Join us for a look at a new project by journalist Don Merrill: Pledge: the Public Radio Fund Drive, a deep look into the tenuous finances of public radio stations.
Merrill got the idea for PLEDGE because he was annoyed by pledge drives he’d been hearing since the mid 90s, and he decided he wanted to rant about them. But he quickly realized that public radio is in a terrible spot between money and mission. Going deeper, he learned of things affecting the genre that most people never consider as they listen to their regular shows for days, weeks, months and years on end.
They include hunts for the ultimate content sharing technology, public radio’s struggles to not lose its soul to corporate money, how it must surveil its listeners to serve them without treating them like numbers or “prey”, how budget cuts can make stations change character or disappear altogether and finally, keeping affiliates from feeling bypassed by networks that have found workarounds to their audiences.
Public radio needs its listeners to understand it much better than they currently can. That’s because public radio hides its problems and convinces the world that everything is fine while facing stress fractures in every direction. It needs to be open and honest about what it essentially is, and needs, as when it asks for money. A greater public can more fully support it only if they know the real deal.
A lifelong journalist and writer, Don Merrill has created commentary for newspapers, articles for magazines and news and public affairs for on-air.
He’s been a producer and reporter for civilian and Armed Forces Broadcasting, worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer and was a public affairs specialist for the Federal Government. He especially loves working in radio and has been an avid public radio listener and supporter.
PLEDGE is his first book.