Behind the Scenes: Thirteen’s Education Department

March 20th, 2008

Thirteen blogger: David Reisman, Senior Editor, Educational Publishing

One of the reasons I like working in the Education Department at Thirteen/WNET is that I’m basically an idealist — early on, I decided that I wanted to be one of the good guys. Most of my work in the Education Department involves editing educational viewer’s guides, teacher’s guides and comic books, though I’m doing more and more writing for the Web these days.
Thirteen’s Education Department extends the life of public television programs beyond broadcast, and works on both local and national educational projects. We work on outreach, teacher training and professional development, Web sites, and publications that reach every age group, from preschoolers to senior citizens. Our work reinforces the educational impact of children’s programming on public TV and adapts programs for general audiences for classes in science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects. Over the years, we’ve also been involved with Bill Moyers’s efforts to help reduce youth violence, raise awareness of the nature of addiction and recovery, discuss death and dying, and many other initiatives.

I’ve worked here full time since the early 1990s and have seen the station go through many changes — from the station having one fax machine and two receptionists who took phone messages for all of us, to everyone using computers; from our sending typewritten memos to our being able to write blogs like this one.

Unfortunately, one thing that’s been constant over the years is uncertainty about funding. The range of options in media has expanded exponentially, and it’s clear that people working in public television have to keep making the case that we offer educational resources that are an amazing bargain for our country. This is especially excruciating in a time when our government is spending so much money on the war in Iraq and other projects.

Even Charles McGrath noted in his New York Times article, “Is PBS Still Necessary?.” “Considering how much it costs to create new topnotch programming, the best solution to public television’s woes is the one that will probably never happen: more money, not less.” The Education Department at Thirteen may be the station’s “secret weapon” (in the
words of our president & CEO, Neal Shapiro) but as we keep moving forward, hopefully everyone’s work in public TV will be better known, understood and appreciated, and ultimately, better funded.