Public Radio Program Directors held their annual conference in Minneapolis last month, offering three days of fantastic content geared toward content directors, program directors and industry program strategists. More than 350 people attended representing stations, networks and producers from across the country.
The 2019 conference was the first under PRPD’s new leader. Abby Goldstein became the organization’s President and Executive Director in June, leaving her post as WYEP’s General Manager. With the hiring of Goldstein, PRPD and PMJA are already looking at ways in which the two organizations can work more closely together to support the entire public media system.
“This is an exciting time for public media. There is a renewed sense of purpose for PRPD and I see nothing but opportunity to collaborate on projects that will benefit our ecosystem and our audiences,”said PRPD President and Executive Director Abby Goldstein. “PRPD and PMJA are uniquely positioned to provide a lot of value to the practitioners who are doing the work of keeping our listeners informed, engaged and enlightened. I’m thrilled by the idea of partnering to make amazing things happen.”
“There is great strength and potential in collaboration,” said Terry Gildea, PMJA Executive Director. “There’s no doubt that PRPD will thrive under the leadership of Abby and the organization’s fantastic board of directors. It’s time for PRPD and PMJA to work more closely together to support our system and the stations working in it.”
Those sentiments were evident in the two sessions that PMJA participated in at the conference. PMJA’s Terry Gildea and NPR’s Mark Memmott teamed up to continue their work with the Culture of Journalism collaborative. On the first full day of the conference they presented a breakout session on crafting editorial integrity documents at stations. Gildea and Memmott discussed strategies for making the case to station leadership (both the leadership team inside the station and those who lead the station's licensing organization) for embarking on this process. They showcased examples of current editorial integrity documents in use at several stations and then tested core principles through five case studies. Those scenarios included editorial interference from a station licensing organization as well as conflicts between station development leaders and news managers over programming choices. The case that prompted the most questions and discussion was a hypothetical one about station employees and reporters attending a vigil for mass shooting victims in their community. Memmott and Gildea pointed out that the lasting value in crafting an editorial document is not necessarily the document itself, but the process that pulls station stakeholders together to talk about navigating these difficult situations.
On Wednesday afternoon of the conference, Gildea moderated a super session on audience engagement in the upcoming 2020 election cycle. At the top of the session, CPB's Kathy Merritt announced that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would fund a system wide election coverage project called Listening to America with a $1.9 million grant. KCUR in Kansas City will be the lead station on the project and Donna Vestal, currently KCUR’s Director of Content Strategy, will be the project's managing director. Vestal joined Gildea on the panel to discuss the project which is still taking shape, but will encompass several major partner stations including WAMU, WUNC and OPB. The project will also provide opportunities for stations both large and small, in rural and urban areas to contribute content on a national level. Summer Fields, Engagement Strategist at Hearken also joined the panel and shared options stations can employ during their own election coverage. And Joshua Johnson from 1A completed the panel. 1A will play a role in the new CPB election project, likely in a similar way to the show’s continuing series Across America which effectively engages voters in battleground areas of the country. Johnson shared his views and strategies for engaging communities on issues they are passionate about in a manner that empowers them, whether virtually or in live community engagement events.
The collaboration between PRPD and PMJA contributed well received sessions to a conference agenda packed with relevant and exciting content. Gildea and Goldstein hope to continue that relationship in future projects and at PMJA’s 2020 conference in Seattle.