Mar 26, 2010

A positive 'Wow' from a critic of journalism-as-usual

Pat Aufderheide, advocate for Public Media 2.0 at American University, says in a blog that she loved every minute of CPB's Local Journalism Centers announcement at the Newseum in D.C. yesterday. For instance, she quotes PBS President Paula Kerger: "News has become a social experience . . . Journalism must rebuild itself from the bottom up, beginning with the citizen journalist."

"Wow," Aufderheide responds, continuing: "NPR’s Kinsey Wilson, digital media guru at NPR, said, 'This is about reinventing the news business,' and 'This is about connecting the audience with each other.'"

Though Aufderheide is eager to see these developments, she's not under any illusion that they're easy to pull off. She writes that citizen journalist efforts will be "full of people who don’t have any real practice in responsive, respectful, informed engagement on gnarly topics. Public broadcasting is in new territory here. But it’s great territory to be in."

For more about Public Media 2.0, see the February 2009 report by Aufderheide and Jessica Clark of AU's Center for Social Media.

WGBH steps into the future with mobile DTV simulcasts

WGBH is going where no station has gone before: This week it launched the first mobile DTV service in the system. The station is simulcasting its main HD channel along with its 'GBH Kids Channel and two audio program streams. It's the first of nine stations that announced in February 2009 their plans to begin using the technology (Current, Feb. 2, 2009). “We’re very excited to be the first in our market to offer Mobile DTV services to our audience,” WGBH’s Chief Technology Officer Joe Igoe said in a statement. “We see Mobile DTV as a way to expand our ability to deliver services to a broader geographic area on a wider range of devices." PBS Board members, meeting this week in Arlington, Va., also had an opportunity to take mobile DTV for a test drive during an evening gathering Thursday -- which came in handy for at least one March Madness fan. Public broadcasting's interest in mobile DTV goes back several years (Current, May 27, 2008), and pubcasters heard a lot about it at the NETA confab this January (Current, Jan. 25). Details there included the Open Mobile Video Coalition's plans for an upcoming mobile DTV demonstration. Eight stations are participating, including PBS affiliate WHUT in D.C., and MHz Networks’ WNVT in suburban Virginia.

PBS's Kerger mentions to Board a "very large grant" coming in next year

Will a grant from a large but little-known foundation help PBS in a big way within the next year? PBS President Paula Kerger, speaking to the PBS Board at its meeting today at headquarters in Arlington, hinted at a possible "very large grant" from the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, one of three entities under the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. It's named for the granddaughter of the founder of agricultural products giant. MinnPost reports that Margaret Cargill was known as the "silent philanthropist," because she made more than $200 million in anonymous donations to charities before her death in 2006. According to the Foundation Center, the trust's $2.12 billion in assets make it the twenty-second largest foundation in the nation. The organization's website notes that it "does not accept unsolicited requests for support. The foundation is responsible for identifying appropriate charitable organizations and making grants." Cargill specified that the trust direct its philanthropy to a broad range of issues--including the environment, the arts, disaster relief, children, education, tolerance and conflict resolution, animal care, American Indian culture, and the elderly. The grant could be among the first achievements of PBS's renewed focus on the PBS Foundation as an avenue for bolstering funding. The Foundation began with a 2004 task force investigating how to attract more “top-of-mind consideration” among philanthropists (Current, April 12, 2004).

The hoped-for Cargill grant may somewhat ease the Board's budget concerns. PBS hasn't raised station dues in two years, and at least one Board member is worried about the long-term affects of that. Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said that it's "imperative" that PBS be investing in new technology. "I wonder what the implications are for us as we look to the future" with such funding restraints. Kerger replied that "these are pivotal issues we're wrestling with." It's important that the system be aware "that we can't continue to go down this path," reaching deeper into new technologies while holding the line on station dues, she said. Kerger plans to convene a panel of stakeholders to brainstorm potential revenue sources for digital media. There are great opportunities for PBS in digital media, Kerger said, "but we need to have resources. We would not want anyone to assume that somehow we can continue with business as usual, that's not going to take us anywhere."

NPR's API adds station content, blogs

NPR has added ingest capabilities to its open Application Programming Interface, the technical system for distributing NPR content on the web that first launched in 2008. "Until today, the NPR API has been a one-way fire hose of content, pushing hundreds of thousands of stories from NPR and the twelve NPR Music partner stations out to the world," blogs NPR's Daniel Jacobson, director of application development. "Now the API is read-write, allowing authorized external parties to post stories to the NPR API." For the first phase of API Ingest Project, released on March 24, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Northwest News Network are posting stories to the API. Three additional pilot stations--San Francisco's KQED, Boston's WBUR and Philly's WXPN--are next in line to begin uploading their stories. "Thereafter, our intent is to stabilize the system, scale it, and reach out to more public media organizations who are interested in participating," Jacobson writes. Under a prototyping grant announced by CPB yesterday, NPR and other pubcasting networks begin planning an even bigger expansion for the API-- as a shared web distribution platform for the entire public broadcasting system.

With the new API release, NPR also added three blogs to the API, one of which debuted to web audiences yesterday. Go Figure!, by NPR's audience research team, has come out from behind the walls of NPR's internal Intranet. "[W]e want to connect with and learn from the NPR audience, our public media colleagues at stations and elsewhere, and our research and media colleagues," blogs Lori Kaplan, director of the research group. "Maybe you'll learn something and we'll learn something and have some fun doing it." The research team plans to post two times a week. "We are not editorial talent, so please have mercy on us as we build our skills!" she writes. Inside, the blog for NPR's web team, and All Tech Considered, the companion blog for the weekly All Things Considered segment, also are now fed through the API.