BROOKLYN HEIGHTS’ RESIDENT LAURA WALKER takes seriously her mission to strengthen WNYC, New York City’s NPR outlet. This was brought home recently when Eagle columnist Charles Otey questioned in an open letter — albeit with admiration — the direction WNYC is taking:
“At the risk of sounding like a troglodyte, I am puzzled as to why WNYC — and now, it would seem, NPR — feels compelled to provide ‘exciting new programming.’ Since when is reporting on what is going on — and not going on — in City Hall, Albany and Washington, D.C. not exciting enough!?”
Walker responded to those concerns in an illuminating letter that should reinforce for public radio fans her continued commitment to its mission. Her response is reprinted here in full.
I am writing in response to your thoughtful blog post on the Brooklyn Eagle web site, and want to address your concern over the use of the phrase “exciting new programming” in a fundraising letter you recently received from WNYC.
WNYC Radio is proud of our 84-year history as an in-depth source of local, national and international news, and of Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate, the extraordinary hosts you cite in your column. As you mention, many in New York view WNYC as “the most important voice on news, here and abroad.”
The Campaign for New York Public Radio is our effort to ensure that we can continue to live up to this reputation for years to come.
Some background: Since our founding in 1924 as a city-run entity, we resided at the Municipal Building. When the city decided to privatize the stations, we purchased our broadcast licenses in 1997, and agreed to vacate the Municipal Building after several years. Two months ago, we did so. The Campaign for New York Public Radio is a $57.5 million campaign to support our move to our own space: $45 million for the new facility and $12.5 million for investments in programming.
In your column, you take issue with my use of the words “new” and “exciting” to describe programming that we will fund with this campaign, fearing that we will go the way of cable news and abdicate serious journalism or that we will adopt the lighter tone of reality TV. Allow me to assure you that this is not the case. So, what does new and exciting mean to me? It means the enhancement and deepening of our coverage of New York City, such as our recent investigative piece on natural gas drilling and its potential threat to our drinking water. It means the partnerships we forged with Iowa Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio to provide WNYC listeners with the best local perspectives from those key states in the primary season, and our upcoming coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions. It means increased capacity to air live concerts from Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and other New York concert halls, and to produce special music festivals such as our upcoming 11-day Leonard Bernstein tribute. It means creative editorial collaborations with other journalistic organizations such as the BBC and the New York Times, as well as with other artistic and cultural institutions once WNYC’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space opens in 2009.
In short, we intend to invest in the kind of excellence that has resulted in WNYC being awarded four George Foster Peabody Awards in the last four years. Our democracy depends on an informed electorate, and as many on the commercial side of media are laying off reporters, we believe that public radio needs to deepen our commitment to great journalism and to covering our great city and country. It isn’t the kind of excitement network television serves up, but it is exciting to us.
Next Tuesday, we will host a one-day on-air fundraiser to support WNYC’s campaign. I hope that you and your readers will support it so we can bring you even more in-depth news and information, and cultural and music coverage.
MORE NOTES ON PEOPLE:
RICAN OPERA PROJECTS pay tribute to Brooklyn’s great poet-native Walt Whitman in a series of free concerts this month. The featured songs, created in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program and based on Whitman’s poems, will be introduced with historical footnotes provided by Cobble Hill resident GREG TRUPIANO, artistic director of The Walt Whitman Project (www.whitmanproject.org).
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CHARLES JARDEN, AOP’s executive director since 2002, lives in Fort Greene where he serves as chairman of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. He is leading the conservancy’s multimillion-dollar campaign (in association with the city Parks Department) to restore 34-acre Fort Greene Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The performances are part of Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s “Prison Ship Martyrs Memorial Centennial Celebration” (www.fortgreenepark.org). Walt Whitman’s demands for a memorial to the local POWs of the American Revolution resulted in Fort Greene Park’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument.
On August 14 at 7 p.m., Opera on Tap will perform new songs based on the works of Whitman and other notable American poets at one of Brooklyn’s most important Revolutionary War sites, the Old Stone House on Fifth Avenue (718-768-3195). On August 23 at 11 a.m., soprano Caroline Worra will perform in Soho at the corner of Lafayette and Spring streets as part of SummerStreets. August 27 at 7 p.m. Worra will perform at the northeast corner of Fort Greene Park. The performance will be followed by an outdoor screening of “1776,” in continuation of the Conservancy’s centennial celebration.
Seven Brooklyn residents were recently awarded a BS in nursing by the Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University, SUNY: AIMEE T. ROGADO (11209), DOREEN MG (11214), KENG SENG LIM (11219), MI W. CHO (11223), ELLEN B. ARHIN (11225), FALLON S. SLOW (11229) and YVAN FORTUNAT (11230). The following students received a BS in Human Development: EMILY A. DAUGHTRY (11215), STEVENSON GLADIMY ANDRE (11218), ALEXIS GNALL (11220), CHRISTINA F. YARD (11225), SARA TANENBAUM (11230), JESSICA GOLDBLATT (11234), KELLY A. ROEMMELT (11235).