Beyond 11%

April 19, 2011

(Right: New Voices, AIR's Sue Schardt, and CPB's Bruce Theriault and Kathy Merritt at Third Coast 2010.)

As public media considers AIR’s Executive Director Sue Schardt’s challenge to expand its reach to a broader and more diverse America, AIR turns to some of our bright up-and-coming producers for advice on to build stronger pathways into the system for them. While there is no simple or quick fix solution to expanding audience, AIR and many others throughout the system are focused on making room for a new generation of makers who can lead us to new formats and ways to engage listeners and viewers.

Their essays (excerpts follow) address the question “what do new pathways into public media look like?” and were part of their assignment as one of AIR’s 2010 New Voice Scholars following the Third Coast Conference. Download a pdf of their essays.

Scholar Stephanie Foo’s published report Let’s Change Up Public Media gives an insightful summary of her colleagues fresh thinking.

Funding for AIR’s New Voices comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Karen Attiah
Age 24
New York, NY
Columbia University masters student

"After coming away from the conference, I think that the key to succeeding in public media is creativity, persistence, and knowing the right people. The last point is exactly why organizations like AIR and conferences like Third Coast are so important for practitioners new to public radio."

Attending the Third Coast Festival last weekend, I can safely say, changed the entire way I look at radio as a medium.  At first I felt a little apprehensive about applying to the conference because I have not had a lot of radio experience to date. I have not had a piece air yet on national radio,  I have not yet invested in freelance radio equipment. I just had my first radio production internship this summer. But despite it all, I still believe in the power of radio to inform, empower, and to challenge.  I went to the conference armed with little more than my idealistic beliefs about radio. But I found that there were many other attendees who did not have tons of radio experience who were simply looking to learn, just as much as I was.  Read on...


Martina Castro

Age 28
San Francisco, CA
KALW, Station producer/staff

"[I left Third Coast] with the general sensation that there is a vibrant future in public media. These are my people! I have found my tribe!"
My first impression of the Third Coast conference was something pretty intangible. I have been to many media conferences, and this was my first conference where I was surrounded by people only working and interested in radio. So perhaps it was that. But I have worked at NPR and have been surrounded by radio enthusiasts and professionals in the past, and this was a new feeling, so I knew there was something more to it. I think it was a combination of the independent spirit of many at the conference and in AIR, the genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for working collaboratively and creatively in sound, and an entrepreneurial vibe that seemed to hang in the air there. This combination made me leave with the general sensation that there is a vibrant future in public media ‘ These are my people! I have found my tribe!  Read on...


Stephanie Foo
Age 22
San Francisco, CA
Snap Judgment producer

"If some of our most interesting and intelligent producers must avoid taking risks in order to have their pieces aired, then we are essentially admitting that there is no place for innovation in public radio. How can progress be achieved without experimentation?"

As much as I love making radio, it can be a very lonely process. I am a brand-new and very young producer enjoying her first public radio job, and the only glimpse I got of how the world of public radio works was through my coworkers. That all changed with the 2010 Third Coast conference. I can now confidently say that I have a fantastic view of what the industry is like - the faces I should know, the groundbreaking shows and the challenges the industry is facing. The most jarring dilemma to me was how extremely difficult it was for young, independent producers to break into the industry and make a living off of radio. Thanks to CPB and a number of passionate and brilliant producers, there is a definite movement towards creating shows that will give these people a voice, but for me that is not enough. I believe that in order to keep public radio relevant and truthful as an entertainment and news source, industry standards across the board must change to seamlessly incorporate young people and minorities into their programming.  Read on...

Carmen Gallegos
Age 20
Santa Fe, NM
Youth Media Project

"For me, radio has been a life savior. It is what defines Carmen Maria Gallegos-Lopez. It has been the outlet for my tears and frustration and the only reason I keep doing it is because there are other people like me, out there. And, those people are willing to listen."

Growing up in Santa Fe, the biggest challenge I saw at school was keeping us students interested in education. The city’s drop out rate was high when I attended High School, as it is today. But now, more than ever, it’s vital for our youth to find alternative ways to engage in their education.

