May 18, 2010

APTS board forms CEO search committee

The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) Board of Trustees has formed a CEO search committee to fill its top spot, vacated when Larry Sidman recently left after a year in the job (Current, March 14, 2010). Committee co-chairs are Polly Anderson, g.m. of KNME-TV, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Elizabeth Christopherson, president of the Rita Allen Foundation, Princeton, N.J. Committee members: APTS Board Chairman Rod Bates, g.m., Nebraska Educational Telecommunication; DeAnne Hamilton, g.m. of WKAR, East Lansing, Mich.; John Harris III, president of Prairie Public Television, Fargo, N.D.; Skip Hinton, NETA president; Tom Karlo, g.m. of KPBS, San Diego; and Lonna Thompson, APTS acting president. The committee will develop a job description, set a timeline, and evaluate search firms. plans for online national fundraising heats up session in Austin

In a sometimes acrimonious session at the PBS national meeting in Austin, station reps and PBS execs faced off over the controversial topic of online national fundraising on

The session had been intended to introduce PBS's new development s.v.p. Brian Reddington and give an update on development work; he announced at the top of the meeting that there had been "a change in agenda to emphasize what we are doing to strengthen the stations' economic health."

Reddington provided a bit more information on one topic that station reps have been wondering (and talking and worrying) about, PBS's national online fundraising project. PBS has "engaged a strategic partner," M+R Strategic Services of Washington, D.C., which has helped develop fundraising for nonprofs including AARP, the Human Rights Campaign and Oxfam America. Many details -- including the all-important formula for how PBS will share online revenues and potential member emails with the stations -- are still being worked out. PBS hopes to launch the online donation campaign by this fall.

Reddington assured the audience that the effort will be coordinated with stations' own online and donor work. "I won't be going into your territory without your knowledge and consent," he said. "I won't be poaching and raiding your prospects." Which prompted the first question: What if a station says no to PBS? Will that be an issue? "I would want to know why," Reddington said. "I would envision getting a response that would generate some dialogue, and hopefully reach a decision that's beneficial for both of us." But what about overlap markets? How would revenue and email addresses from be shared? "That would just take more coordination," Reddington said.

COO Michael Jones stood up from the audience to reassure the crowd, as some folks shook their heads, murmured and waved their hands with more questions. Jones said he knew that the issue of PBS raising money is a touchy one. However, "we have to look at the reality of the situation. . . . We need alternate plans to bring in revenue or we'll keep looking at tightening budgets, reducing staff and programming. I didn't come here to be part of an organization that is cutting itself into oblivion, to preside over a dying entity. Sure [national online fundraising] is a risk. And we may step on your toes a bit -- but it's not intentional. We want to increase revenues for the entire system." He added that PBS needs to recoup the cost of the effort, and there's been discussion of distributing "the majority" of the money to stations, along with email addresses of potential members in their areas gathered on

Jones said "we are committed to doing this in a transparent way." A station rep requested that the conversation be continued in an online venue; the PBS execs said they'd look into that suggestion.

Scholarship and studio named in honor of Smiley's producer, Sheryl Flowers

Tavis Smiley and Clark Atlanta University have donated $25,000 each to establish the Sheryl Flowers Scholarship at the university. Flowers, a Clark graduate who helped shape Smiley’s public radio talk shows, died of breast cancer last June at the age of 42. She was supervising producer of his daily NPR show starting in 2002 and e.p. of the two-hour weekly Public Radio International show that had its 5th anniversary in April. The PRI show is produced in a Los Angeles studio named for Flowers. The scholarship includes an internship with Clark’s WCLK-FM and with the Smiley show.

New standard proposed for mapping impactful public media: Zing!

How do you define success for a media project that reaches beyond broadcast and tries to engage audiences Web 2.0-style? In an evaluation of its Makers Quest 2.0 initiative, the Association for Independents in Radio, Inc., and American University's Center for Social Media assert the time has come to break from the ratings-based methodologies developed for public radio by researcher David Giovannoni in the influential CPB-backed study Audience 88. "Looking forward, we must recognize as a point of departure that the current system puts highest value on media that attract and hold the greatest number of individuals in one place for the longest amount of time," write co-authors of "Spreading the Zing: Reimagining Public Media through Makers Quest 2.0," a report released early this month. "In the new public media world, and as we seek new ways to understand and define effective public media 2.0, this emphasis on the core listening audience becomes obsolete; we now must consider the core audience as just one element in a larger ecology."

