Aug 3, 2011

Julia Child helped change face of public TV, friend writes

Jasper White, a chef and longtime close friend of pubcasting icon Julia Child, has a nice remembrance of her in the Herald News of Fall River, Mass., to mark the anniversary of her Aug. 15 birth. In America, "the culinary arts were lagging way behind the others in the last half of the last century," he writes. "It took a catalyst to awaken America’s palate, to make the love of food an acceptable behavior and to raise expectations and standards of our cuisine. That catalyst was Julia Child." Through her shows on PBS, "she made education fun,"  he notes, adding that "changing the face of public television is also one of her great accomplishments." White often speaks at public events honoring Child (Current, June 21, 2009).

$40 million in NEH grants include public broadcasters

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $40 million in awards for 249 projects. Several public media recipients include the American Routes radio series, $250,000; WGBH's American Experience, $700,000 for a two-hour documentary film and multiplatform project on the 1964 "Freedom Summer" Mississippi voter registration and education effort; Public Radio International, $300,000 for Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC; and WETA, $750,000 for The Roosevelts, a 14-hour documentary series. A complete list (PDF) is here.

Social media taking a toll on arts journalism, panelists say

While much focus remains on the dropoff of investigative and local reporting, arts reporting and criticism is also in flux. "Arts journalism faces an unclear future as social media takes over, and non-journalists can share their opinions as easily as journalists," said Thomas Huizenga of NPR Music at a Communications Leadership Forum at the Annenberg Center's Washington D.C. office on Tuesday (Aug. 3). "The impact of criticism is lost in the new media. Journalists have now fallen to the bottom of the list." Participants included Felix Contreras of the NPR Arts Desk and Susan Clampitt, former executive director of WAMU and now a Commissioner on the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities. "Arts journalism is struggling for its life," said Jaime Bennett of the National Endowment for the Arts. "It's no surprise that journalists are taking to the blogosphere to share their reviews."

Redefining objectivity in journalism: it has to be much more than "just the facts"

As new forms of journalism take root in the rapidly evolving digital media landscape, standards for objectivity in reporting must evolve too, writes Stephen Ward, director of the journalism ethics program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, for MediaShift. The tradition that holds "just the facts" reporting as a journalistic ideal -- with no interpretation or opinion from the reporter who has gathered those facts -- should be abandoned and redefined.

"Objectivity is not about perfect neutrality or the elimination of interpretation," Ward writes. "Objectivity refers to a person's willingness to use objective methods to test interpretations for bias or inaccuracies. Objectivity as a method is compatible with journalism that interprets and takes perspectives. Every day, scientists adopt the objective stance when they use methods to test their hypotheses about phenomena. The same stance is available for journalists."

To deal with shifting expectations for opinion and objectivity in new forms of journalism, Ward proposes that educators develop "best practice" guidelines specifically tailored to the demands of each new journalistic form, such as live-blogging or use of social media.

NPR is in the process of updating its ethics code to incorporate guidelines for using social media in reporting.

South Carolina ETV lays off 15, and won't fill six open positions

South Carolina's ETV, which operates statewide public TV and radio networks, is shedding a total of 21 full-time and two part-time positions due to cutbacks in state funding and federal grants, The State newspaper is reporting today (Aug. 3). Rob Schaller, ETV spokesman, tells Current the layoffs took effect July 29. Fifteen full-time staffers and two part-timers are gone, and six open positions won't be filled. "That leaves fewer than 150 employees at the state’s public educational broadcasting network, which also, among other things, offers a multimedia educational system to more than 2,500 of the state’s schools, colleges, businesses and government agencies," the paper notes. Schaller told the paper the positions "come across the entire agency. Many areas were affected.” Gov. Nikki Haley earlier this year vetoed a portion of the state budget that provided ETV with $5.9 million, and replaced the entire Educational Television Commission. Legislators overrode her veto, permitting ETV to be funded indirectly by requiring state agencies to pay the network for the services it provides.