When I was awarded the New Voices scholarship I really saw it as an opportunity to network with other people who were motivated, inspired and desired to pursue something in audio. Read on...

 Kelsey Hernandez
Age 15
Anchorage, AK
Student, Alaska Teen Media Institute

“…there are stronger connections with youth to radio than people realize. Youth are a really strong driving force for things they love. If radio became a part of their family and life, they’d help it as much as they possibly could. It would give them a sense of community and make them feel like they are able to relate to somebody and feel like they are not alone. Other people wonder about the same things we do! Maybe we could wonder together.”

I recently attended the Third Coast Audio Conference in Chicago, Illinois with the Alaska Teen Media Institute. When I got off the plane, my senses were tingling with the thrill of being in a new city and the thought of learning even just one more thing about my craft whirled around in my head.  Read on...

Rose High Bear
Age 65
Portland, OR
Wisdom of the Elders Radio Program
ED, EP, or head of an independent production house

“I feel that having Native producers at AIR, including myself, will help the membership learn how to approach Native people and include Native leaders. AIR has had Native producers in the past and many independent producers already do this, and have excellent relationships with Native colleagues in their communities, but it only takes one who doesn’t know how to seek out good interviews with Native people to continue the harm that has been done to our image in the public view.”

First of all, I’d like to express my appreciation to AIR for providing the New Voice Scholarship to me for the Third Coast Conference. This conference was a very helpful and beneficial experience for me.  Read on...

 Max Jungreis
Age 17
Anchorage, AK
Student, Alaska Teen Media Institute
“I know now that I’m a strong audio producer, and knowing that will make me take risks I wouldn’t have before. I understand now my biggest limitation is that sometimes I hold back my ideas because I’m not sure how they will be received. I should take advantage of the fact that at the Alaska Teen Media Institute I can make almost any kind of story of audio piece and have it broadcasted. It’s the best way I can practice and hone my skills as an audio producer.”

As a result of a scholarship I received from AIR, I was able to attend the Third Coast Audio Festival Conference in Chicago, Illinois.  Read on...

Sabiha Khan
Age 34
Los Angeles, CA
Independent Producer/Reporter

“I’m still struck by power of mentorship. It’s not necessarily about spending time with someone more experienced. At Third Coast, over the course of three days, I felt I’d met at least 25 like-minded people at various career stages who would remember me and whom I could ask for advice over the course of my career. Though I haven’t been to other public media conferences, I have a hunch that the degree of access to public media professionals at Third Coast is unsurpassed.”

Getting to go to Third Coast at this point in my radio career was, I think, essential to my continued success in the field. Until now, I had observed only a narrow slice of what public media had to offer. The conference allowed me to understand how the various parts of the public media landscape worked together and how I might fit in it.  Read on...

Selina Linet Musuta
Age 28
Washington, DC
Public Media Corps
independent/sole proprietor producer

“… let’s face it, people from all classes, races, genders, backgrounds are making media that is shaping their dialogue whether or not public media is there to cover it or better yet, be a part of it. They are not being funded, a few make money from it, and many more are taking part in it as participants. The problem is that many of those folks making media don’t have the kind of backing that public media has, a kind of backing that can shape policy and challenge dialogue even further.”

First hour of the conference, dozens of people wait in line to pick up a pink or yellow sheet of paper to write down their answers. Answers that would start off the AIR Producers’ Speed Dating session of Third Coast. Meanwhile, I’m busted...still tired from work, jumpy from my flight, and full from greasy diner food.

‘Write down ‘What do you have to offer?’ and ‘What do you need?’ from this conference’, says AIR.  Read on...

 Aden Marshall
Age 21
Lincoln, NE

“I think another aspect that public radio should consider in gaining a diverse audience, would be to have more diverse programming. For example, KZUM has many diverse programs, like my show Native Sounds - Native Voices that provides the community with different genres of Native American music. They also have a Bosnian show, an African Show, a Vietnamese show and many more! It would be amazing to hear shows like that on a national level or have a way to train new producers to create such shows.”

