Jul 1, 2011

Mary Jane Wilson dies; former program director at WKAR-TV

Mary Jane Wilson, 67, former program director at WKAR-TV in East Lansing, Mich., died June 26. She served as director from 1989 until her retirement in 2006.

“Those of us who were lucky enough to have Mary Jane as a friend know that she was the real deal,” said Carrie Corbin, former program manager at WGVU in Kalamazoo, Mich., who called Wilson “a programmer who would do anything for you.”

“Many was the time that Mary Jane dropped off a tape at the bus station on Friday afternoon to meet our 6 p.m. broadcast after we had a machine failure,” Corbin said.

Wilson began her career as a student employee, then staff member, at Instructional Television at Michigan State University. In 1970 she moved to University of Delaware as a media specialist, and then to media work at the Helene Fuld School of Nursing in New Jersey. She returned to Michigan in 1978 and began working for WKAR-TV.

She was born in Windsor, Ontario, the daughter of Peg and Stanley Wilson; the family became U.S. citizens in 1943 when Mary Jane was 3 years old. She graduated from Michigan State with bachelor's and master’s degrees in radio and television and educational media.

Following her retirement from WKAR, Wilson continued to be active at the station, volunteering for auction and taking on ascertainment and Nielsen reporting tasks.

She is survived by several cousins and good friends, a statement from the station said.

A memorial service will take place July 9 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Grand Ledge, Mich. Wilson had requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the church (201 E. Jefferson St., Grand Ledge, Mich., 48837) or the American Cancer Society.

WKAR gets new home at Michigan State; g.m. DeAnne Hamilton to leave station

WKAR, public TV and radio, has switched overseers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, as of Friday (July 1). It's now part of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the school announced. Effective July 15, Gary Reid, g.m. of student station WDBM and a senior academic specialist with the college, will become WKAR's acting director of broadcasting. Reid also just won the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. He will replace DeAnne Hamilton, director of broadcasting services since 2003 and a member of the PBS Board. Hamilton "will lead several special projects, including one with the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities," MSU's statement said. Hamilton was away from the office on Friday and not available for comment.

WKAR previously was part of a separate entity, Michigan State University Broadcasting Services. Kirsten Khire, communications manager for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, told Current that the pubcasting station has shared a building with the communications school since 1981. "The college has always had a strong commitment to public broadcasting, and always had an academic affiliation," she said. "This just cements the relationship."

Farewell, New Jersey Network

The New Jersey Network signed off for one last time at midnight Friday (July 1), several years after the state announced it would no longer fund the pubcaster.

The Star-Ledger reported its final moments: "The broadcast cut to a small room of empty cubicles. The lights turned off, and a small, blue NJN sign glowed on the back wall. The screen faded to black. 'New Jersey Network. April 5, 1971 – June 30, 2011.' " The paper includes a video link to that last segment, a five-minute overview of NJN's history.

Also as of Friday, 130 staffers are out of work. The station is now NJTV, run by a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen in New York City.

The NJN news team was placed into the sad situation of calmly, professionally covering its own demise. "We thought about reaching out into people’s living rooms and asking, ‘Please help us,’" Michael Aron, 65, a veteran political correspondent and 29-year employee told the paper. "In some subtle ways, we did. We reminded people how long we’ve been on the air, and that we would soon be gone. But that was about as far as we were willing to go."

About a week ago, crews working in the trucks once parked outside the Statehouse turned the magnetic NJN signs upside down. And for the first time in 20 years, the station did not to air the Senate and Assembly budget vote live.

The cameramen could not bear to watch anymore, Aron said.

WDUQ unsure of future of Radio Information Service for listeners who are blind

The future of the 35-year-old Radio Information Service, a volunteer reading program for listeners who are blind or visually impaired, remains uncertain under pending ownership changes at WDUQ-FM, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. About 800 persons subscribed to the service in 2009, when the nonprofit that ran it folded. "This is not our program, but we are willing to help and donate the subcarrier to broadcast the programming," said Lee Ferraro, g.m. of WYEP, one of the partners set to acquire WDUQ. He said RIS will be broadcast at least through July.

"The RIS isn't out there broadcasting people telling jokes for entertainment purposes," said Lillian Wolff, an RIS volunteer for 16 years. "Listening to the news like this makes these people feel like a part of society."