A famous quote, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, asserts that “An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.” Whatever its actual origins may be, the sentiment expressed provides the organizing principle for Dialogue at the Wilson Center host John Milewski’s approach to his work.
“I have to admit that when I came to Washington in 1984, a traditional network television career path was what I had in mind,” Milewski said. “My accidental introduction to the Close Up Foundation, and later C-SPAN, changed the plan.”
Having not previously considered a career in education, he quickly became enamored with Close Up’s civic education mission. When he learned of the organization’s programming partnership with C-SPAN, he was hooked. He became the program’s host in 1986, and later added executive producer and managing editor duties. Two decades of producing and hosting the program gave focus to his approach to broadcast journalism.
“I learned that at its best, journalism helps provide the public education necessary for the informed citizenry that democracy requires,” Milewski said. “C-SPAN and programs like Dialogue play a vital role in adding value to our nation’s public policy debate, and I consider it a privilege to be part of that transaction.”
Close Up on C-SPAN featured high school students from across the nation in dialogue with elected officials, scholars, journalists, and other expert guests. The subject matter included current events and news, as well as history, culture, and even pop culture. Unlike the trends in mainstream media that have led to a blurring of the lines between news and entertainment, Close Up took a more serious approach to exploring issues and ideas. But to Milewski, serious doesn’t mean boring.
“You can respect the intelligence of your viewers and the seriousness of the subject matter while maintaining a lively and conversational approach,” he said. “A guest once described a panel I hosted as a mix of light tone and real substance. I really appreciated that; it perfectly describes my goal for what I hope to bring to Dialogue.”
While new as the host of Dialogue at the Wilson Center, Milewski is no stranger to the Wilson Center. For eight years, he collaborated with former dialogue host George Liston Seay on a series of programs seen on C-SPAN under the banner Close Up at the Wilson Center. The two served as co-hosts of the series and became close friends off the air.
“George was a treasure on every level,” Milewski said. “And as gifted as he was as a broadcaster, he was that much more special as a friend and mentor. dialogue and the Wilson Center were lucky to have him, and it’s a great honor for me to follow in his footsteps.”
More About John
In addition to his work with the Wilson Center, Milewski is an instructor for The Pennsylvania State University, where he teaches a course on politics and media. He serves as vice president for the Wana Initiative on Conflict and Cultural Dialogue and is co-creator, co-writer, and co-producer of the initiative’s flagship program, Waziristan to Washington: A Muslim at the Crossroads, an innovative one-man stage show featuring Ambassador Akbar Ahmed.
He is also a regularly featured blogger for The Huffington Post and was part of the team that opened the new Newseum in Washington, D.C. in April 2008.
As a documentary filmmaker, he has served as executive producer, managing editor, and correspondent for a series of award-winning productions. The documentaries have been recognized internationally through awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle, the ABA’s Silver Gavel, the Columbus International Film Festival’s Chris Award, and the New York Festival’s World Gold Medal and Best of Show Awards.
Previously he served as interim producer of C-SPAN’s After Words, the flagship program of the Book TV lineup. His broadcasting career began at the central Pennsylvania radio stations, WMAJ & WXLR.