The Third Coast International Audio Festival is an experience that I would love to go through again. I made connections with people from different parts of the country and the world. I met many up and coming producers, as well as several who have been in this game for years. I even surprisingly made friends! It was an overall great experience, but I would like to touch on a few things that I think will help improve the festival for the following years. I also have some ideas to help out diverse producers like myself in future.  Read on...

 Kathryn Mobley
Age 47
Winston-Salem, NC
88.5 WFDD, station producer/staff

“There are days when being the producer is not a happy place. But then someone inquires about a story you produced. They want more information or because of your story, they get connected with others who can help them and enhance their life. Or they share a personal experience related to the story topic and simply thank you for giving voice to something important to them.  Suddenly, being the producer is an awfully great place to be.”

The beauty of Public Media (print, radio, television) is these are dynamic communication portals for ordinary people, minority groups and individuals with special needs. Residents are empowered to add to local history by publicly sharing their knowledge and experiences. Independent producers are encouraged to give voice to ‘the rest of a community’s story.’ And the tradition of storytelling is taught to a new generation.  Read on...

 Erica Mu
Age 23
Oakland, CA
KALW 91.7 Local Public Radio and Claire Schoen Media
station producer/staff
“Everyone is on a budget right now, but the best training ground for emerging producers, both technically and creatively, takes place at well-run, smaller, local stations. Local stations have the most impact: they have the greatest dexterity when it comes to airing shows that defy the creative norm, they amplify and serve the surrounding population’s needs, and they have the most close-knit internal community.”
The 2010 Third Coast Conference closely marked my one-year anniversary of making the then-grand decision to embark on a career in public radio. I say ‘public radio’ because as a relatively new listener, every report I heard, every story that moved me, came from the mysterious and ethereal ‘public radio.’ Now, one year later, I was indulging in the effectiveness of local news with Dan Grech, breaking down the elements of a successful audio-visual collaboration with Amy O’Leary and exploring the future of station networks with John Barth. Needless to say, the Third Coast Conference was more than a learning opportunity for me - it was a milestone.  Read on...

 Michael Premo
Age 28
Brooklyn, NY
Independent Producer

“Becoming a member of AIR and attending the Third Coast International Audio Festival opened me to a community I had been waiting to find, but didn’t know existed.”
Becoming a member of AIR and attending the Third Coast International Audio Festival opened me to a community I had been waiting to find, but didn’t know existed. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the conference. The weekend was filled with one provocative conversation after another. In my couple years in the industry I have found few robust forums for interaction with other producers and creatives. The Third Coast Festival offers a welcome and much needed opportunity to interact and connect with producers from across the field and around the world.  Read on...

 Macon Reed
Age 28
Arlington, VA
Independent Producer

“I really think that offering more assistance - even if it is non- monetary - for interns is significant here. Ironically, being able to work in unpaid internships is a luxury not many can afford. I know many stations cannot afford to pay their interns, however there may be other ways to support them during their time with a station. In addition, I think that if interns are not to be paid, there should be a standard policy ensuring that they receive useful training and that the relationship is beneficial for both parties.”

This is going to sound nerdy, but I left Third Coast feeling something like a kid leaving summer camp! In a super short period of time, I had managed to make a bunch of new friends and found a context for myself in a relatively small, dedicated community. I left with a giant stack of business cards from both fledgling and veteran producers and a lot of new information. What stood out in particular was how incredibly generous everyone was - with their experience, contacts, advice, etc. In a time when the discussion of the media’s future often takes place with an air of impending doom, it was so heartening to feel such support!  Read on...

 Aaron Scott
Age 29
Portland, OR
Oregon Public Broadcasting producer
“It seems access and financial resources are the biggest hurdles to making a living in public media.  Scholarships to attend conferences like Third Coast go a long ways towards creating access.  But even with access, as we discussed in our afternoon meeting, perhaps the biggest barrier to the profession is the fact that it’s so hard to gain the experience necessary to acquire a paying job without either first paying for a graduate degree or spending considerable time in mostly unpaid internships.”

