A Conversation With Aaron Brown

May 30th, 2008

Greetings,

We are a month away from launching our new season of programs and that seems like a good time to begin our conversation with you about what we are doing, why we are doing it and our own sense of what journalism in these times can be about.

With a month to go, the WIDE ANGLE staff is incredibly busy working with our filmmakers around the world to shape the pieces and get them ready for air. I am grateful for their experience and calm. As there is much work to do. It is not enough to simply present a program on Darfur or a program on the changing nature of the military in Japan or our own work on the sad and difficult Iraqi refugee problem in the Middle East. Our mission isn’t simply to make and support films on these issues.

What we must do and are doing is to make and shape films that look at these complicated issues in a compelling way. That requires not simply good journalism but good story telling – story telling with strong and compelling central characters that draw you into the journey we take each week. This is the essential difference between what I call “Eat Your Vegetables” journalism and work that you will not only watch but look forward to watching each week. In truth, the filmmakers and the WIDE ANGLE staff are far more experienced in the art of long form journalism than am I. So, I find myself helping some and learning a lot.

I come to this as a great believer in the mission and a great believer in you. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to engage in the kind of journalism that drew me to the craft a very long time ago. Modern media, with the pressures of minute-by-minute ratings, doesn’t always make that easy. A trip down Paris Hilton Lane is often easier and cheaper than a trip through the hospitals and culture of Mozambique. But you are a demanding bunch. You expect us to do work that is both important and compelling, and you should know how strongly all of us feel about delivering on that expectation. We are also sure you will tell us when we hit the mark and be just as vocal should we miss it.

That part of the season need not wait until we launch. We can begin now with a discussion of what you expect from us, from PBS and from the journalism you consume. I can’t promise we will answer each note we receive, but we will read them all and respond to as many as we can.

Finally, for some of you I am an old face in a new spot, for others I am just a refugee from cable news. To the first group, it will be so nice to work in front of you again. For that second group, I am eager to prove my chops. I trust you will not be bashful in your criticisms and – I hope – compliments.

Let the conversation begin! See Wide Angle site.

Aaron Brown
New York
May 29, 2008

(this post originally appears on Wide Angle web site)