Apr 1, 2009

Pubradio sweeps IRE award category

Pubcasters swept the radio category in the Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, presented yesterday by one of the nation's top journalism organizations. Receiving the certificate was "36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Injustice at Angola," by NPR's Laura Sullivan, Amy Walters and Steven Drummond on All Things Considered. It was praised by the judges as a "chilling tale of injustice" told in a "graceful and compelling way." The piece was an in-depth look at the 1972 murder of a prison guard. Finalists in the category: "Natural Gas Drilling: Is New York Ready?" by WNYC's Ilya Marritz, Abrahm Lustgarten, Andrea Bernstein and Karen Frillmann; "Dirty Money" by NPR's John Burnett, Marisa Penaloza and Quinn O’Toole; and "Witnesses Wait" by PRI's Ingrid Lobet.

Pulling back the curtain on journos' learning curve

"I think we gave people kind of a way to sit with the information, like a perspective," says NPR's Adam Davidson in describing the narrative approach behind "Giant Pool of Money," the award-winning This American Life documentary that delivered the first, definitive explanation of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. "You know, we’re kind of shocked or sometimes angry. We’re often confused, but we can figure it out." Revealing the journalists' "process of discovery," Davidson says in this video interview by the Neiman Journalism Lab, strengthened the credibility of the documentary. "[B]ecause it’s closer to the actual truth, and it’s closer to the world that our audience experiences on a day-to-day basis." Davidson collaborated with TAL's Alex Blumberg in reporting "Giant Pool of Money," which became the launching pad for Planet Money, the ongoing NPR podcast and blog on global economics.

Comcast now offering PBS shows On Demand

Comcast has announced that PBS programs now will be available through its On Demand service, in HD. Included will be Antiques Roadshow, Nova, Masterpiece, American Experience, History Detectives and Frontline. On Demand allows viewers to play, pause, rewind and fast forward shows.

Report updates foundation giving numbers

Here's some good news on the funding front: The more than 75,000 grantmaking foundations in America increased their giving 2.8 percent in 2008 to an estimated $45.6 billion, according to the Foundation Center's new report, Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook. Findings suggest that this year foundation giving will decrease in the range of the high single digits to low double digits, despite estimated foundation assets declining 21.9 percent in 2008. The report also says corporate foundation giving held steady at $4.4 billion last year. (Entire PDF report here.)

Nine Peabody Awards for pubcasters

"Giant Pool of Money," the ground-breaking story on the sub-prime mortgage crisis that was jointly reported by NPR's Adam Davidson and This American Life's Alex Blumberg, is one of nine pubcasting recipients of 2008 Peabody Awards announced this morning. NPR won two additional Peabodys: one for its exclusive coverage of the earthquake that devastated China's Sichuan province last May and another for a three-part series by Laura Sullivan that questioned the guilt of two inmates in Louisiana's Angola prison. Six Peabody-winning programs were presented on PBS, which topped all other media organizations (including HBO) in collecting the most Peabody medals for programs aired in 2008. Independent Lens led pubTV's winners by earning medals for King Corn and a doc on stem cell research. Peabodys were also awarded to docs presented by Nova, P.O.V., and Twin Cities Public Television. Washington Week with Gwen Ifill earned recognition for a series of live events broadcast as part of its 2008 political coverage. Peabody Awards, presented to recognize distinguished achievements and meritorious public service, are among the top honors in electronic journalism.

Happy trees indeed

An April Fool's Day joke, or a quirky tribute to a famous pubcasting painter? You decide. On Thursday, the Gallery Bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side is hosting "Beat the Devil Out of It!: A Bob Ross Tribute." As the notice says, "Grab a paintbrush and prepare to make some happy little trees." There's a Bob Ross lookalike contest, and a performance by the Titanium White Hot Dancers, a, ahem, "Ross–themed dance troupe." Costumes are strongly encouraged, so be sure to bring your Afro wig.

Pubcasting host laments White House press conferences

Llewellyn King, exec producer and host of White House Chronicle on PBS, is fuming over President Barack Obama's choice of reporters to call on at his recent press conference. "Excuse me, but I am a potted plant," King writes. "Well, at best an extra, who has been sent over by Central Casting to fill in the numbers." The problem: Most reporters, King included, "wave our arms in the hope we might be recognized towards the end of a long, rambling session that seems more like the press secretary chatting with his pals who have seats assigned in the front." His show airs on some 20 stations nationwide.

CPB ombudsman details complaints

CPB ombudsman Ken A. Bode writes in his Ombudsman's Mailbag column about several viewer concerns. Issues include commentator Gwen Ifill's "unfortunate appearance of a conflict," as Bode put it, in moderating a presidential debate while her book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama was just hitting the shelves. Also, complaints arrived on Bill Moyers' Biblical interpretation of the Book of Deuteronomy that included the statement, “God soaked violence became genetically coded” among Jews. Bode also said his next column will be an analysis of two PBS documentaries about politics.

Couple's aid helps fund tower in honor of sister

KUAR/KLRE in Little Rock, Ark., tells this sweet, good-news story about an elderly couple who helped fund the pubradio stations' move to a new tower and transmitter site. Minnie and Layne Carson donated in honor of her sister, Mary Matthews, who was an avid newspaper reader until she lost her sight. "She took to her recliner and listening to KUAR," Minnie Carson said. "She was up on everything, national and international," Carson said, adding that NPR was a "lifesaver" for Matthews."There is no doubt in my mind that it would have been a difficult time for her if it were not for KUAR."

'A good day' for Virginia pubcasting

Virginia pubcasters statewide are no doubt relieved that Gov. Tim Kaine said Monday he will issue a line-item veto for the $1 million cut for public broadcasting that the legislature wanted, reports The Virginian-Pilot. The governor will, however, leave intact his original reduction of $640,000 for 2009-10. For one station, WHRO in Hampton Roads, the move will restore $200,000 in state funding, station president Bert Schmidt said. "It's a good day," he added.