Second Saturdays – Wisconsin on the Air
100 Years of Public Broadcasting
Jack Mitchell outlines how Wisconsin Public Radio was founded in 1917 by professors at UW-Madison and was the first station to carry out the idea that radio can be used to educate the public. It was not the first radio station, but WPR was the first to carry out this idea that radio can be used to support the public interest. This is called “the Wisconsin Idea,” which is the idea that education should extend beyond the walls of the university and be made available for all. In its original form, WPR was based on exposing the public to the liberal arts, practical advice and the importance of democracy, which is still what it discusses today.
Jack Mitchell, PhD, led Wisconsin Public Radio from 1976 till 1997, initiating the transition from educational radio to WPR. Mitchell was the first employee of National Public Radio, where he was instrumental in developing the groundbreaking newsmagazine All Things Considered. He received the two highest honors in public radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award and the Edward Elson National Public Radio Distinguished Service Award. Mitchell joined the faculty of the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1998. He is the author of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio.