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Dear Members of the WBUR Community,
It has been three weeks since the election, enough time, I think, to give us all some perspective. I’m writing to share some thoughts on the future we face and the work of WBUR.
It is not a particularly insightful observation that we live in a time when our country is as divided as it has been in many generations. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge those divisions in order to address them and to understand the collective destiny of all of us as citizens of the United States of America.
The role of journalism in the functioning of the world’s greatest democracy is laid out clearly in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Our forefathers understood that a free and independent press was essential to the country, both as a check against abuse of power and as a source of invaluable information for a citizenry that is invested with the responsibility of choosing its leaders. Two hundred and forty years later, that essential role is challenged by forces, both economic and political, that affect us all.
Here are some observations:
- Journalism is struggling for survival in almost every city in America and that is true for Boston, too. The advent of the digital age has undermined the business model that has supported journalism for hundreds of years. Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs nationally and we have all collectively lost something precious in our lives. We can only speculate on the impact of that loss on the recent election.
- Fake news, masquerading as legitimate journalism, has spread falsehoods across the internet on countless sites, both large and small. The capacity of many consumers to differentiate between real and false news has been deeply compromised, even to the point where foreign entities may have used this confusion to attempt to influence our electoral process.
- We are living in a world where facts, apparently, are fungible. The label “fact-based journalism” itself seems to suggest that there is a legitimate alternative, which there is not. Some partisan news outlets have undermined our collective agreement on the essential information that we need to function as informed citizens.
WBUR, NPR and all of Public Radio stand as bulwarks against the forces that are challenging the essential role of high quality, substantive, nonpartisan journalism in all our lives. Here are just some of the things WBUR is doing to serve Boston and the nation:
- WBUR is investing more every day in our local journalism because all of us need information that informs us as citizens of the commonwealth. Our newsroom is among the biggest in all of public radio, reporting in depth on stories that impact our lives. Radio Boston, with Meghna Chakrabarti, is listening to Boston and Massachusetts every weekday, digging into the essential issues that touch our friends and families at home, in school and at work. We are doubling down on our hometown, providing the most insightful and important reporting in all of public radio.
- WBUR is investing deeply in our national programming. On Point with Tom Ashbrook just announced a national tour, “Listening to America,” in which we will broadcast from coast to coast and north to south across America, conducting the essential conversations that we all need now to understand each other, listen to each other and secure our common bonds.
- Here & Now, THE Midday News Program of public radio carried on 450 stations across the country, is exploring this challenging moment for the nation in collaboration with more than 30 public radio stations, bringing deeper understanding to all of us as the Trump administration takes power.
- In the year ahead, you will hear new voices, new programs and new podcasts emerge from WBUR’s iLab, our deep commitment to creative development of new content for all of public radio.
The respected international journalist, Christiane Amanpour, gave a speech this week before the Committee to Protect Journalists. She was honored with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.” Amanpour called on all journalists to commit themselves to the essential work of an independent press:
“I learned a long, long time ago … never to equate victim and aggressor. Never to create a false moral or factual equivalence. So I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth. We have to be prepared to fight especially hard right now for the truth.”
Now, more than ever, we understand that you rely upon WBUR and NPR, that Boston and the nation need our work. Our commitment to journalism is rooted in seeking the truth wherever it takes us, whatever the consequences and whoever might object.
I want you to know how much we appreciate the very special bond between our listeners and WBUR. It gives us strength. Our mission is to serve you and to listen to you.
Without you, there is no WBUR. As we have often said, UR WBUR.
General Manager, WBUR
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