Sep 21, 2011

Core listeners keeping the faith in public radio, survey finds

The political turmoil that beset public radio within the past year doesn’t appear to have shaken the esteem that core listeners and contributors hold for NPR or public radio as a whole, according to research results presented Sept. 20 during the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

In an online survey of more than 27,000 pubradio members and listeners conducted this summer, 80 percent of respondents disagreed with a survey statement that public radio has been treated fairly by Congress during this year’s budget debates. More than 70 percent also disagreed with one of the criticisms that political foes lobbed at NPR and its stations — that public radio is for “elites.”

Perhaps the most reassuring finding to those worried about how public radio’s most recognized brand has weathered the political firestorm was this finding: 86 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement “I have lost respect for NPR over the past year.”

“NPR’s reputation looks strong and intact,” said researcher Fred Jacobs (above), whose radio consultancy Jacobs Media teamed up with PRPD to conduct the survey in June. More than half of the survey participants who objected to the statement about losing respect for NPR said they strongly disagreed with it, he said.

There is a big caveat to the survey’s conclusions, however: respondents were among the most devoted listeners and supporters of public radio. Researchers drew from the membership databases of 44 NPR stations to create the survey sample. More than 86 percent of those who participated in the survey were active contributors to their local stations.

"This is a slice of the audience — the 20 percent that is the core," said Jacobs.

PRPD and Jacobs Media also collected data about program preferences and learned, among other findings, that listeners in many markets believe the talk shows produced by their local stations have improved.

Stations have done a “tremendous amount of work” to improve their local news offerings and their listeners have noticed, said Arthur Cohen, PRPD president. (Image: Mark Vogelzang)

Connecticut pubcasters ink deal with local schools for unique media academy

Connecticut Public Television and WNPR have signed an agreement with the Hartford, Conn., school system to establish an educational center at the network's headquarters to provide a "hands-on" immersion lab for the city's Journalism and Media Academy, reports the Hartford Courant. Starting with the 2013-14 school year, the academy's 100 seniors will take all of their classes in the new Learning Lab in the CPBN building. In addition to core subjects, students will learn how to produce TV, radio and online media. Hartford faculty will teach the classes, said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, although the network's broadcasting and media professionals will "co-teach" for media instruction. "No public broadcaster in the country has even suggested such a thing," said Jerry Franklin, network president. The network's initial investment will be $3.5 million to retrofit 20,000 square feet of space into classrooms and production studios. The network has raised about $1.6 million so far from corporate donors and foundations.

New Orlando PBS primary WUCF-TV wants to hear from 10,000 viewers

WUCF-TV, the new PBS primary station in the Orlando market, doesn't have a monetary goal for its first fundraising drive, which began Sept. 15 and ends Sept. 25. "We’re asking 10,000 viewers to contact us via email or letter,” spokesman Grant Heston told the Orlando Sentinel. “If part of that is a donation, that’s great. Being brand new, we want to get to know how this works.” WUCF, a collaboration between the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Brevard Community College in Cocoa, went on the air July 1 after former primary WMFE-TV announced it would be sold to religious broadcaster Daystar (Current, April 18).

In the first five days of the pledge drive, WUCF raised about $25,000. “Over 10 days, we’re only doing 16 pledge blocks, about an hour and a half, two hours each,” Heston said. “It’s a lot less than what has been before. But the need is still there. The need is greater than ever.”

Kevin Klose says he'll return to teaching in July 2012

Kevin Klose, a former NPR president, is stepping down from his position as dean at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, a spot he has held since February 2009. In a memo to colleagues also posted on Jim Romenesko's Poynter Institute blog, Klose said he's returning to the classroom as of July 1, 2012, "where the work of educating the next generation of journalists challenges us all." Klose served as president of NPR from 1998 to 2008. He's also a past president of the NPR Foundation and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as an ex-Washington Post reporter.

Public media newsroom Center for Public Integrity hires NPR veteran Ellen Weiss, PBS exec Christine Montgomery

Ellen Weiss, the NPR News chief who took the network's blame for the Juan Williams affair, will join the Center for Public Integrity as its executive editor as of Oct. 3, the watchdog newsroom announced today. The center is headed by one of her predecessors at NPR, Bill Buzenberg. “Ellen Weiss is one of the best and most creative news executives in the business,” he said in a news release.

CPI hired three other top editors including Christine Montgomery, the center's new chief digital officer, who was managing editor of for two years while it expanded and then sharply reduced its online news plans. Montgomery is also president of the Online News Association, which holds its annual meeting this week in Boston.

Weiss worked at NPR News for most of its first 29 years, including 12 as e.p. of All Things Considered and head of the National Desk and the past five as senior v.p. for news, managing more than 400 staffers, a $75 million budget and 36 news bureaus.

The center, based in Washington, D.C., also hired former Washington Post reporter R. Jeffrey Smith as managing editor of its National Security Desk; Australian journalist Gerard Ryle as director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; and investigative journalist John Dunbar as managing editor of its Financial Desk.

Since 1990 the nonprofit, nonpartisan center has released more than 475 investigative reports and 17 books on aspects of accountability for government and other major institutions.

At least the Senate Democrats aren't cutting CPB's future funding

Though CPB and many other relatively small federal outlays could get whacked or seriously trimmed in the forthcoming scrum of Supercommittee deficit maneuvering, a Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday approved an increase in the advance appropriation for 2014. If CPB survives 'til then, it would receive $445 million, the same as appropriated for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 but $6 million below President Obama's request, according to CPB. (This year's sum is $430 million.)

The action was taken in subcommittee markup of the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill for next year. In addition, CPB would receive $6 million for digital projects, and the Department of Education would receive $27.2 million for Ready to Learn. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill tomorrow. House Appropriations Committee has indefinitely delayed action on its comparable bill.

The Senate committee explained in its news release why the FY2014 funds are being discussed when Congress is just beginning to consider FY2012 funding: "The committee maintains two-year advance funding, which has been in place since 1975 to ensure the independence of public broadcasting programming."

Quants may enjoy a gander at CPB's appropriations box score over the years.