Nov 30, 2005

Humorist Andy Borowitz imagines that President Bush considered bombing NPR in advance of the Iraq War until British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked him out of it.
CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode responds to criticisms of the PBS program Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories, "[T]his broadcast is so slanted as to raise suspicions that either the family courts of America have gone crazy or there must be another side to the story."
Online Journalism Review's Mark Glaser examines NPR's podcasting strategy and, in a signoff from OJR, notes that he's working with

Nov 29, 2005

WFMU's blog links to a video of Barney "channeling Tupac Shakur."
Nova's recent special on New Orleans, The Storm that Drowned a City, was too easy on the Bush administration, writes author Paul Loeb in a WorkingForChange critique.
"China is a singularly difficult story to tell because there is SO MUCH good and SO MUCH bad all happening simultaneously," says Rob Gifford, who covers China for NPR, in an interview with Leonard Witt.

Nov 28, 2005

In the New York Times today and the Washington Post yesterday editorialists derided former CPB Chair Ken Tomlinson -- in the Times as a "disastrous zealot" and in the Post as "a triumph of 'politics over good judgment'". They followed similar views published in the Toledo Blade and elsewhere. Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, however, said the true scandal is that taxpayers are "conscripted" to pay for media.
NPR's Anne Garrels tells the Hartford Courant about traveling with a company of Marines in Iraq: "[T]hey were so disappointed that I was NPR. They didn't know what NPR was, but they wanted Fox!" (Via Romenesko.)
In a feature at, NPR's Bill Marimow and Daniel Zwerdling share stories of how their work has made a difference.
The future of KUT-FM in Austin, Texas, includes a major fundraising effort and the possibility of a different relationship to its university parent, reports the Austin Chronicle.
The New York Times checks in with a high school radio station in Indianapolis whose license was challenged by a religious broadcaster. Dozens of stations around the country have faced similar challenges in recent years.

Nov 23, 2005

Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories, a PBS documentary about domestic abuse, has come under a withering blogosphere attack for unfairly vilifying fathers. Men's advocacy groups and experts co-signed a letter to PBS challenging the film's journalistic rigor and one of the fathers named in the film threatened to sue for libel. Op-eds published by Fox News and the Boston Globe this week comment on the controversy. Glenn Sacks, a columnist and advocate for men's rights, leads the e-mail campaign, and has published court documents that paint a different picture of a mother portrayed heroicly in Breaking the Silence. (The daughter caught in the middle of this, Fatima Loeliger, posted her response here.) HoustonPBS produced a special edition of The Connection to examine the issues raised in the documentary. PBS has told critics it is reviewing the documentary.

Nov 21, 2005

"I just think that Ira and radio are too perfect a fit to be applied to television very effectively," says Robert Siegel of This American Life's Ira Glass. "But I'd be happy to be proved wrong."
Glenn Mitchell, a talk show host and 30-year veteran of KERA-FM in Dallas, Texas, died Sunday morning at the age of 55.
Adding conservative voices "appropriately diversified" the PBS lineup, the Houston Chronicle editorialized Nov. 19, but former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson unnecessarily created a scandal with his secretive campaign for balance. "Thanks to his improper consultations with the White House ... Tomlinson forfeited any claim as a crusader for fairness. Public broadcasting was meant to give Americans respite from the handiwork of political hacks."
The CPB Board induced former President Robert Coonrod to extend his time in office by giving him a four-year consulting contract worth nearly $500,000 and starting after he left CPB, the New York Times reported this morning. Because the CPB president's salary is capped by Congress (he was paid $174,000), the contract could raise political hackles. The board also agreed to pay his successor as president, Kathleen Cox, more than $600,000 as severance, a CPB spokesman told Current. Now the Times reports that CPB may withhold part of her settlement.

Nov 17, 2005

NPR's Bill Marimow discusses his network's growing commitment to investigative journalism in an Editor and Publisher report.
"...Watch Pat, she is slick as grease lightning." That was former CPB Board Chair Kenneth Tomlinson on PBS President Pat Mitchell in an e-mail to the Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot. The WSJ has posted e-mails between Tomlinson and Gigot surrounding the creation of the Journal Editorial Report. (free registration required)
Editorial writers for the Wall Street Journal come out swinging for former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson in their account of the storied history of the soon-to-be cancelled PBS show, Journal Editorial Report. [Via Romenesko]
Congress restored nearly all cuts in pubcasting funding proposed for the present fiscal year, APTS reports. A House/Senate conference committee last night okayed the big appropriations bill covering CPB as well as education and health agencies. CPB funding for FY06 rises to $400 million as planned and Congress maintained the practice of advance funding, okaying the same level for FY08.
NPR is granting the unusual privilege of downloading an MP3 of one of its reports: "My Lobotomy," a Sound Portraits Productions piece that aired yesterday on All Things Considered.

Nov 16, 2005

Ken Tomlinson, then CPB chairman, proposed a "very generous" severance package to fire President Kathleen Cox, the organization's inspector general reported Tuesday (PDF, page 21): three times her total annual compensation. (CPB spokesman Michael Levy told Current the amount was $614,000.) Cox's attorney said in the report she has not yet received a second installment.

