Adventures in Public Media Entrepreneurship: The Road to Listen Edition

How can producers reinvent themselves as social entrepreneurs? Find out in this guest post from veteran public radio reporter Monica Brady-Myerov.

Monica Brady-MyerovAlmost 25 years ago I packed my reporting kit in my backpack and flew to Kenya to follow my passion for reporting. I wanted to be an international reporter. I thought, I’ll give it 6 months and see what happens. Here’s how that journey prepared me for becoming an entrepreneur.

After two years in Kenya freelance reporting for the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Radio France International, I put on my backpack again and flew to Brazil to freelance for VOA, Christian Science Monitor Radio and others. Two more years in Boston for Monitor Radio as a producer and editor, plus another two years in Washington DC reporting led to fifteen years at WBUR as a general assignments reporter. But then, after an entire career as a reporter, just as suddenly as I moved to Kenya all those years ago, I followed another passion: finding a way to help kids learn from public radio.

Seven months ago I left WBUR to start Listen Edition. It’s bringing the power of public radio into the classroom. We select quality feature stories that align with classroom curriculum and build lesson plans around them. We also post a link to an interesting Current Events story everyday and give teachers ideas about how to use the audio in the classroom. Here’s an example of a lesson plan in which we take an interview with a professor of classics about today’s politics and connect it to teaching students about the definition of citizenship.

I am always looking for good content to link to or license for the website. If you are interested in contributing, sign up for a free trial on Listen Edition and look at the subject areas to see what aligns with your work.  Thousands of students will hear it! Send ideas here.

The idea grew out of me simultaneously covering education and watching my two children become engrossed in public radio stories. I am now part of an education technology business accelerator called LearnLaunchX and getting access to experts in the field who are helping me with the business.

In the last year of starting this business I’ve learned a lot about myself and how freelancing prepared me to launch a business.  Here are the top 5 similarities between freelancing and entrepreneurship.

Ideas—You have to have a lot of them to be a freelancer or you’re going to be out of work soon.  As an entrepreneur you need at least one good one to get started, but as your business grows you have to be creative to find solutions to the many problems you face.

Self-Motivation—I never would have moved to Kenya or Brazil alone if I wasn’t self-motivated. No freelancer isn’t self-motivated. And guess what, all entrepreneurs are self-motivated. You have to deeply believe your idea will work, even when others tell you it won’t.

Courage—Everyone, including my family, thought I was crazy when I moved to Kenya. They thought I was crazier still when I moved to Brazil because I couldn’t really speak Portuguese.  But I always told myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” When I quit my Senior Reporter job at WBUR it was the same reaction. “What are you thinking?” I thought if I don’t have the courage to try this business all-in, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.

Tenacity—Freelancers always hear “no”. But that doesn’t stop you. It can’t. As an entrepreneur you hear “no” a lot too, but if you’re afraid of that two-letter word you should find another profession.

Vision—When I moved to Kenya to freelance I had a clear vision of what I wanted. I wanted to live in Nairobi and be an on-air international reporter. Seeing this vision helped make it become a reality. Now, as the founder and CEO of Listen Edition I have a vision of thousands of elementary, middle and high school students across the country and world, hearing public radio stories as part of their lessons.

Helping make my current vision a reality is no less thrilling than it was 25 years ago when I embarked on freelancing. What’s your vision?