AIR's Sue Schardt and CSM's Jessica Clark adapted assessment tools from the center's 2009 white paper Public Media 2.0, and developed five standards for evaluating Makers Quest projects. Their "elements of impact" are reach, inclusion, innovation, engagement and "zing," a quality melding the extent to which media craftsmanship inspires people to act or participate. Most MQ2 projects achieved success on at least one of the proposed criteria; one, Mapping Main Street, came the closest to meeting all of CSM's standards for high-impact public media. Details on how and why this project succeeded begin on page 12 of "Spreading the Zing" (PDF link above); a 5-minute video presentation, produced for the FCC's recent Future of Public Media Summit, includes insights from producer Kara Oehler and Schardt.

APM reassigns American RadioWorks doc unit

American Public Media is cutting production of American RadioWorks, the investigative documentary series that won a duPont-Columbia Silver Baton in January. MinnPost's David Brauer reports that Executive Editor and host Stephen Smith and some members of his team will remain at APM to produce coverage of higher education and sustainability, which are priority editorial topics for APM. "Some of this work will appear as ARW docs, some will be shorter in nature and appear in regular programs such as Marketplace or as specials," writes Judy McAlpine, senior v.p. of national content, in a memo to staff. "Along with the documentary work, we will continue to build out smaller features and online content as part of these projects. As a result of this realignment, ARW will no longer be a stand-alone editorial team. Work will now be integrated into these two editorial projects. This will mean a change in some positions and reduction of others but we are doing everything we can to find other opportunities within our company for affected staff." McAlpine tells Brauer that APM is trying to reassign journalists such as Catherine Winter, a "familiar voice to MPR listeners" who edited ARW's duPont-winning documentary. "We want to keep the talented people we have,” she says.

Clarification and update: The headline on this post has been revised because APM is not disbanding the ARW team. Spokeswoman Jackie Cartier says ARW will continue to produce stand-alone long-form docs for national distribution; topics have been narrowed to education and sustainability issues related to global climate change. Producers aim to deliver three full-length docs per year on education, with significant online coverage and shorter features to be presented within daily programs; plans for sustainability coverage are in the works. In addition, the coming fall season will include reporting on civil rights.

Edwardson dies; helped create Florida's WUFT-FM

Mickie Edwardson, who helped found University of Florida's pubradio WUFT-FM in 1981, died May 15 at age 80 following complications from an accident, according to the Gainesville Sun. Edwardson began as a producer-director at WUFT-TV soon after its launch in 1958. When the station announced a format change to news in August 2009, she told Current (July 6, 2009) she was concerned for the students. “I’m worried that the new shows won’t provide the educational component that the current programs provide,” said Edwardson, who at the time of her death was a retired journalism professor and still produced opera specials during WUFT pledge drives. “I taught for 38 years in that college, and I think we do a good job of training students. They’re adding talk programs that to a great extent duplicate what people can otherwise get” from cable TV news channels, she said. She was preceded in death by her husband, John Edwardson, a professor in the university's agronomy department. A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday at on campus in Gainesville.

Kerger opens Austin meeting with vision for pubmedia, and tale of Hippie Jack

Tiny WCTE, Upper Cumberland Public TV in Cookeville, Tenn., got a shout-out from PBS President Paula Kerger in her opening remarks at the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin. "It isn't only the smallest station in Cookeville, it's the only station," Kerger said. It's an area rich in music, culture, character -- and characters. During a recent visit Kerger met Hippie Jack, who arrived there to start a commune in the 1960s and never left. Now he works with the station, including pledge shows, and 130 PBS affiliates nationwide carry his "Jammin' at Hippie Jack's" music festival. It's a good example of keeping viewers engaged with the arts, one of three of Kerger's visions for pubcasting: To reimagine children's media, reinvent journalism and reconnect all Americans with arts and culture. More on those as the confab continues through Thursday. Oh, and Kerger and Hippie Jack have struck up a friendship and now keep in touch via Twitter.