Nov 15, 2005

The Chicago Tribune looks at This American Life ten years after its debut. "It changed everything. Really," says Torey Malatia, station manager of WBEZ.
In a letter to the IG, a lawyer for former CPB President Kathleen Cox says Chairman Tomlinson told her she was "not political enough" for the job and her "personal integrity" got in the way of continued employment. Tomlinson berated her for communicating directly with other board members. She was forced to quit in April (Current article). See Appendix D of IG report (full report).
CPB's inspector general, Kenneth Konz, found evidence that former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson violated the law and the CPB Board's code of ethics in dealing directly with an executive of the Wall Street Journal, apparently Paul Gigot, during negotiations about the newspaper's PBS show, which has been discontinued as of Dec. 2. Executive summary on Current's site. Large PDF file of full 67-page report on CPB's website.

Nov 14, 2005

NPR's This I Believe essays "solicited from prominent names sometimes seem bland or banal," writes the Washington Post's Marc Fisher. "But the best of the essays combine a poetic sensibility with the occasional pearl of wisdom," he adds.
Managers of pubradio stations reacted with surprise to the news that Blair Feulner, g.m. of KCPW/KPCW-FM in Park City, Utah, makes $150,000 a year. "For me to ask for $100,000 at KUER would be inappropriate in the extreme — and my boss would make that clear," said one g.m. in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Connecticut's attorney general says he will sue the former president of a college radio station for misusing station funds, reports the (New London, Conn.) Day.
Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore., cancelled a local show after determining that the host had committed plagiarism, reports the Mail Tribune. The host of The Sustainable Kitchen denies any wrongdoing.

Nov 10, 2005

A recent survey found that public broadcasting's news reporting is the most trusted in the media, reports Broadcasting & Cable. (See the survey results and related materials.)
NPR has launched 16 new podcasts, including several online-only features and a revival of "On Words with John Ciardi," last heard on Morning Edition in the '80s.

Nov 8, 2005

The University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., will seek a buyer for its noncommercial FM station, KUOP-FM. Capital Public Radio in Sacramento has been operating the station for five years under a management agreement.

Nov 7, 2005

A recent Station Resource Group analysis of CPB data (PDF) suggests that public radio stations need to get serious about becoming more efficient fundraisers, writes consultant John Sutton.
At TV Barn, Aaron Barnhart comments on the Tomlinson affair and the lackluster output of CPB's ombudsmen.
Seattle's KEXP-FM will stop broadcasting on a Tacoma signal it had been leasing from Public Radio Capital. The station is seeking to cut costs as a subsidy from Seattle's Experience Music Project dries up. (More coverage in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)
The FCC seeks comments on a proposal to create a low-power AM service.
WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, N.C., is moving ahead with plans to produce a national talk show with Dick Gordon as host. Gordon hosted public radio's The Connection until earlier this year, when it was cancelled by producing station WBUR-FM in Boston.
Sound Opinions, a long-running talk show about rock music that until now has aired on commercial radio, will jump to Chicago's WBEZ-FM next month and be distributed to public radio nationwide by American Public Media, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Garrison Keillor's traveling Prairie Home Companion will bypass its longtime home base, the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., for at least the next year and perhaps longer, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The Rev. James Dobson's "Family News in Focus" website quotes "media critic Pat Trueman" calling for nonliberals to "step into the void" left by Ken Tomlinson's resignation from the CPB Board and "take up where he left off." (Earlier this year Patrick A. Trueman was a senior legal counsel of Family Research Council.) The website says Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, is volunteering to lead the effort. The article seems to imply that liberals have chased away Tomlinson.

Nov 5, 2005

In addition to the CPB probe, Kenneth Tomlinson is the subject of an investigation by the State Department's inspector general, launched in July, the New York Times reports this morning. Materials including e-mails between Tomlinson and White House aide Karl Rove have been seized by State's IG and may be disclosed in the CPB IG's report this month, the newspaper said. Tomlinson is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseer of Voice of America, Alhurra and other agencies.

Nov 3, 2005

Pro-life groups are promoting PBS's Nov. 8 broadcast of "The Last Abortion Clinic," a Frontline documentary reporting on their movement's success in limiting women's access to abortion in Mississippi.

Nov 2, 2005

Brooke Gladstone, co-host of On the Media, should have noted on a recent show that a journalist she was citing happens to be her husband, says NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin in his latest column.
The Media Access Project filed petitions with the FCC to deny pending license renewals for commercial television stations in Chicago and Milwaukee. Broadcasters in both cities failed to meet their public interest obligations because their 2004 news coverage largely overlooked local and statewide elections, according to petitions filed on behalf of Chicago Media Action and Milwaukee Public Interest Media Coalition. In a separate petition, Third Coast Press included the city's public TV stations in its motion (pdf) to deny renewals to Chicago's TV outlets.
The Public Radio Exchange has handed out $45,000 to six public radio stations to support "showcase shows" that highlight documentaries and work from independent producers.