Aug 2, 2012 relaunched, though with a hiccup

Last night's relaunch of took off splendidly, though somehow it left behind the links to many older stories not yet ingested into its database.

Technicians are laboring to restore proper connections at this moment!

With the new combined site at at, breaking-news items previously seen at this Blogger address are now integrated with our longer reported stories into a comprehensive RSS feed. They're also seen on the same home page, though the less momentous short items are found under the Quick Takes heading in the left column.

Aug 1, 2012

Exclusive interview: Alabama Public Television COO Grantham resigns

Charles Grantham, chief operating officer of Alabama Public Television, has resigned, effective Aug. 31.

Grantham told Current that the “additional stress and frustrations” at the station in the wake of the controversial terminations in June of Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, have taken a toll on him.

Since the firings by the Alabama Educational Television Commission, Grantham had been publicly voicing his concerns about the future of the station. “I’m glad I’ve been able to be a spokesman and make some of the staff feelings known to the commission and others during all this turmoil,” he said. He also sent a letter July 19 to Gov. Robert Bentley saying that the commissioners "have their own agendas, which may or may not have been in the best interest of APT."

Commission meeting minutes show that Pizzato was under pressure from members to run programs from religious activist historian David Barton. The commission also overhauled the station’s longtime mission statement, removing all references to the state network's commitment to diversity.

On July 26, Grantham accepted 114,000 signatures at the station from Faithful America asking APT to ban Barton’s programming. Grantham brought the petitions to a commission meeting Tuesday, but declined to speak with a reporter. “I have been advised by Commission Chair Ferris Stephens that I cannot utilize my First Amendment Rights and speak to the media,” he said.

Grantham started working at the station in 1974 as a television technician. He progressed to director of engineering, then c.o.o.

“It’s been a long and — until the past few weeks — for the most part a very pleasant and rewarding work experience,” he said. “This staff is more of a family to me. It’s with a lot of sadness that I make this decision at this time.”

Grantham said he'll finish up several projects before departing.

WBHM-FM in Birmingham has posted a copy of Grantham's resignation letter.

Alabama ETV commission hires law firm for defense against Pizzato complaint

In a special meeting Tuesday, the Alabama Educational Television Commission voted to hire a Birmingham law firm to defend it against a complaint filed by the former head of Alabama Public Television, Allan Pizzato, whom they fired in June.

Commissioners, meeting in a conference room at APT headquarters in Birmingham, entered into executive session to discuss the issue, filing past portraits of nine lay leaders from APT's fundraising organizations that still hang on the walls despite their resignations in protest of Pizzato’s termination.

The Commission returned to vote 6-0 vote to retain the Birmingham law firm of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt, then promptly adjourned.

After the meeting, Chair Ferris Stephens said the commission feels that Pizzato’s lawsuit is “without merit.” In the complaint, Pizzato’s attorneys allege that because he is a state employee, commissioners violated the state's Open Meetings Act by discussing his job performance in a closed executive session. The civil suit also seeks to remove Stephens, and void all decisions by the commission since his arrival in 2010, because, it alleges, he is ineligible to serve in that capacity as an employee of the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

Stephens said that the board’s decision to remove Pizzato was not related to earlier reports regarding the controversy to air documentary series by Texas-based evangelical Christian activist David Barton. Stephens said that overall, the commissioners “wanted a fresh and innovative approach to where the station is going.”

Throughout the meeting and executive session, Charles Grantham, Alabama Public Television c.o.o, remained at a table with a large box of petitions in front of him. Some 114,000 signatures asking the station to ban Barton’s programming were delivered to the station July 26 by Faithful America, a social-issue advocacy organization. When asked by a reporter if he could take questions, Grantham responded, “I have been advised by Commission Chair Ferris Stephens that I cannot utilize my First Amendment Rights and speak to the media.”

In related news, Pizzato’s attorneys at White Arnold & Dowd in Birmingham announced on Tuesday that they are now also representing Pauline Howland. She had served as APT’s chief financial officer and Pizzato’s deputy before she was fired with him on June 12. Howland was rehired soon after on a temporary basis, working off-site. — William Dahlberg

Jul 31, 2012

We've got something new in store for you: a blog that's integrated into

Our news blog is moving on Wednesday, Aug. 1 to the new, where it will reside on the left-hand side of the homepage under a new column headed Quick Takes. It's part of a major upgrade of Current's web service, a redesign that gives readers more tools for keeping current with public media news that fits their needs and interests. If you read our blog through an RSS feed, you'll have many more options from which to choose, or you can subscribe to a feed of everything that's posted on the site.

Thanks for your support of our blog. The growth in readership has helped build our reach and engagement with more of the people who work in and care about public service media. Monthly pageviews have grown from 18,115 in July 2008 to 50,510 in July 2012.

We hope to provide an improved and more integrated online reading experience to you through the new, and look forward to your feedback and, as always, news tips.

Former associates announce first Tim Emmons scholarship

Applications are now being accepted for the first Tim Emmons Memorial Mentoring Scholarship.

Emmons, former program director and general manager of Northern Public Radio, died in February after a long battle with cancer. The scholarship was announced today by Peter Dominowski and Scott Williams, longtime friends of Emmons and business associates with him in Strategic Programming Partners.

The recipient, a current or aspiring public radio program director, will work directly with Williams and Dominowski for one year. Mentoring will include major aspects of successful programming, such as program scheduling, effective promotion, understanding audience data and air checking. "Any area that will help them become a more knowledgeable and successful PD," the two said in the announcement.

"Tim was a teacher and mentor to so many people," Williams said. "We can think of no better way to honor and continue his legacy than by mentoring a program director and helping them increase the quality of service to listeners."

