I was listening to Fresh Air on NPR yesterday where Bill Moyers was being interviewed. There were a couple comments he made that struck a cord with me. Moyers was a primer mover in the formation of what eventually became the Public Broadcasting System. In discussing public television, he said “the most important thing that we can do is to continue to treat Americans as citizens, not just consumers. If you look out and all you see is an audience of consumers, you want to sell them something. If you look out and see an audience of citizens, you want to share something with them.”
This seems important to remember in these times when cultural organizations are trying to discover ways to serve their audiences better. As much as we adopt the methods and techniques of the for profit in order to address the changing expectations of the population, it will become important to remember that there are a few characteristics that separate the non-profit world from the for, and that is the intent with which we approach audiences.
Moyers also discussed the rise of blogging and likens it to the early days of the US as a nation when the low cost of printing presses provided “ink stained wretches” like Tom Paine with the ability to disseminate their views of the world. He notes the material they printed was very partisan and lacked the objectivity that journalists at least claim to aspire to today. Blogging today, he says, is the closest society has approached to the democratic expression of the nation’s youth.
Speaking of blogging and democratic expression, (since I speak of it so often)I was pleased to see the Artful Manager mention a theatre in Seattle which has provided audiences with the opportunity to blog about the shows they have seen. The first comment apparently came within 40 minutes of the show’s end. Since then there have been some additional entries.
The only disappointing element of the project is that comments are apparently approved of by a gatekeeper on staff. The comments are written by a number of people, but they are listed as being posted by a single person. In fact, in order to comment, you have to email your thoughts to a person whereas with my blog, you can comment on what I have to say immediately.
True, I can eventually delete what you have to say, but I have to find the comment first. This being my 52nd or so entry, that will become more difficult as time goes on. There is also the chance someone will read a critical comment before I remove it and catch me when I delete it. As I have stated before, if an organization is going to invite candor, they have to remove any appearance that they censor it out.