WBGO Blog
  • "NPR Community" Announcement: Dewey Wins!

    September 29, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Big news this weekend from the mothership. National Public Radio gets in the social media game with their launch of the NPR Community, a public media framework that ties all digital content posted on the NPR website - both from insiders and member station producers (Disclosure: I am the latter) - to the good people who actually consume it on their computers, mobile devices, and other emerging gadgets.

    I'll be joining the community of NPR/member station employees, listeners, and visitors to the NPR Music Site for the online cabal. According to Dick Meyer, Editorial Director at NPR Digital Media, "Many big news operations have had open comments and other "social media" functions for quite awhile. Some of you are grizzled veterans of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and online news commenting; for some this will be new."

    He added, "NPR has been cautious because we want to do it right; we want the comments and the conversations to be useful, friendly and civil; we want NPR employees to participate and talk about their work. We needed the right tools and the right philosophy to come together. Now it has." Read the full announcement.

    It's another victory lap for John Dewey's assertions on the role of journalism in a democratic society and another perp walk for Walter Lippman's treatise. Or an uneasy alliance of the two competing philosophies. To me, it's Dewey's "Great Society" turned "Great Community" for public radio's content makers and users. Supported by taxpayers like you. Cool. Meyer adds, "We are not launching the project to get more "hits" that will make more money. We are doing it because it is the respectful thing to do for the NPR community."

    True, but the service will bring more traffic to NPR's website, and consequently, more underwriting sponsorship. Station managers grappling with overtaxed work forces, limited resources, and budget shortfalls of their own will view this with the requisite admiration, envy, and possibly some concern. Will the largesse, an unintended consequence or otherwise, trickle down to stations? And while everyone in public radio has their eye on growing the audience, NPR Digital and other capitalized public media institutions (including a handful of stations) are making the concept of an audience disappear. It's being replaced with citizens and collaborators and users in a participatory online environment. People who naturally consume information, love to share it, comment on it, and engage with it. Not to mention the occasional conservative hecklers and critics of public media. It's an interesting experiment, and finding a solution to the fiscal equation is like finding the next prime number. But organizations like NPR are risking revenue for innovation. Stay tuned.

    Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out in my bleacher seat on the NPR Community, connecting to the music lover who visits some of the content I contribute (including the WBGO/NPR Music Concert Series, Live at the Village Vanguard). I'm joining because it's my bit part in the whole liberal (and I use that word in its true definition) utopian process. After all, what's a great society or great community without some great music?
    -Josh