Today I write about public radio, its potential and its promise.

I am not an Internet or social media native. I am 40 years old and remember using our encyclopedia set for school papers and had a well-worn library card. I am an Internet and social media enthusiast.

Recently I was helping my 10-year old daughter with a research paper on Nelson Mandela. We started by reading the Wikipedia overview page. While it provided a good overview, it did not reveal the passion that Nelson Mandela inspired. After a bit of sleuthing, I discovered a page on NPR.org, titled Mandela: An Audio History.

As we started listening to the audio, my daughter’s eyes grew large, as she could hardly believe “is that REALLY him speaking”? She was captivated and asked if she could stay up and listen to more. Audio did what a flat HTML page could never do; it engaged her mind, her emotion and connected her to a moment in history. Thank you NPR. Thank you public radio for enriching my child’s education.

It is with that passion that I endeavor to assist in building the future of public radio. I am not a Santa Cruz native, but I am a Santa Cruz enthusiast. I have lived in many cities (Portland, Tulsa, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and now Santa Cruz). Santa Cruz is the first city I have called home. It resonates with my heart and soul. I am able to cultivate my passions here. It is that passion for community that has captured my attention in cultivating the Santa Cruz Geeks, NextSpace and now RadioEngage.

Santa Cruz is well known for its surf and alternative lifestyles. Quoting Wikipedia: “Now known for its alternative community lifestyles and liberal political leanings, Santa Cruz is a bastion for many sub-cultures and counter-culture”. But just as the entry on Nelson Mandela missed the essence of his contribution to the world, Wikipedia misses the essence of what is it to experience daily life in Santa Cruz. This essence is what I hope to raise out of RadioEngage – the digital heart of Santa Cruz.

RadioEngage will make existing content more widely available and encourage active participation by providing tools and applications that make that possible. This interaction will allow for fuller participation and sets forth a mission shared by many public radio stations. For example, KUSP’s mission includes the following statement:

“Our programs will engage listeners in the civic and cultural life of the communities in which they live and work. In turn, the civic and cultural institutions of our communities will be enriched by the engagement of our listeners.”

In rolling out this the prototype and vision to different groups, most feedback has been quite positive. However, there have been a few who have expressed hesitation and fear that we would create the wrong thing for public radio. It made me realize that it is important to state that we aren’t changing the core values of public radio, but rather building on and adding to the core experience of public radio. We are opening doors to participation in hopes of building a more engaged community.