowered publics and an increasingly lively (if chaotic) nonprofit-news sector?

Talking Public Media pursued this fluid notion in conversation with diverse journalism practitioners, advocates, educators, academics, admirers and critics.

The following four interviews were conducted in May 2008.


Charles Lewis: How to Start a News Nonprofit
A former 60 Minutes producer, CHARLES LEWIS hit hard limits on what he could cover in the commercial sector. So he jumped ship, and embarked on the “tough slog” of building his own nonprofit news outlet at a time — the late ’80s — when the industry was still flush, and the Internet largely unknown. The Center for Public Integrity went on to break ground as a new type of public-interest news outlet, while Lewis has since founded the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, and played a key role in forming the Investigative News Network.

Geneva Overholser: “Public Media” or Public Interest?
It was in the depths of 2006, with the severity of the media crisis only deepening, that GENEVA OVERHOLSER — former editor of the Pulitzer-winning Des Moines Register, ombudsman for The Washington Post, and currently Director of the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California — issued her now-classic “On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change.”

Persephone Miel: What Should PBS Do?
PERSEPHONE MIEL a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, brings some Internet-era vision for the idea of public media. Rather than look to new nonprofits and new structures, she says the real opportunity is to activate existing public media — PBS, NPR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — to more effectively serve people and communities. But this may require a reinvention of what an NPR or PBS “station” is, as well as a re-imagining of the role of taxpayer funding in this picture.

Ted Glasser: The Case for a National Endowment for Journalism
TED GLASSER, a professor of communications at Stanford University, is an advocate of national-scale reform of through the creation of a National Endowment for Journalism. He also weighs in on the FCC and its adequacy to the changing media moment, and the importance of developing journalism support structures that can serve basic civic needs, particularly in communities that the commercial model for news publishing overlooks.

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