Sep 15, 2011

Current TV selects Shelley Lewis as e.v.p. programming

Shelley Lewis, the executive producer who just left WNET's Need to Know, has landed as executive vice president of programming at Current TV, it announced today (Sept. 15). Current President David Bohrman called Lewis, right, "a great idea person" with the "perfect combination of relationships, experience and entrepreneurial drive to help us establish Current as a new kind of multi-screen news experience for a new kind of news viewer.” Prior to her time at NTK, Lewis was a co-creator of Air America Radio and also worked at CNN and ABC News. She starts Sept. 19 at Current. (Image: WNET)

AIR unveils Localore, its initiative backing new media experiments at stations

Association of Independents in Radio launched the beta website for its new CPB-backed initiative, Localore. Inspired by Maker's Quest 2.0, AIR's 2009 project for indie-led cross-platform media experiments, Localore will pair radio and TV indies with pubcasting stations on projects that blend digital with broadcast media.

The site that launched today features the Station Runway, a series of digital video presentations by six "incubator" stations that hope to recruit producers to work with them. AIR and CPB will announce more grant details and identify as many as 20 participating stations on Sept. 22 during the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

Look for an extended Q&A with AIR Executive Director Sue Schardt in the Sept. 19 edition of Current.

Reading Rainbow host Burton to offer RRKidz reading app

Actor and former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton has raised $3 million for his RRKidz reading app for iPad and Android users, reports Venture Beat. He's partnering with PBS affiliate WNED in Buffalo, which was Reading Rainbow's presenting station, on the project. (The show ended its 26-year run in August 2009.) "With RRKidz, Burton is introducing a reading, discovery and exploration platform (enhanced eBooks) that could have more than 300 interactive books by the time it launches," according to Venture Beat.

“We are slipping on the world’s stage in education, very precipitously,” Burton said. “To remain a world leader, we have to do a better job educating our children. Our approach is a partnership of public and private efforts. I’ve never stopped thinking about how to prepare our children to occupy their place in the world. Reading Rainbow was a powerful reading experience for me.”

“The original Reading Rainbow television series was a huge success," said WNED President Donald K. Boswell in a statement, “and this new initiative will continue to educate our youth through today’s cutting edge technology.”

A spokesperson for the station said terms of the licensing arrangement are confidential, and the status of any return of Reading Rainbow is yet to be determined.

CPB gives $4.1 million for Public Insight Network expansion

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is awarding $4.1 million to help American Public Media expand its digital Public Insight Network, it announced today (Sept. 15). PIN gathers more than 120,000 citizen sources who share their knowledge with reporters in 45 newsrooms, including 15 of the top 20 media markets (background, Current, Jan. 24, 2011). CPB said its investment will add more than 100,000 new sources and  bring PIN to 50 additional newsrooms.

Anchor and e.p. named for NJTV's nightly news NJ Today

Mike Schneider, a familiar anchor and reporter who has worked with the four major commercial nets and major station newsrooms in the Northeast in the past 30-plus years, was announced Wednesday (Sept. 14) as anchor and managing editor of NJTV’s nightly state news program, NJ Today. He and his physician wife raised their children in Bergen County, N.J., and he ran for Congress there as a Democrat in 1998.

He’ll work with new Executive Producer Bob Males, a New Jersey native and resident who previously worked as e.p. of New Jersey and Long Island news for Verizon’s Fios service, and Michael Aron, longtime senior political correspondent at New Jersey Network, NJTV’s predecessor, who joined NJTV as political correspondent in August. The state-owned NJN network lost operating funds in the state’s fiscal crisis earlier this year and was replaced by NJTV, a new service set up by New York-based WNET under a new nonprofit, NJ Public Media.

Aron gave a testimonial for NJTV in last week’s news release about Schneider’s hiring. "I look forward to working with Mike and have already had good interactions with the new executive producer Bob Males," he said. "I believe the future of NJ Today is in good hands, and I look forward to being a part of it."

Starting from scratch July 1 — and leaving behind most of NJN’s much larger news staff — NJTV’s news program has had a rushed and rough startup. It was widely criticized for late and limited coverage of flooding and damage from Hurricane Irene in August.  NJ Today is “still considered by producers as a work-in-progress,” NJTV said. Among the strongest critics was Democratic Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., who said NJTV’s news coverage was a joke and “a tragedy.” Diegnan’s bill to head off the NJTV contract passed the Assembly in June but died in the state Senate.