"Scott and I are pleased to donate 100 percent of our professional services to make this scholarship possible," Dominowski said. He also thanked members of the scholarship advisory board, Craig Oliver of Craig Oliver Consulting, and Tamar Charney, program director of Michigan Radio.

Deadline for applications is Aug. 24.

Individuals and organizations wishing to fund site visits, job shadowing and other scholarship expenses may send checks to Strategic Programming Partners (Box 115, Matheson, Colo., 80830) specifying that the funds are to support the Emmons scholarship.

Radiolab producers don't believe Lehrer's contributions to be "compromised"

WNYC, the producer of public radio’s Radiolab, has found “no reason to believe” that frequent contributor Jonah Lehrer's appearances on the show are "compromised." Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker Sunday after Tablet magazine revealed that he had made up quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works.

Here’s the full statement from WNYC:
Jonah Lehrer has been a regular contributor to Radiolab as an “explainer,” making technical science more accessible and bringing much needed meaning to new scientific research. He has been a lively and compelling voice and has helped make the history of science come alive for listeners. We are deeply saddened by the news this week about such a talented and valued colleague.
Radiolab has not used Jonah as a standalone authority on any topic within an episode. Rather, he has brought new research to the attention of the program and the producers in turn have interviewed primary sources and researchers, weaving the voices together as part of a choir — a style of reporting that defines Radiolab. Since Jonah has not been in the role of reporter for Radiolab and we have employed standard practices of journalism in producing the episodes, we have no reason to believe his work with Radiolab is compromised. But we will review the work as needed.
A WNYC spokesperson would not elaborate when asked how Radiolab’s producers will determine the need for review.

Lehrer first came under scrutiny last month when media watcher Jim Romenesko pointed out that the writer had recycled some of his own pieces for multiple publications. The ensuing controversy over Lehrer's "self-plagiarism" prompted Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad to write a blog post in Lehrer’s defense. “The notion that Jonah is a ‘plagiarist’ is beyond ridiculous,” Abumrad wrote on June 22. “And the way in which some journalists are jumping up and down, claiming he’s no longer a ‘writer’ but an ‘idea man’ or an example of ‘male arrogance’…that’s just plain ugly.” As of that writing, Lehrer had appeared on Radiolab 17 times.

In March, This American Life took down (for a second time) several stories by reporter Stephen Glass, who in 1998 was found to have concocted parts of articles he’d written for national publications.

Jul 30, 2012

Ford Foundation backs second for-profit newsroom: The Washington Post

The Ford Foundation, a frequent backer of pubmedia, has awarded another grant to a for-profit media company. Ford will give $500,000 to The Washington Post to support reporting on accountability in state and local government, according to a Post memo to staff posted on The Post will use the funds to hire four new staffers.

In May, Ford awarded the Los Angeles Times $1.04 million to cover new beats including immigration and the California prison system. At the time, pubcasting analysts told Current that a growing trend of foundations backing for-profit operations could lead to increased competition for financial support. The Post grant comes from the foundation's Freedom of Expression program, which also supports NPR, ProPublica and other pubmedia outlets.

The Post and Times grants remain small change, however, compared to the foundation's recently completed five-year, $50 million pubmedia funding initiative, as well as its support of new coverage areas in nonprofit newsrooms such as Marketplace and ProPublica.

Moyers celebrates 100,000 Facebook fans with online message

Veteran newsman Bill Moyers posted a special video message on the Moyers and Company Facebook page on Monday, to mark a milestone. "In just a few months, we've acquired 100,000 Facebook fans," Moyers said. "I know because I counted each and every one of you myself." Moyers said he and his team are proud and "deeply grateful" for the support of the online community "dedicated to truth-telling and democracy."

Jacobs Media shares findings from annual tech survey

Jacobs Media has shared some data from its fourth annual Public Radio Tech Survey. Among the statistics:
  • The number of respondents using tablets such as Apple’s iPad increased 407 percent over last year. Use of smartphones continues to grow as well.
  • Nearly half of public radio members have been members for five years or less.
  • Four of 10 listeners do most of their radio listening in cars.
  • One in 10 owns a vehicle with a “digital dashboard” such as the Ford SYNC.
  • Texting and use of social networks has continued to grow from year to year.
Jacobs Media will present the full study in a keynote address Sept. 13 at the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Las Vegas.

GPB laying off staffers as it outsources station master-control operations

Georgia Public Broadcasting is laying off eight full-time employees and nine part-timers as it outsources its master-control operations over the next 90 to 120 days, station spokesperson Nancy Zintak told Current.

Transitioning its master control to Encompass Digital Media in Atlanta will save the state network around $300,000 annually, Zintak said.

Zintak said GPB “looked very carefully” at the two CPB-backed public-broadcasting centralcasters, the Jacksonville Digital Convergence Alliance that serves seven stations from Florida, and Centralcast LLC, running controls for 13 stations in New York and New Jersey. A “huge part” of the decision, Zintak said, was that Encompass is an Atlanta-based company. “And, Encompass is up and running now,” she said. The digital media services firm has facilities in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia. Its clients include A&E Networks, CBS, Disney/ABC, BBC Worldwide, and Discovery Networks, according to TVNewsCheck — which calls the Encompass Atlanta operation "huge, complex and the first of its kind in American broadcasting."

GPB runs one main HD channel and two digital channels, GPB Kids and GBP Knowledge, which is a hybrid of the pub-affairs/documentary World channel and educational programming. GPB's main channel feeds nine stations covering 98 percent of the state.

Zintak said an employment consultant is working with affected employees, and Encompass is interviewing some for possible positions there.