Jan 28, 2011

Weiss's departure from NPR, reexamined

Why exactly did NPR President Vivian Schiller tell her Senior News V.P. Ellen Weiss to resign or be fired? According to the Washington Post's account of the circumstances leading up to Weiss's sudden departure on Jan. 6, Weiss's management style as news chief, and her account of the decision to fire longtime news analyst Juan Williams last October, undercut support for her within NPR's newsroom and leadership ranks.

The Post's Paul Farhi interviews NPR News insiders and points to internal rifts over Weiss's record and leadership style: "While several employees acknowledged her role in building NPR into a radio-news powerhouse and emerging digital-news player, they also questioned her methods....More damning was the suggestion - hotly disputed by people close to Weiss - that Weiss had preempted her boss, Schiller, in telling Williams that he had to go."

Weiss tells the Post she'd received no warning from Schiller that her job was in jeopardy nor an explanation of why she was being forced out. An anonymous defender within NPR News says Weiss's ouster was "merely a smoke screen that helped Schiller keep her job and appease critics inside and outside NPR." NPR communications chief Dana Davis Rehm declines to elaborate on "internal conversations" that led up to Weiss's resignation.

Former NPR host and correspondent Alex Chadwick is one of few sources who talks on-the-record, drawing parallels between how Weiss informed him that his job was being eliminated in 2008, and her cell phone firing of Juan Williams last Oct. 20.

"Damn good schedule" at KCET, President Al Jerome says

KCET President Al Jerome continues to explain the station's Jan. 1 departure from the PBS system. In the latest interview, in today's (Jan. 28) Santa Barbara Independent, he describes KCET's exit and subsequent programming revamp like "changing the tires going 90 miles per hour." He adds that he considers the new lineup "a damn good schedule."

Old "Electric Company" clip may just power up your sleepy Friday

It's Friday afternoon, and you deserve a video break. Today's feature is brought to you by BestWeekEver.TV, which serves up an Electric Company episode from waaaay back, when actor Morgan Freeman played a vampire caught in Spiderman's (very fake rope) web. (Actually, the "Kitten Attacking a Spider" video underneath is pretty good too ... )

More pubcasting producers vote to join Writers Guild of America, East

Producers for History Detectives and America Revealed on PBS are among new members of the Writers Guild of America, East, the union said today (Jan. 28). The Guild also welcomed nonfiction TV producers for Discovery Network and MTV. Guild President Michael Winship said in a statement: "As a writer for public television myself, I know how valuable Guild membership has been for my colleagues and me." Winship is a former senior writer for Bill Moyers Journal.

California Watch launches state investigative news network

California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, today (Jan. 28) announced its new California Watch Media Network, which includes many of the state's major news organizations.

Participating outlets will receive stories and daily postings from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and collaborate with the center on news projects. The initial members are the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian, and the Fresno Bee.

“This new network represents a step forward in terms of how we market and distribute our content,” said California Watch Editorial Director Mark Katches. The center hopes to add editorial partners. Membership fees depend on circulation and audience reach; for broadcast outlets, rates are based on market size.

The center also will continue its news relationship with pubcaster KQED Public Radio in San Francisco; the two have partnered since November 2009 on various projects.