It was a night in Spring 2009, just before 1am. The house was quiet as my mom and sister tried to sleep. In my room, I found myself awake because of insomnia, stemming from treatment of a trifecta of illness that kept me from attending high school. I tuned the dial on my radio, volume low so not to wake them, to stumble upon WBEZ, the NPR station in Chicago, doing its top of the hour station ID.
Then, a beep and these words, spoken over music: “It’s 7:00 GMT. This is The World Today from the BBC World Service.”
I had never been a listener to public radio before that night, but that night I listened with interest in what followed – discussions on news and current affairs, as part of a string of programs airing overnight before Morning Edition began at 5. After that night, I was hooked, and WBEZ and the BBC became a comfort to me in the pause between those rising to begin their days, and those returning home after a night shift. After that night, I became a public radio nerd.
I also knew that journalism was my calling for a career, something I would pursue as I completed university amidst industry change.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act, the act signed by President Lyndon Johnson, establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and saw the rise of PBS and NPR in the American media landscape. In spite of funding concerns, and a notable defense of funding from Fred Rogers in 1969, public broadcasting has continued to thrive and prosper.
Journalism and public broadcasting share common goals and objectives — to inform, educate, and stimulate. We are educators, storytellers, people looking to do the best work they can for public good.
These are goals and ideas that reflect part of my journalistic philosophy, and are personal values to which I hold dear. These values epitomize the ideals of journalism’s contributions to society, and remain in the DNA of anyone who wants to contribute to its future, especially through public broadcasting.
In addition to my hope to teach journalism at a university level and the ability to continue writing, a career goal I have is to work for a public broadcaster, either through blogging or in some digital capacity. As these mediums evolve, public broadcasting has the potential still to do the most good for society, to produce authentic offerings – to educate, stimulate and inspire.
It happens whether its through news, public affairs and documentary programs from the BBC or NPR, cultural offerings like 89.3 The Current from Minnesota Public Radio, or programs to inspire like the shows from Jacques Pepin, as well as the Great British Baking Show on PBS – as well as the British comedy and programs that have become a favorite.
The ability to do good also happens in the digital age online and on social media – and it is something that I hope I can contribute to in the near future.
So to all of those who work in public broadcasting, thank you for your commitment to the audience, and for reminding us to never take the principles of education for granted – and to quote Garrison Keillor at the end of his Writer’s Almanac program: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.
The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.