Throughout my two years at Columbia and in an out of various journalism association conferences and media organizations, I always felt slightly ill at ease.  Certainly I met many wonderful folks and learned many valuable lessons, but such places always felt somewhat stifling and boxed in - creative coloring only seemed encouraged within rather rigid outlines.  And the people I found truly inspirational seemed few and far between.  

But not Third Coast.   Read on...

 Carl Scott
Age 29
New York, NY
National Black Programming Consortium / PRX

“Public media must show diverse producers that they respect and understand difference. Not only in opinion but method of expression. There must be support for work that speaks to diverse communities more than it speaks about them.”

My first Third Coast International Audio Festival was truly an inspiring experience. From the moment of my arrival I was taken aback by the sheer enthusiasm of the attendees. The wide range of talents, ages, interests and abilities set my nervous mind at ease. Being so new to the radio profession, I was unsure of how my presence would be received, but the support offered by these strangers-turned-colleagues gave me the immediate sense of belonging. In short, the simple exposure to the radio community and its band of honest, forward-thinking torch bearers was enough to convince me of their awareness and authentic efforts to solve the problem of fewer young, diverse voices in the radio world.  Read on...

 Kathryn Scott
Age 49
Chicago, IL

“I think it’s just important for minority producers, and other minority audio folks, to be able to come together with each other, hear each other, support each other and have a space for that to occur, whether it’s a real physical space or in cyber space. 

And I think it can be very empowering when you have that kind of camaraderie that exists in an ongoing forum with others, because sometimes if you have encounters that are challenging, whether they be with individuals or institutions, it’s possible for the cumulative experience of that frustration, alienation, feeling misunderstood, or feeling not seen or heard, to sometimes stop cold, or at the very least, circumvent your creative impulses, direction, and/or confidence, and then everyone loses out on the value of that potential new voice.”
  Read on...

 Stephanie Stiavetti
Age 33
Oakland, CA
Independent producer

“Having spent time in different media ‘scenes,’ it was exhilarating to find a media group that hadn’t really adopted a food-chain mentality with the new folks down at the bottom. I felt welcome and appreciated. That’s huge for someone who’s new to a group!”

I made so many connections at Third Coast that I can barely contain my enthusiasm. I was able to pitch a story directly to Julie Snyder of This American Life, I won an audio doctoring session with Jad Abumrad, and I met so many people within the community that were warm and welcoming. Having spent time in different media ‘scenes,’ it was exhilarating to find a media group that hadn’t really adopted a food-chain mentality with the new folks down at the bottom. I felt welcome and appreciated. That’s huge for someone who’s new to a group!  Read on...

 Ishmael Streever
Age 14
Anchorage, AK
Alaska Teen Media Institute

“Third Coast was an amazing experience mostly because of the people that attended. I think AIR helped me out as a producer, just by giving me the scholarship and opportunity to attend Third Coast.” 

We at the Alaska Teen Media Institute (ATMI) recently attended the Third Coast Audio Festival Conference in Chicago. Third Coast started with the AIR speed dating between different radio producers. They had us write on construction paper, what we have to give. A producer in Wisconsin named Emily wrote hugs on her paper. I met some interesting people there such as Rose High Bear who produced Native American radio or Kathryn the host of Smut radio.  Read on...

 Samr ‘Rocky’ Tayeh
Age 22
Brooklyn, NY

"Through all this it's my hope that a program can be created to allow young adults entry into a through what seems to be closed door career. I am here to kick that damn door open. For the sake of public radio it’s time we hear what’s really going on. What’s happening behind that green field and self erected apple tree. What are the true stories of America and all the cultures that make her the wonderland?"  

I’m an award winning youth radio producer, college student studying interpersonal communication, journalism and childhood education. The Third Coast International Audio festival is a conference I wouldn’t have been able to attend if it weren’t for AIR’s scholarship opportunity.   Read on...