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Happy Birthday Public Broadcasting (I Quit!)

"So today we rededicate a part of the airwaves -- which belong to all the people -- and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people." -- LBJ, Nov. 7, 1967

Forty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson ceremoniously signed the congressional act that created the modern public broadcasting system in America.

Seems like a good day to quit KPBS.

It's sheer coincidence, of course, but let me ponder the non-connection.

I was only 11 years old when LBJ did the deed that Republican presidents have been trying to undo ever since. At the time, his signature promised a bold vision to future generations that television and radio would offer more than a "vast wasteland." It would bring culture and art, science and history, news and public affairs, and non-commercial educational programming to young and old.

All I knew then was that there was something different, something authentic on my family PBS channel. Only over the years would I discover the magnetic attraction this bold vision would have upon me.

Born the son of a broadcast newsman, I grew up with an enduring interest in the role of journalism. But it wasn't until I delivered my nervous first on-air utterance -- in 1978 -- giving the 3:00 a.m. ID for my college radio station (WUOG-FM in Athens, Georgia) that I would actually become a part of public radio.

Being among the first to introduce the world to REM and the B-52's was a perfectly auspicious prelude to what would later become a career in delivering first word of more serious fare: John Lennon's assassination, Mt. St. Helen's exploding, the San Francisco earthquake, war in the gulf, and so on -- up to and including last month's horrendous firestorm in San Diego County.

Somewhere over my 29 years in public radio and television (a pairing that will soon converge into "public media"), I made a conscious choice to keep my roots in local community service. Perhaps it was the toll the networks took on my dad (he worked exceedingly long hours), or perhaps it was my own need to remain authentic, close to the audience. Whatever it was, I was determined to stay local and make local news great.

I leave KPBS after 12 years and on good terms. Together, with enlightened management and a strong team, we built something unique and durable here for the people of San Diego. Or they built us, I guess.

The technology may be shifting below us, but the journalistic and the cultural and the educational content will continue -- like a green oasis in an even vaster wasteland.

And I take comfort in having served that bold vision of the '60s. With some luck, I'll stay true to that promise, whatever the next 40 years may bring.

Thanks.

-- Michael Marcotte was KPBS News Director from 1995 to 2007, and directed the Jacobs Project for Reporting Excellence at KPBS. He's moving to Santa Barbara to become a public media consultant. You can contact him directly at mmarcotte@mmarcotte.org.

Jeff Wergeles
November 08, 2007 at 12:06 AM
So long, Mike. Its been an honor to work with you. Best of luck in all of your future ventures. I look forward to our paths crossing again. Jeff -----

Trisha
November 08, 2007 at 12:23 AM
Your passionate commitment to authentic, non-biased news is admirable. You are never afraid to boldly speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in which is a wonderful attribute, especially in your line of work. Your presence will truly be missed. Best of luck!

John Decker
November 08, 2007 at 01:07 AM
We'll do everything we can to maintain your legacy of selfess public service. You have left an indelible imprint on a generation of pub 'casters during your dozen years here at KPBS. Godspeed Mike.

joanne faryon, kpbs reporter
November 08, 2007 at 04:18 AM
It's comforting to know you will continue to work in public broadcasting (as a consultant). You have this amazing ability to see through the spin, the hype, the stuff that gets in the way of the truth. I take that away from my experience working with you Mike. Cheers to you and to authenticity.

Bruce B
November 08, 2007 at 06:17 PM
I honor your apparent dedication to your work. I know nothing of your history except as it may be reflected in the news as presented on KPBS. I can tell from your vignette, that you dislike Republicans because you feel "they" have tried to undermine your work with PBS. I remember in the 50's, my father's displeaure with a growing trend in news broadcasting of mixing opinion with news. He would call this "yellow journalism" stating that opinion should be reserved for the editorial page. I feel the news media has continued down this road, forcing me to listen to various news sources to attempt to glean a balanced and objective view of the news. I listen to KPBS to hear the Liberal/Democrat perspective, albeit frequently self righteous and condesending to alternative opinions (I can say the same of many conservative news programs). I would love to find a new KPBS leading a movement toword providing the balanced news so important to a democratic society.

Greg Duch
November 20, 2007 at 02:23 AM
I think you are the kind of person who makes things happen; and makes that process look easy. You have a touch which I think puts others at ease. I never met you. These are gut impressions I discerned from hearing and seeing you on KPBS radio and TV. Greg Duch

Gianeen courrier
December 29, 2007 at 01:42 PM
CONGRATULATIONS for a job well done! Best wishes for the nest 50 years. I would like to host on radio stations for people to call in--non political. I live in Minneapolis. Do you have any suggestions for me? THANKS. Gianeen Courrier@Yahoo.com