In last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon interviews Ken Ferree, the new head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB is a government-funded nonprofit that supports television's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), as well as National Public Radio (NPR). Ferree is a Republican who rides motorcycles.
You have to read the whole thing to really appreciate Solomon's snide tone toward Ferree, who has the gall to suggest that maybe public television and radio shouldn't cater quite so exclusively to a liberal audience. Referring to Ferree's predecessor, Kathleen Cox, getting fired "supposedly because she had incurred the wrath of conservative groups," Solomon (in italics) kicks off the following exchange:
Do you worry that these sorts of incidents will alienate the old left-leaning PBS loyalists?Later on, Ferree says PBS's political commentary show "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" just isn't compelling in the Internet age:
Well, maybe we can attract some new viewers.
You mean viewers who are more conservative?
Yeah! I would hope that in the long run we can attract new viewers, and we shouldn't limit ourselves to a particular demographic. Does public television belong to the Democrats?
Yes, Lehrer is good, but I don't watch a lot of broadcast news. The problem for me is that I do the Internet news stuff all day long, so by the time I get to the Lehrer thing...it's slow.Which, of course, is exactly the kind of person PBS should be listening to if it wants to expand its audience. But Solomon presses on, wondering if Ferree is maybe just more of a radio man:
For the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you don't sound like much of a PBS viewer.
Perhaps you prefer NPR, which your organization also finances?By this point in the interview, it sounds like Ferree is having a bit of fun with Solomon: "Gee, Deb, I'd really like to listen to NPR, but not if it means my bike won't look cool."
No. I do not get a lot of public radio for one simple reason. I commute to work on my motorcycle, and there is no radio access.
Can't you install a radio on a motorcycle and listen with headphones?
One probably can. But my bikes are real cruisers. They're stripped down deliberately to look cool, and I don't want all that electronic gear.
I have a hunch that even if Ferree did have a radio on his bike, NPR wouldn't be his first choice of listening material.
(A Riding Sun throttle-blip to Joefish for the tip.)