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Media foundation's programs offer hope for change

We can change the world,

Re-arrange the world (It’s dying)

If you believe in justice (It’s dying)

And if you believe in freedom (It’s dying)

Let a man live his own life (It’s dying)

Rules and regulations, who needs them

Open up the door

— Graham Nash, “Chicago”

We can change the world.

In the weeks since the killing of George Floyd our country is awakened. We may have different points of view, but we are a country that wants change, and wants it now from our elected officials, from our public agencies, from our big and small corporations and from our media. The circumstances differ from those of 1968 — the inspiration for Graham Nash’s song — but the outrage is similar.

Growing up in the ’60s, I always believed in changing the world for the better. Reflecting on the events of 1968 and those that have just happened has reinforced my continued desire to be an agent of change.

It’s why I came to the Rogue Valley: to evolve the free flow of news and information formerly called a newspaper into something new, better and sustainable. In fact, effecting change is the driver that has motivated me to do almost everything I have put my mind to.

There are those, mostly corporations, that have jumped on the George Floyd bandwagon because it’s the fashionable thing to do. They don’t really mean it or know anything about how to initiate positive change. They are just being exploitive.

Conversely, there are organizations that are authentic. People who, when they get behind something, mean it and know how to be change agents.

One such organization is the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS). I joined that organization over two decades ago as a board member.

Although I’m less active now, my support and commitment is as strong as it was the day Joyce Tudryn, its longtime president, visionary and one of the finest people on this planet, allowed me to join this prestigious board.

What does IRTS do and what does it have to do with us here in Oregon?

The organization fosters diversity throughout the media industry; access for the next generation of students, our future leaders, who might never have the opportunity to enter a very competitive industry. For example, its Summer Fellowship Programs give students a chance to engage with some of the world’s finest and most influential media organizations, and let those organizations experience them. Many IRTS fellows have gone on to superstar roles in news, programming, production, marketing and sales. Some are now on the IRTS board.

Want to understand how to change the world? Here is an industry organization that for decades has shown by example what to do and how to do it.

Please read the letter below with the above explanation in mind. I’m pledging to our community that I’ll be participating in this program, and I ask other business leaders in the Rogue Valley to consider doing the same.

I encourage outstanding college students of color to consider applying for IRTS programs, and college faculty to increase awareness of the organization at http://www.irtsfoundation.org.

Locally we can create the same type of programs within the industry and community organizations dominant in our region. That’s how, in a small but significant way, we can start to change the world, and honor the good spirit and good intent we see so many sharing in memory of George Floyd.

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Dear IRTS family of alums, future media leaders, and partners:

Diversity speaks to the core of the IRTS Foundation mission, and our hearts are saddened by the tragic events of recent weeks that have further exposed the enormity of work that still needs to be done to achieve true racial equality in our nation.

There is simply no room for prejudice, discrimination or hatred in our environment, or anywhere. We know that as we continue our mission dedicated to building diverse future media leaders that together, with dedication from our entire board of directors as well as our media company partners, we can make a difference. We vow to always deepen our education of and support for our program alumni.

For decades the IRTS has been ever-committed to opening up doors and opportunities with a focus on access, education and diversity through its Summer Fellowship Program, Multicultural Career Workshop and Faculty Seminars. We also just welcomed the first class in our new virtual Future Media Leader Accelerator Series to ensure that our current and newly graduated “all-star” students will have deep industry knowledge, connections and mentoring despite disruption from the pandemic.

We are especially proud of and grateful to our program alums, who are making meaningful contributions to every aspect of our industry. They strive to move forward in their own careers, while generously providing personal mentorship and a helping hand to our recent and future alums from across the nation following in their footsteps. They are key to attracting people of color to our media community, and it is critical to have balanced representation in an industry with such a powerful social and cultural voice as ours.

It is our hope that the industry at large will accelerate its commitment to diversity as never before. With your talent, your dedication and your tenacity, we can create this necessary change together.

With support, appreciation and unity,

Joyce M. Tudryn, president and CEO and Debra O’Connell, chair, board of directors, IRTS Foundation.

Steven Saslow is owner of Rosebud Media and publisher of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Tidings.

From Mail Tribune and Ashland Tidings owner and publisher Steven Saslow.