To fellow producers, whether at a station or independent ...
Unless some political miracle occurs, NJN Public Television ends forty years of local original production this Thursday and over a hundred people lose their jobs and say goodbye to what was an anomaly of a PBS station, but a good one if you wanted to do local production. WNET is slated to start a NJ-based subsidiary group that will operate the new station, but no one at NJN knows yet whether they will be a part of that operation, as it will only have fifteen to twenty spots, and the focus will be local news.
NJN, believe it or not, had sustained a daily 30 min news show with field reporters running up and down the state for nearly all of its forty years. Why? because NJ is a state without its own commercial network. And NJN was the only PBS station in the entire state ... unless you count WNET, which is licensed in Newark, NJ but really puts all its eggs into the national PBS production. Evidently they will be putting a new focus on New Jersey, but whatever happens it seems grim that such a densely-populated state couldn't afford to sustain its own station. I was not part of the daily News show or any of the series ... I worked on long format pieces that were privately-funded (mostly) and did a lot of station interstitial work and/or video work to help development, membership, etc. No telling whether there is going to be a development efort for that anymore, and in NJ things are always thin regarding garnering significant funding because we are overshadowed by NYC and Philly.
I loved being a part of the PBS world and always felt honored to be one of the first of the Workshop classes in 2001. I'm a little concerned that the Governor of NJ, in announcing this deal with WNET at a press conference in the Governor's Office, proudly asserted that this would be the end of taxpayer funding of public television and also likened the end of NJN as something that should have ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Please take note and watch out for similar political attacks on anyone, anywhere who happens to be connected to any kind of public funding. The success of this NJN deal ... where a station is being conveniently de-funded and its past legacy as a public institution being deemed a past relic from a bygone era ... can only spell trouble for anybody in America who believes in PBS, or NPR, ... in this producer's humble view.
Take care, and best of luck! You can reach me directly at email@example.com
And please, if you've got any great public television or media contacts in NYC, Phila, or the huge land mass in between called Jersey, let me know!