Posts Tagged ‘public media’


Words to the EIJ wise

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, seen with David Fanning, the executive producer at large in 2011. Aronson-Rath wants to uphold the values of a free press.
(Photo: Peabody Awards/Flickr)

When Raney Aronson-Rath began her journalism career at an English language newspaper in Taiwan in the early 1990s, she witnessed the emergence of a free press, in a time where the country was undergoing significant political reforms.

Aronson-Rath, now the executive producer of the PBS documentary program Frontline, said that witnessing that was an a-ha moment, a moment that would provide guidance to the work that she would do in the future.

“Growing up in America, I had taken the ideas of a free press, freedom of speech, and democracy for granted,” Aronson-Rath wrote in an essay for Current, a magazine for public media professionals. “I never would again. I realized how important it is to protect those ideas, and I decided at that point to commit to journalism as my career.”

Roughly two decades later, the a-ha moment she saw in Taiwan emerged in a new form for me, in suburban Chicago. In the Spring of 2009, I had a medical trifecta which resulted in me completing my junior and senior years of high school as a homebound student. As the days saw me going back and forth with my mom to a plethora of doctor’s appointments, the nights saw insomnia, a side effect of the medications I was taking.

What exactly could I do in those hours so I wouldn’t wake my mom and sister? I turned to the radio – public radio, to be precise, something that night and during the course of my recovery became a friend in the hours where one truly felt isolated and scared. I grew curious about the role stories could have, written and spoken, and the impact they could have on the world.

The values that Aronson-Rath wanted to protect soon became ones I wanted to protect too, as I knew that I wanted to go to college and pursue a career in journalism – and that’s exactly what I did.

This week, my SPJ colleagues are gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference. It is a culmination of the current journalism year in which we get to celebrate some of the best and brightest people in this industry.

It is also a time to reflect and to ponder about the future of journalism, and for that matter our crafts, in an age where the cultures of the internet and social media are leading the way in reinventing how we think about both – and how we can be authentic.

The timing of EIJ is also apt – as this month also marks the 50th anniversary of when the House of Representatives passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which also created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law that November, he spoke about what would come of the Act, and how public broadcasting would enrich one’s spirit and advance the education of the people.

Enriching one’s spirit and advancing the education of the people are hallmarks of all quality journalism. Like our colleagues in public media, we are storytellers, with the desire to inform, educate and engage, with the hope, as this announcement from WGBH put it, help people “cope better with the world” and their own lives.

It’s hard sometimes, especially for young career journalists like myself – with the blunt, uneasy criticism of the Trump Administration, as well as the general economic outlook of the profession – to know that the work you do can matter to your audience. Reminders that the ability to do such work exist help along the way.

It is in that spirit that I’d like to introduce you to the people who occupy a building just off of Cedar Street in St. Paul, Minn., where it just so happens that the organization that employs them is celebrating their 50th birthday this year.

That building is home to Minnesota Public Radio, and the corporate headquarters of American Public Media, home of national programs like Marketplace, The Splendid Table and A Prairie Home Companion, and who distributes the BBC World Service to public radio stations across the US. In that building are people who put their family, friends and neighbors first – who care deeply about the ability to enrich the spirit of Minnesotans and Americans, and advance the education of the people, so they can be at their best.

Indeed, it, and the reminder of why journalism remains important to democracy, is made known on a t-shirt linking the start next Sunday of Flyover from MPR News, a national call-in program.

Since that night in 2009, I’ve had a soft spot for them – a soft spot that has grown exponentially since moving to the Twin Cities. Indeed, that soft spot applies to all who work in public media, and all who look to uphold the importance of a free press and the fundamental role journalism has in democracy, through the output produced each day.

Fred Rogers said that life is for service – and as life is for service, then journalism remains the most important profession you can choose to have a career in. Working together, we can uphold the values of journalism in a democracy, promote the need for quality, ethical journalism and help people be at their best.

