Public Television? That’s So Millennial

Thanks to this handy quiz (How Millennial Are You?) just released by the Pew Research Center, I now know that  despite feeling like one of those poor souls stuck between Gen X and Gen Y, my habits plant me pretty squarely in the Millennial camp. But if I’m so Millennial— you know, we’re the ones who sleep with our iPhones — then what the heck am I doing working for public television (and loving it)? Here are a few possible reasons:

Millennials value family, and public television is all about family

In the Pew study that informed the quiz, 52 percent of Millennials reported valuing “being a good parent” over things like “having a high-paying career,” “becoming famous” or “having lots of free time.” It’s hard to imagine an attentive engaged parent who’s not at least aware of Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Word Girl, or Martha Speaks. PBS, after all, is America’s largest classroom and most trusted. Here at tpt, we have a whole department devoted to kids and their caregivers.

Don’t look now, but PBS is on your iPhone

Oh, I get it– you thought public television was about TV— and you could be forgiven for the assumption! But increasingly, the PBS shows you love (and even the ones you don’t!) are available on your “device,” yes that one, that device right in front of you with the tiny screen — be it phone, tablet, or laptop. Look for FRONTLINE, NOVA, POV…and local programming like MN Original and The Lowertown Line right here. Or, on the new PBS iPhone app. Or, on the new Roku app. Or, or… more coming soon.

Millennials like knowledge; PBS knows (and shares) knowledge

Consider this quote from the Pew report: “Millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history.” Granted, part of our upward-trending education habits have to do with the employment scarcity that Millennials were met with right around 2010 when a bunch of them graduated from college — still! This is a generation that’s working hard to know more and be more. And I am telling you the truth when I say that I typed that last sentence before recalling that PBS’s official motto is “be more.” So there. Can’t afford graduate school? Spend a little time here and you’ll get smarter, promise.

Millennials take social networking seriously

The Pew report puts it this way: “Millennials’ technological exceptionalism” is not just about their gadgets — “it’s the way they’ve fused their social lives into them.” Over three-quarters of Millennials have created profiles on social media sites, compared with half of Gen X-ers. If you’re as Millennial-like as I am, this is obvious to you. You are accustomed to relying on social media to connect and communicate; you consider it easy and effective. When I want to connect people who I’m convinced should know each other, I use LinkedIn. When I’m annoyed because I waited 10 minutes to reach a Verizon representative and then got disconnected, I tweet at them. You know the drill. But don’t expect PBS to shy away from the social space — with 1.3 million followers on Facebook, they’re hardly behind the curve. Meanwhile, they’re also stirring things up on Tumblr, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Vine.

But if you really want to know why this Millennial (or Millennial-type youngish person) is working in public television, it’s this: We’re in the midst of an incredibly exciting transformation. Our industry used to be about serving our communities through that box in their living rooms — and it’s not anymore. It’s so much more. It’s about storytelling, it’s about convening, curating and innovating (and yes, I know that last word should have started with a C if I was really committed to alliteration). But as I think I’ve well established, my friends, here at Open Air we’re ready to think outside of the box.