On August 26, the Idaho State Board of Education approved the appointment of Jeff Tucker as Idaho Public Television’s fourth general manager. Tucker — who has worked for IdahoPTV as a videographer, producer/director, production manager and, most recently, as director of content — replaces GM Ron Pisaneschi, who retired earlier this year.
Tucker’s career with IdahoPTV began in 1983, when he was still a high school student. He worked that legislative season with the Idaho Reports team covering politics at the Idaho State Capitol. “What an amazing time for a senior in high school! I got to learn how to use broadcast cameras, capture debates on the House floor, experience how our state functions and how journalists reported it,” he says.
While attending college at the University of Idaho, Tucker worked on the IdahoPTV production Outdoor Idaho and had opportunities to travel the state, capturing outdoor footage for the fledgling series.
In 1987 he began his first full-time job with the organization as director/videographer/editor for The History of Idaho, a series of 13 hour-long documentaries created for Idaho’s state centennial. He traveled and filmed at locations throughout the state, allowing him to see what he calls “the heart and culture of our remarkable state.”
“All of this work taught me so much more about the state than just journalism and the outdoors,” Tucker says. “It taught me why people are proud to call themselves Idahoans. That has a lot to do with making a living, remembering history, educating families, preserving the farm or a local business for kids to take over, and our independent rural lifestyle.”
Preserving a Legacy of Trust
In 1993 Tucker left to start his own video production company and for nearly a decade worked in the private sector. But he never forgot the meaning and mission of public media. Commercial broadcasters, by their nature, are motivated to preserve advertising dollars, but public television has always strived to present multiple viewpoints, even those that might be unpopular, he says. “Public television was and still is the best, most centered and trusted media that we have in the United States. Argue as one might that the right or left commercial media is center, surveys comparing public TV to others — like the yearly PBS trust survey — show who the public really trusts. In today’s media landscape, which can be full of angry voices and sometimes outright lies, this is the time and place for public television to shine.”
How exactly does public media shine? By offering a more balanced and thoughtful approach, says Tucker. “I’ve always liked the saying ‘We provide the light, not the heat.’ Public television shows people how the world operates. It stands back and reports, while taking deep dives into why. We present diverse views so that people can learn and decide for themselves. We seek to elevate the conversation and keep it on a higher plane. Viewers may not always like what they see but at least they can view the world as it is.”
A Focus on Idaho Communities
Idaho Public Television understands the importance of offering local productions that focus on the people and places that make Idaho special, Tucker says. “Whether it’s history and Idaho Experience or the great outdoors and Outdoor Idaho, we try to ask and answer what it means to be an Idahoan. We are the only statewide media outlet producing ongoing series focusing on Idaho. And it’s not just the two big ongoing series. Just as important are our local productions Science Trek, The 180, Idaho Reports, Dialogue and other special productions like our recent documentary on adverse childhood experiences in Idaho. Our production team knows this state.”
IdahoPTV’s service to local communities is not limited to on-air programming either. According to Tucker, the station has expanded its education department to focus its outreach efforts on supporting teachers, families and communities throughout Idaho. “From training Idaho schoolteachers to better utilize technology in their classrooms, to assisting parents in preparing their kids for school, to leading story times and fun preschool activities in rural libraries, our education team will continue to make a difference in Idaho communities.”
“All of this is done through a statewide public-private partnership which is worth supporting,” says Tucker. “Private donations, foundations, businesses from around the state enthusiastically support our programming and education services through the Friends of Idaho Public Television. And to complete the cycle, the State of Idaho supports the state agency and our infrastructure and content delivery equipment, and microwaves and transmitters that get the programs to most households in the state. It’s not an easy task but our partnership makes it happen.
“We’re all proud of where we live,” Tucker says, “and at IdahoPTV we allow Idahoans to see Idaho as it is.”