Home Commentary Public Radio Listeners Seek Grammatical Coherence

Public Radio Listeners Seek Grammatical Coherence

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"Grammar minibook" by jimmiehomeschoolmom is licensed under Creative Commons.
While the merger of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS took a couple of years, the announcement of the media organization’s new moniker, “Vermont Public,” left its long-time listeners — and supporters — disappointed if not aghast. That includes everyone I have spoken to or whose postings I have read on social media: Front Porch Forum and Facebook in particular.

One concern is grammatical: “Vermont Public WHAT?” several people have asked. The word ‘public’ is generally used as an adjective as in ‘public health’ or ‘public interest.’ As a noun, ‘public’ essentially refers to everyone in a group, community, or a nation. From that perspective, many who have expressed an opinion, me included, find “Vermont Public” to have a presumptive tone that is uncomfortable to more than our ears. The public is larger and more diverse than the listener/viewership of either the former VPR or Vermont PBS will ever be. 

Amy Zielinski, an audience services specialist for the media organization provided this explanation:

We spent a lot of time — two years — thinking deeply and talking long and hard about what these changes mean for everyone who cares so deeply about VPR and Vermont PBS. We believe the new name honors our legacies, while making it clear that we are one organization.  

“Vermont Public” was an intentional choice for a couple of reasons: we loved that the “Public” puts our audience and community front and center; that we are not only a resource for the public, but of the public, devoted to bringing diverse groups together to share their stories. And, as we work to broaden access and welcome more people into the fold, the name “Vermont Public” — without “media,” “radio” or “television” — keeps the focus on our stories, music, and content, which we will deliver to audiences in many different ways.   

A branding process being inherently aspirational, it inherently risks going down a rabbit hole, which appears to have happened here. The public, precisely in the sense that our much beloved media organization aspires to embrace, appears not to have been consulted, surveyed, or invited to participate.

The listeners and supporters of the former VPR/Vermont PBS are unlikely to withdraw their participation and support of this media. I certainly won’t. But it’s obvious that the new name should be reconsidered — with input from the public.

In the meantime, please spare us the all-too-frequent PSA from Scott Finn praising the “Vermont Public” decision. It is becoming a public sanity annoyance. 

Greg Gerdel is the chair of the board of directors of The Bridge. His involvement with The Bridge dates to the late 1990s when he was a volunteer contributor and editor and served on the community-based board of directors. His interest in community journalism began in the 1970s when he was managing editor of the Green Mountain Independent News and Review based in the Mad River Valley.