If we won’t do it, who will?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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 SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

What Jacques Pepin can teach journalists

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides worthwhile lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques Pepin and I, through our professions, are different. Pepin is the successful chef, author and broadcaster, known to millions as the host of multiple cooking programs airing on public television. I am a journalist who writes primarily about journalism and digital culture.

Despite our pursuits of different lines of work, there are two things that we have in common — our commitment to quality and our ability to tell stories.

For Pepin, he tells these stories through his recipes, curating the experience of enjoying food with family and friends. For me, it is through the stories and essays I write, not just for SPJ, but for the British publication Kettle Magazine, for whom I have served as an editor and contributor for over 4 years.

Yet, Pepin’s work and philosophy can provide lessons for journalists. In a recent broadcast of the PBS Newshour, Pepin did a segment reflecting on the culture of the recipe, and that at the core of a recipe is the idea that comes from it.

“A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure,” Pepin said. “You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But after you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic.”

The same rule applies, albeit indirectly, to journalism. The ethics and background rules apply and must be abided by the first time you sit down and write a story. You have the information that comes from 6 basic elements — who, what, when, where, why and how. But as the mediums evolve in the digital age, there are more ways for stories to be told, whether through conventional platforms like a newspaper, TV or radio, or through the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What I have come to appreciate about Pepin’s work is the stories that he tells with the experience of food. Every dish, whether he cooks it himself or with the help of his daughter Claudine, granddaughter Shorey or best friend Jean-Claude, tells a story, and though the basic recipe elements either remain the same or differentiate depending upon taste, there is a different story that can be told.

Good journalism and good storytelling has the power to make a difference in the world. It not only informs and engages, but also has the ability to inspire. It is the type of storytelling that I hope to do as I continue my career.

Pepin is curating a unique experience with every dish he makes, which makes his programs on public television (and indeed other public media programs) so worthwhile. Pepin also gives a reminder to all of us about the importance of a good story, and how much benefit it can have.

Happy cooking, and happy storytelling.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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 SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Point Taken and the new social media conversation

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Carlos Watson moderates a debate on the American Dream from Point Taken, airing on PBS. (Photo: Meredith Nierman/WGBH)

Social media has allowed us to do many things in journalism, from help tell a story and inform new audiences, to curate a conversation on various subjects. For WGBH, they have shown social media can do that and then some through the new program Point Taken.

Point Taken, a late-night, weekly debate on a current affairs topic, presented by Carlos Watson, premiered last night on PBS and is produced by the Boston based public media station. The subject was the future of the American Dream, and at the core of the conversation was social media, utilizing the hashtag #PointTakenPBS.

Yet, how social media was portrayed was different compared to most current affairs programs on television that discusses topical subjects. Tweets had appeared on screen, but also data of interaction was also present, indicating how many users were tweeting with the subject at that given time. It gave a visual complement to the discussion, allowing audiences to see a full lens of the conversation.

There was also the ability to vote on whether the American Dream was dead or alive, data which was shown on Twitter, as well as the ability to use polls to gain more insight into the thoughts of viewers.

However, the prevalence of social is not exclusive to a half hour broadcast. Other platforms had been used, including Facebook for engagement and interaction, as well as Snapchat, where through a filter audience members could record their thoughts on the subject being debated. Point Taken having a platform on Snapchat is part of a number of WGBH produced programs signing on to the platform, notably the current affairs documentary program Frontline and the science documentary program Nova.

In addition, the first episode is available to watch again (or to view if you missed last night’s airing) on Facebook, through PBS’ fan page.

The subjects will change from week to week, but one thing is for certain. WGBH and Point Taken have revolutionized how social media is used to curate a conversation, and has allowed new ways for public media as a whole to engage with younger audiences. It is a strategy that is inspired, and can go a long way in engaging new audiences and retaining current ones.

Tuesday was a win-win scenario for WGBH and for this industry, allowing not just for a discussion on the future of the American Dream, but also how social media can be used to enhance and innovate journalism, making it better for those curating the content, and, most importantly, those consuming it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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 SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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