May 11, 2009

A bright future for WBGH mural

WGBH's digital mural is back. "We are just very, very happy,'' said WGBH spokeswoman Lucy Sholley. This is a tale of a 30-by-45 foot LED display, a technical glitch, lawsuits, "insufficient ventilation," and, finally, a happy ending starring Curious George, all told by The Boston Globe.

A new NewsHour coming

Big changes at NewsHour. No, the rumors aren't true: Jim Lehrer isn't stepping down. Not exactly. What will happen is he'll have a co-anchor. That spot will rotate among Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown, all currently with the show. But, e.p. Linda Winslow told The New York Times, "This is not a succession plan in disguise." It's part of a major overhaul of the show, including the new name PBS NewsHour, that will be unveiled at PBS Showcase tomorrow.

PBS hopes to grow news content with cross-pollination

Ever pondered the possibilities of news shows on PBS such NewsHour, Nightly Business Report and Frontline co-mingling resources and cooperating to produce content? That was a "what if" question posed to PBS's John Wilson at today's PTPA meeting in Baltimore. Wilson, the network's senior veep and chief TV programming executive, hinted that the concept is being eyed. Wilson said that through a Pew grant, the network has hired Tom Bettag, a former producer for ABC's Nightline and the innovative pubTV series Life 360. Bettag "has been meeting with news and public affairs producers and trying to get at how to integrate, cross-promote and cross-pollinate among the series in a way that will make more sense to the consumer." There are, Wilson added, "some early signs of silos breaking down." Stay tuned to Current's blog for more news from PTPA as well as the concurrent PBS Showcase this week.

TV critic optimistic about pubTV fall shows

Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik predicts a strong fall pubTV lineup, despite ongoing funding problems. " ... Even in this time of downsizing in media from newspapers to network TV, the people who run the nation's only free TV service can celebrate a fall lineup as promising as any the commercial networks will show at their previews next week in New York, he writes in today's paper. PBS Showcase runs today through Thursday in Baltimore, with the Public Television Programmers' Association also meeting there today.

New investigative reporting unit to focus on California

The Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, Calif., is launching a statewide multimedia reporting initiative with funding from the James Irvine and William and Flora Hewlett foundations. The project, which is hiring journalists and developing collaborations with media partners, will report on key California issues, including education, the environment, immigration, state governance and public safety. It will focus on making statewide data accessible to journalists and the public and emphasize “solutions-based” reporting. "We will monitor government, track private interests and reveal abuses that threaten our democracy,” said Robert J. Rosenthal, CIR’s executive director, and former managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Veteran journalist Louis Freedberg, director of the California Media Collaborative and a former member of the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, will direct the effort.

Iranian court suspends Saberi's sentence

Roxana Saberi is to be released from Iranian prison today. The freelance Iranian-American journalist, who has reported for NPR and other major news organizations, was convicted of espionage last month and received an eight-year sentence. In an appeals hearing yesterday, an Iranian court issued a two-year suspended sentence. “In the next few days, we will make travel plans to return home,” Reza Saberi, the father, told The Associated Press.