Feb 21, 2012

News Director Jim Asendio gone from WAMU, staffers told in memo

WAMU News Director Jim Asendio has left the station, according to an internal station memo posted by the Washington Post. Mark McDonald, program director at the American University licensee in Washington, D.C., told staffers: "Jim has left WAMU. We wish him well in his future endeavors. Meymo Lyons is Acting News Director with immediate effect, and she and I will be working with the newsroom staff to find a replacement for Jim in the coming days and weeks."

UPDATE: Journalist Dave Hughes, who runs DCRTV, an independent website about radio and television in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area, reports that Asendio told him: "I resigned as news director at WAMU because I did not agree with an upper management decision to have reporters meet with donors at a donor-only station-sponsored event. It is my long held and oft-stated belief that working journalists should not be subjected to the real or perceived influence of the individuals and/or foundations who fund the work of the newsroom."

New Hampshire town starting new PEG channel

While the Alliance for Community Media fights to keep PEG (public, educational and government) channels on the air, there are local bright spots emerging, such as in Exeter, N.H., which is starting a new public-access channel, according to the Exeter News-Letter in Portsmouth. "I think of it as an opportunity for people to be more of a part of their community and to know what is going on," Doug York, the Exeter Public Television coordinator, told the paper. "It can also be a way for people to express themselves artistically." Supporters of the public-access channel have spent the past few years working on the project.

First-ever Prize for Civility in Public Life goes to Brooks and Shields of "PBS NewsHour"

The inaugural Prize for Civility in Public Life, presented by Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school in Meadville, Pa., goes to PBS NewsHour political commentators David Brooks and Mark Shields. In a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, college President James H. Mullen Jr. said the school is "launching a quest" to reverse the "rise of incivility in our democracy" with the award, presented today (Feb. 21) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Jim Lehrer, PBS NewsHour executive editor, said in a statement, "Mark Shields and David Brooks deserve this and all other awards there are or ever will be for civility. They live it and practice it ways that are truly unique.”

"Incivility threatens the long-term health of our democracy," Mullen writes in the Post-Gazette. "But the harsh truth is, we're not doing anything serious to change it. Instead, incivility is too often rewarded. And civility is usually taken for granted or ignored. If we're serious about enhancing civility, we must shine a bright light on the unsung heroes of democracy today — the many women and men who practice partisan politics passionately but with civility, each and every day. Civility will become a norm only when rewards for civility become a norm."

Mullen has high praise for the Friday evening on-air dynamic between Brooks and Shields, which the show has dubbed "Political conversation, not a shouting match." "Every week Mr. Brooks and Mr. Shields come together on PBS NewsHour to vigorously debate the issues of the day, respecting each other as they do so," he writes. "They demonstrate that civility does not require one to be tepid. Mr. Brooks proudly argues from the right; Mr. Shields from the left. But they advocate their views with steadfast civility."

Mullen concluded: "Civility is a choice. We must help public servants and candidates make that choice. Until we do so, we are part of the incivility problem — no matter how politely we sit on the sidelines."

UPDATE: Video of the presentation is now online here.