Humble beginnings

Frank Blythe is the founder of Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium, his daughter Francine Blythe-Lewis is the executive director of Vision Maker Media. Pauly Denetclaw, a reporter with the Texas Observer, also joins us to tell us about some of the stories from the recent storm.
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Frank Blythe joins us Tuesday from the place where he founded Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium. He retired in 2006. His daughter, Francine Blythe-Lewis also joins us. She is the executive director of the organization that’s now called Vision Maker Media. 

Last week, the country watched in shock as Texas fell to a huge winter storm when its power grid couldn’t handle the demand for heating. Millions of people were left without power, which led to water pipes bursting and just about no one being able to drive anywhere safely.

Throughout this winter storm that dragged on for days, reporters were busy reporting on the dire situation.

Pauly Denetclaw is a reporter with the Texas Observer. She joins us to tell us about some of the stories from this storm. 

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Some quotes from today's show

Frank Blythe 

“Well, we're pretty humble. We started with one office in the basement of NAT television in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1978. Got our first grant from the corporation for public broadcasting, and we've been fortunate to have those grants come to us 45 years and have kept that up. But, it took a lot of work to keep them in the groove with us. And we just grew from there. We started out basically as a station membership organization, Public Television Station”.

"Of course, we didn't know what the heck we were doing, but we had some good people there that got together and put our heads together. And we spent all afternoon hammering out at least the beginnings of a plan then to involve the stations supporting us as well as other interviewees. And we got, we got it out. We first called it Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium, which started, as a membership organization. So, stations joined us as members to use our library".

Francine Blythe

Courtesy of Vision Maker Media

Francine Blythe-Lewis

"My father has always been a role model. He always took me to all kinds of conferences. He had me meet media professionals, Native Americans in all kinds of fields. And, also whenever his board came together, always allowed me to come and join when they did their evening board dinner meetings. So I got to be with a lot of people and some of them that are still in business and some that are my age and colleagues that we work for, but in different areas of media throughout the country.”

"They're called consortium at the time now, their alliances and the cultural alliances that he had mentioned with Latino African-American Asian-American, Pacific Islanders and U.S. American Indians. And the CPB just awarded all of us an additional half a million dollars beginning of this fiscal year annually. And so for all of us, it just means us being able to streamline more production straight into broadcast and bringing more diversity and many more different platforms within PBS.”

Pauly Denetclaw

"As folks in my newsroom, other reporters, editors, we're really dealing with the issues that were occurring with the power grid. I had co-workers who didn't have power for 40-plus hours. They were walking to get groceries, or the things that they needed, the roads were just impassable. And so it was really amazing to be able to step in and help my newsroom with this reporting and be able to do a 9 minute short story about how folks across Texas have been impacted by the storm."

"One of our reporters, Amal Ahmed, wrote about the power grid in Texas, about how it was vulnerable to these types of situations. In her story, she focused on the heat wave that was coming in and how that could have really stressed the system and caused power outages. And we saw that happen this year because of the winter storm and the increased power usage that was happening. And the system just completely failed and people were without power for days on end.”

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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