Jun 3, 2009

HoustonPBS is now a bee keeper

Some happy pubcasting news: HoustonPBS is the first pubTV station to locally sponsor the Scripps National Spelling Bee, after The Houston Chronicle discontinued its longtime sponsorship. The bee is the third largest in the country with more than 1,000 schools in 42 counties participating. HoustonPBS coordinates the 1,000 school champions into 37 playoff bees and runs the final bee -- broadcast live. The first HoustonPBS spelling champ, Aditya Chemudupaty, advanced to the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee and missed the finals by just one word. He was eliminated May 28 in the sixth round of the semi-finals on ESPN (pictured). The Scripps National Spelling Bee featured a total of 293 spellers representing about 29,000 schools.

WNED trying first June pledge drive

Rough economic times have prompted WNED in Buffalo to schedule its first June pledge drive. Senior managers have already taken 7.5 percent cutbacks, staff salaries have been cut 5 percent and some jobs are unfilled. If this month's drive doesn't bring in more cash, WNED-TV President Don Boswell told The Buffalo News, the station may cut programs.

CPB wants WSEC to "become sustainable"

CPB's Mark Erstling, a senior veep, said the struggling WSEC in Springfield, Ill., needs "to have a plan so we can change their trajectory so they can become sustainable." Erstling told the local State Journal-Register that he and COO Vinnie Curren met with station managers in May in Springfield. “Our goal is to make sure no one loses public television service in America,” Erstling said. “We’re a funder for public television and radio stations, but there’s not a lot of discretionary funds for dealing with situations like this.” Jerold Gruebel, CEO of the PBS affiliate, on May 29 told The Hannibal Courier-Post in Missouri that CPB is trying to “dismantle” smaller PBS stations.

West Virginia college cooperation continues

As of July 1, reporter Keri Brown will be West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Northern Panhandle bureau chief. It's part of a unique relationship between the pubcaster and several colleges around the state. "We cover the whole state so we need reporters all around the state," Dennis Adkins, network exec director, told Current. The reporters are paid by the schools to teach journalism courses, and report exclusively for the pubcaster. Brown will be based at Wheeling Jesuit University. Elsewhere, the reporter in Morgantown teaches at West Virginia University; Huntington, Marshall University; Bluefield, Concord University; and Martinsburg, Shepherd University.

Planet Money's Adam Davidson under fire for losing his cool

"It's important for journalists to treat whomever they are interviewing with respect -- and to keep their opinions to themselves," writes NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard in her latest column. But Adam Davidson, the lead correspondent for Planet Money, "did neither" when he interviewed Elizabeth Warren about her watchdog role for the Troubled Assets Relief program, Shepard concludes. Davidson's May 6 interview with Warren, who chairs the congressional oversight panel of TARP, was "really cringeworth stuff," the Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum wrote on May 14. In Shepard's June 1 response to complaints about the piece, NPR News Chief Ellen Weiss says the interview was "unsuccessful from the start." "It was confrontational without being illuminating," adds Uri Berliner, the deputy national editor working with the Planet Money team. "The fight was over an incredibly nuanced issue," Davidson tells Shepard. "I did an awful job of conveying what the issue was by losing my cool and failing to be precise." What went wrong? Davidson didn't have time to adequately prepare for the interview because he had just returned from a fundraising trip for NPR, Shepard reveals, and the Planet Money podcast on which the interview was presented isn't produced with the same editorial rigor of an NPR news program. Davidson discusses the fight with Alex Blumberg, his friend and collaborator in creating Planet Money. In a recent interview with Current, Davidson acknowedged that the Planet Money team was "stretched too thin" in producing multi-platform economics coverage.