Apr 17, 2009

Houston reinstates popular political show

Red, White and Blue, a Houston political pubTV show, is back on the air at KUHT after a months-long controversy. The show, one of the few on local politics, featured one Republican and one Democratic host. It had been suspended after last year's election. Politicians got involved, asking for the show to be reinstated. And now it has been. The first of the new weekly episodes runs at 8 p.m. tonight, and again at 5 p.m. Sunday.

"The last thing I'd do . . . is write off pubradio"

Audience engagement is the buzz word for Web 2.0 media and Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America describes his approach to it in part three of his interview with Nieman Journalism Lab. For Max Fun Con, a June 12-14 retreat for TSOYA fans, Thorn invited his audience to meet and be entertained by his friends from the world of comedy (and a guy named "Dr. Cocktail") at a retreat center in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. The event, which sold out when 155 people registered in less than two weeks, is "all my favorite things in this place," Thorn says. "All these people who really love them and want to meet each other and hang out. And, you know, drink...." Apart from being a lot of fun and a way to make some money, the event also allows Thorn to cultivate the small but devoted audience that enthusiastically supports his program and website. It's similar to the approach described by comedian and Max Fun Con performer John Hodgman in this Wired magazine interview.

Thorn also tells Nieman he was surprised by how many public radio listeners began supporting TSOYA during his pledge drive last year. "You realize real quick, when you’re doing something listener supported, why public radio stations have pledge drives. It’s because they really, really work."

Thorn contacted Current about our April 16 blog post on the first two parts of his Nieman interview to clarify his remarks expressing ambivalence about public radio carriage of TSOYA. "The last thing I'd ever do is write off public radio stations," he wrote. His goal for the interview was to "convince people that there are ways to be creative and to make media, even if they're not starting with a million dollars a year--or even $50,000 a year....Part of that is focusing energy and resources on what you can control. In my case, that's meant focusing my time on improving my show, rather than marketing it to stations. "

NPR technicians' union to vote on proposed contract

NPR management and representatives of its technicians' union yesterday reached tentative agreement on a one-year contract that will furlough employees for up to five days and eliminate NPR contributions to union members' retirement plans until September 30. NPR tentatively agreed not to lay-off any bargaining unit members for the term of the contract; in exchange, the union will temporarily suspend rules of jurisdiction that define the jobs performed by its broadcast engineers and technicians. Members of the bargaining unit will vote on the proposed contract next Wednesday, April 22. A summary and full text [PDF] of the agreement are posted on the NABET Local 31 website, along with details about a membership meeting tomorrow afternoon for bargaining unit members. Meanwhile, NPR continues to negotiate with representatives of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents 380 news division employees at NPR.

AFI seeks Digital Content Lab volunteer mentors

The American Film Institute is seeking media pros to volunteer as mentors for project developers in its annual AFI Digital Content Lab. AFI is looking for people into video, games, hardware, software, mobile devices and other aspects of media who would work with selected project teams while they develop digital applications in this year's round. More info and application form are online. Here's AFI's roster of past projects. You also can connect with the Lab on Facebook (AFI Digital Content Lab group) or Twitter (follow AFIDCL). Meanwhile, the Lab plans its Digital Hollywood Content Summit May 5 in Santa Monica, Calif.

Wisconsin doc gets in middle of cat fight

Madison, Wisc., filmmaker Andy Beversdorf has received death threats over his latest doc, "Here Kitty, Kitty," airing Saturday on Wisconsin Public Television. The subject: Whether the state should allow killing of feral cats. "It was a big fight between the bird people and the cat people that produced a lot of characters who were very passionate about the whole thing, so it made for good cinema," Beversdorf told the Wisconsin State Journal. The "bird people" include a professor whose study blames cats for the deaths of millions of birds. More in the Chicago Tribune via The Associated Press.