The Power of Public Media

If you head due south on Highway 57 out of Chicago, and drive a couple of hours through vast fields of corn and soybeans, you’ll end up in Urbana-Champaign, vibrant home to the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. Illinois Public Media lives on campus, providing access to public radio, television, and digital content – including PBS/NPR programs as well as locally-produced work – to residents throughout the state of Illinois, with its primary audience living in the “belt” stretching across the widest part of the state.


Illinois Newsroom reporter Lee V. Gaines listens during an interview at Illinois Public Media’s studios.

Illinois Public Media works tirelessly to serve its many audiences. News and public affairs, especially in these times, are a priority; the organization’s powerful local and statewide newsrooms (the latter, Illinois Newsroom, is a partnership involving other public media organizations in Illinois, and is anchored at Illinois Public Media) and talk shows like The 21st provide thoughtful, comprehensive coverage and in-depth analysis of news affecting state residents. However, it’s important (and sometimes a relief) to balance this reporting of the news with entertainment and lifestyle programming designed purely to inspire audiences. Television shows like Mid-American Gardener (now also a podcast) encourage Illinoisans to get outside and enjoy their local environments. Webseries like Classical:BTSspotlight regional classical musicians and practitioners while reminding viewers of our classical FM station. And these are just two examples!

Illinois Public Media’s Mid-American Gardener crew gathering footage in a local viewer’s garden for the program’s “Other People’s Gardens” segment.

Audiences grow in response to meaningful content, presented respectfully. But in public media, some of that growth must translate into financial support. Public media has always been financially supported in large part by its generous viewers and listeners, all of whom are “paying it forward” by helping provide a service that’s available to everyone.

Composer and harpist Julia Kay Jamieson was one of six artists profiled in Series 1 of Illinois Public Media’s Classical:BTS webseries.

Paul Newman was a big believer in the power of public media. Newman’s Own Foundation has helped pave the way for stations like Illinois Public Media by helping our membership team accelerate our stations’ reach into all of our communities via matching gifts, which incentivize new members to step up and have their gift to Illinois Public Media matched by Newman’s Own Foundation. Sometimes, it’s just the push new members need, and this support has made all the difference as we continue the work – and the privilege – of providing the news… and inspiring an informed and engaged public.

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