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Making PBS a National News Powerhouse

 Today I just finished hanging around at the WETA News Academy 2008 in Washington, D.C. I was there as a presenter and observer because I fully believe that PBS is the place for my Representative Journalism concept to take hold. So like Johnny Appleseed, I am going everywhere planting the seeds.

In addition, we are now aiming to have a Representative Journalist start on the ground at Locally Grown in Northfield, Minnesota to test if a community, starved for in-depth news, will rally around a reporter proving high value news and eventually begin to underwrite that journalist. We’ll be providing more news on that front very soon. It is an experiment that will work best if there are Rep Js everywhere.

That’s why I am emailing, on the phone and buttonholing everyone who will talk to me in PBS land. The time is ripe. There is a void in national TV news; it’s mostly a bunch of wrongheaded, loudmouthed pundits yelling at each other. I believe there is a contingent of people all across America willing to pay out-of-pocket for really compelling news and information in print, audio and video. National Public Radio has filled the audio piece. Everyone is looking for a new print model, probably the hardest to fill because it has no strong nonprofit tradition. However, Ruth Ann Harnisch was good enough to provide funding via the Harnisch Family Foundation so we can give the print piece a test in Northfield.

The video side is ripe for the picking. PBS has the national fundraising apparatus, the video expertise and the physical infrastructure. New technologies have lowered the costs. What I am trying to find out is if PBS has the will. Right now I have a proposal filled with assumptions which I am circulating one contact at a time.

PBS should start now to test those assumptions. However, someone in that vast bureaucracy has to be willing to take the lead. I am determined to find that person. In the last few weeks, I have talked to a couple of dozen people who understand PBS. When I tell them PBS can become a News Powerhouse, they look at me as if I have lost a few marbles. But by the time I walk them through the whole concept from production to funding, they think, maybe, just maybe, I am on to something

As this unfolds, I will reveal more. If you are PBS person, especially one with some power, contact me. I will reveal all. I an enjoying this because I feel certain somewhere the connection will be made and soon enough PBS will become a News Powerhouse. Remember, you read it here first.

One Response to “Making PBS a National News Powerhouse”

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About RJ

  • Your host

    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at

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  • What I'm thinking about

  • A Definition

    Representative Journalism, a term coined by Leonard Witt, aims to build sustainable journalism one small group at a time.

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  • Your Role

    Leonard Witt has been developing the Representative Journalism idea behind the scenes for several months. Now he is going public. You can help develop the concept into a workable model or models for mainstream media, small operations, start-ups or individual endeavors.

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