The news of the day: Vermont Public Radio and Vermont Public Television are merging. Let me guess. the combined entity will be called “Vermont Public Media,” amirite?
In a time of media consolidation and droopy revenues, this move makes a lot of sense, but it also sets off alarm bells in my mind. The merger means one less independent entity in the Vermont media landscape, and the creation of a player with the resources to dominate the reporting of news — and the nonprofit world.
The latter is not my area of expertise, but I know that VPR has long been seen as a nonprofit monster that makes it harder for other organizations to raise the money they need.
And if you’ve followed my writing about VPR over the years, you know what I think. It’s an organization that does a lot of good work, but falls short in fulfilling its potential and maximizing its use of available resources. Or, in the words of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
After the merger, you can double that. If there’s any organization that’s played it safer than VPR, it’s VTPBS. I realize it’s harder and costlier to produce video programming than audio, but c’mon, Vermont PBS doesn’t do much to enhance our understanding of our state, ourselves, or current events.
For the new entity to serve us as it must, it’s going to need a significant injection of fearlessness. And generally speaking, the bigger an organization, the more self-protective it becomes.Continue reading