The Mission of Reaching Far and Deep
The theme of human connection ran alongside the subject of digital media strategies at the PBS Annual Meeting last month in Nashville, Tennessee. Which felt just right. What we strive to do in public media is combine the power of touch and the reach of tech to serve our home states.
Why meet in Nashville? Because PBS representatives from around the country need to meet somewhere – and Music City was a great setting for renowned filmmaker Ken Burns to share his newest epic, Country Music.
He spoke in a hotel ballroom two blocks from a boulevard of windows-thrown-open, live-music honky tonks. The eight-part, 16-hour film premieres on PBS stations nationally on Sunday, September 15.
At the conference, Burns said the film isn’t only for country music fans. At the heart of this American art form are honesty, vulnerability and real life. It’s about the joy of love and family, the hurt of betrayal, loneliness, regret, resilience, toil, faith, independence and the lure of the open road.
Leslie at Nashville conference with national PBS figures (right to left)
news anchor Judy Woodruff, commentator David Brooks and
(far left) arts adviser Jane Chu
I had the privilege of taking part in a discussion on stage with heavy hitters: (right to left) PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff; NY Times Op-Ed columnist/PBS NewsHour commentator/author David Brooks and (far left) PBS Arts Adviser Jane Chu. We looked at how the arts reach deep within people and we considered Brooks’ proposition that the neighborhood, not the individual, is the essential unit of social change. And we talked about using local knowledge to determine the best ways to convene and authentically engage communities of diverse voices.
Just as there’s no quick fix for the broken heart in a country song, there’s no manual for success in the rapidly changing media industry. The spinning evolution of tech choices, viewer options and fragmented audiences requires media makers to be agile and relentlessly purposeful – and that still doesn’t assure success.
Here’s an industry expectation that’s a safe bet: In three years or less there will be as many digital screens as live TV screens being used to view programming.
PBS KIDS viewing is already there. Digital screens dominate in front of young children, who also use them to play PBS educational video games.
Back from Nashville, our local team knows that we need more than quality programming going for PBS Hawaiʻi; we need to offer easy availability. You as a viewer want to be able to watch what you want – when and where you want it. Our Passport streaming service and our website on-demand programs are a start.
If PBS Hawaiʻi’s digital strategy goals were a country music song, the title would be “I’ll Go Anywhere With You.”