Moving Fred Rogers' neighborhood
By Joseph Sabino Mistick
Published: Saturday, June 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Mister Rogers has left the building. And it is the very building that owes its existence to Fred Rogers, as does the community-owned public television station housed there that he also helped found and nurture.
Nonetheless, The Fred Rogers Company, the corporate face of the children's icon, has relocated, unable to reach an agreement for adequate space at WQED studios in Oakland.
The structure itself, a concrete monolith designed in an architectural style called brutalism, seems cold and ugly to many. Not unlike Victor Hugo's Quasimodo, its rough exterior cloaked an uncommon love as long as Fred Rogers and his company worked there, giving it a warm soul and heart of gold.
Although many never believed this day would come, it was really a long time coming. No longer a world leader in public television production, WQED has reduced local programming and leased office and studio space to private enterprises.
Even the renowned Fred Rogers studio, the Lourdes and Mecca and Ganges of children's television, is now available for banquets, weddings and private parties, like just another volunteer fire hall or country club. It all flies wide of Mister Rogers' lifelong message.
“I'm not that interested in ‘mass' communications. I'm much more interested in what happens between this person and the one person watching. The space between the television set and that person who's watching is very holy ground,” Fred said.
And while others have lost their way, The Fred Rogers Company remains true to the core beliefs of its founder. From the beginning, child development experts have worked alongside television production staff, serving children and their families, striving to ensure social and emotional health, never losing sight of the mission. That is still true.
As Fred said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
It was that sense of who he was that carried the day in 1969, when Fred testified before a Senate committee debating the future of public television. He saved public television for our children on that day, speaking with gentle passion and quiet resolve.
As the movers shrink-wrapped X the Owl's big oak tree and any vestige of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, some WQED staffers watched and shed a few tears. Many had worked with Fred and were missing their friend; others might have cried for their childhood and simpler times.
The last to leave was Fredosaurus Rex, who stood eight feet tall outside the building, greeting visitors to WQED and Mister Roger's neighborhood. In his signature sneakers and cardigan sweater, still holding Henrietta Pussycat and King Friday XIII, the old boy remained strong atop a flatbed trailer, smiling through his own tears.
And when that last truck pulled out of the driveway, all that was left behind was another office building, no different than the rest.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Shale oil, gas drilling boom wins favor with labor unions, thwarting environmentalists
- Kovacevic: Still waiting on Malkin, Crosby
- BVA senior takes Relay for Life personal
- LaBar: Did WWE referee know finish to Undertaker match?
- Manorville man gives children gift of fishing
- Fleury a bright spot among struggling Penguins in playoffs
- Local runners set for Boston
- Rossi: Lack of together time showing for Penguins’ defense
- Landslides put Baldwin firefighters in financial peril
- Population expansion in Western Pennsylvania hinges on immigrants