What’s Outside? Public Media 2014


Localore was a year long, $2 million AIR production.  It was designed to spark new,  producer-led innovation at public radio and television stations across the U.S. during  a time of change.  We hired a dozen lead producers and planted them at ten radio and  TV station across the country in cities large and small.  Collectively, Localore involved  more than two hundred collaborators — community storytellers, designers, coders,  shooters, editors, reporters, radio hosts… and stretching into the community… musicians, priests, farmers, violin makers, librarians, etc… The assignment for our producers was to “Go Outside.”  We wanted our teams to invent new ways to blend digital, broadcast, and “street” plaforms, to help take their incubator stations outside their dominant mindsets, and we wanted them to physically go outside to the far corners of their local communities.  Our long term goal is to plant new seeds to build out the strengths of public media and carry service to more Americans.

This report, “What’s Outside?,” unpacks what we found out there.  I hope it informs stations, producers, and those invested in public media who are inspired by the possibilities of what lies ahead.

Consider these new realities…


March 28, 2014. It almost wasn’t Localore. Back in the summer of 2011, when AIR was designing its initiative pairing independent producers with local stations, “Purple Mountain” was one of the names proposed by a branding company; it captured the idealism, civic  intention and long view of what the core production team was focused on as we laid out Localore’s interconnected parts.

But the words “local” and “lore” spoke to both the problem we were addressing and solution we were proposing — taking local stations outside of their comfort zones by creating new integrated storytelling models to carry public media to new corners of their community.

The sprawling network of 10 skunkworks and 200 collaborators that eventually emerged was part multimedia production, part community-development blueprint, part new talent cultivation engine. From this new ecosystem, which now stretches from big cities to small towns of America, we see hopeful signs that the seeds we’ve planted to inspire change have begun to take root.

– See more at: To follow paths charted by Localore, consider these ‘new realities’

Predictions for 2014

sue-schardtLet’s make it clear from the start that the new year will not bring final resolution to the hot pursuit of a methodology for determining impact. Nor will we find a solid new business model to ease the pressures brought by having to deliver sharper content across more platforms and, it seems, with greater speed than ever before. Not yet. But public media is well past its crossroads, and far enough along some new paths that we’re able to see patterns emerge.

We remain, in 2014, in a prolonged period of disruption. For some, it’s a time to invent and thrive. Others are eager to move back into a new phase of predictability, when we’ve locked down new models for generating, distributing, and monetizing our work. My basic advice for now is: It’s okay! We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be! Relish this time of uncertainty. It won’t last forever. Stretch out. Be different than you’ve been before.

There are many angles for looking into a crystal ball. Mine is based on a series of experiments I’ve led since 2008 designed to tap our brightest talent to disrupt the public media system, reveal new approaches to journalism and storytelling, and lay new pathways to Americans not currently served by public media.

What’s come into focus is a new and promising vision of a public media network comprised of 1,200 community hubs, each with a distinctive culture and an exciting opportunity to form a new relationship with more citizens. And we have another important network — of talent, individuals who operate with greater flexibility and capacity for experimentation than legacy institutions full up with day-to-day operations. AIR’s talent network is rooted in audio, but it’s expanding almost as quickly as the technology that is driving so much of our change. Yes, they are our reporters, hosts, and editors. But this network, 1,000 strong across 46 states and 25 countries, now also includes technologists, social media experts, podcasters — more than 60 job titles in all. Above all, our makers are skilled collaborators who bring agency to one another, and to institutions seeking to adapt and thrive.

With that, here are five pivot points to look for in 2014:   READ MORE


Where I am now

I now spend most of my time running AIR, a production network of nearly 1000  media-makers working across the U.S. and 19 countries worldwide.  You can follow  my latest projects  at two sites: one focuses on recent media works, and the other is  the virtual home of  AIR.  If you’re interested in a new public media production that is  designed to push the  shift of cross-platform production, I recommend you watch our  35 minute  documentary, This is Localore.  If you’re not sure what cross-platform  production is, then you really should watch the video!



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