Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thoughtful Pushback

I've been spending a lot of time in an office at WOUB, the NPR/PBS affiliate in Athens, Ohio. There's a guy there about the same age as my dad, and somehow he manages to hold what I would describe as traditional values about the need for thoughtfulness in the media, the media as an educational resource, the need for media to provide information stewardship.

At the same time he also "gets" the web. He sees the complex issues facing not only public broadcasting, where he works, but the media industry in general.

At the moment, he says he's been pushing back a bit on how to use new media for WOUB. Is that the role WOUB is supposed to play? An online resource for local news? A place for web 2.0 experiments? These are fundamental, existential questions about the place public broadcasting websites play in the media landscapes ought to play in the media landscape. And the fear is that the decisions made now could lead to disaster in the future. But at the same time, not to act seems like it leads to slow, painful death.

I just can't believe that public broadcasting is incapable of innovating for the new media world. Not only that, I can't believe that the people who love it, who work in it, will let it flicker before burning out forever. It makes me wonder who is going to chart the future of public broadcasting in the digital world? I think those people are out there, but I'm worried that because of the inherent conservatism of public broadcasting, it will just be slow to change at a time when boldness is required.


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