Jun 4, 2009

PBS: Please Buy Stuff?

That's what Steve Bornfeld dubs the pubcaster in his Mediology column for The Las Vegas Review-Journal. He's troubled by pledge shows such as the Brain Fitness for Kids programs, which he compares with infomercials hawking related books and CDs. "PBS should position itself above high-class hucksterism that, stripped of production polish, would be a cozier fit in its natural habitat: paid-for filler on commercial TV," he writes. "Perfumed by PBS, it still has the stench of salesmanship on airwaves long home to cultural/educational enrichment."

Mashable casts NPR as the "future of mainstream media"

NPR's three-pronged strategy to extend local coverage, engage audiences via social media and provide ubiquitous access to its content is helping the network "grow now" and position itself for the digital media landscape of the future, according to this Mashable article by Josh Catone. "Perhaps the most important aspect of NPR’s approach to new media, is that they have an organizational level commitment to allowing listeners and readers to access their content on their own terms," he writes. "NPR’s commitment to going to its audience rather than making its audience come to them is a smart strategic move." Be sure to read the comments from readers who beg to differ with the author, including this: "One fly in the ointment of this argument: a great deal (perhaps the majority) or local content for many NPR stations is often generated by local print media, especially daily newspapers. I'm a big fan of NPR (and daily newspapers, for that matter), but -- like local TV and many, many bloggers and Twitterers -- a lot of the coal in those furnaces comes from the black-and-white newsrooms. At least today."

What are foundations backing in journalism?

Since 2005, they’ve put nearly $128 million into news and journalism initiatives and experiments, says a report this week from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, now based at American University. That’s on top of funding to public broadcasting, which the report doesn’t count (“because we’ve long known of the generous philanthropic support for their work”). The narrative report are is online and available as a PDF.

Of the 115 projects in the project database, three received nearly half the funding, including ProPublica, which got $30 mil from the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation. Also among the field’s top 10 funders: Knight Foundation, $11.2 mil; California HealthCare Foundation, $8.7 mil; Pew Charitable Trusts, $7.5 mil (mostly to; Schuster Foundation, $5 mil (to Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism); Irvine, $4.8 mil; Chicago Community Trust, $3.6 mil; William Penn Fndn, $2.6 mil; Atlantic Philanthropies, $2.7 mil; and Ford Fndn, $2.4 mil.

Second in the field of funders is California HealthCare Foundation was created as part of the pact when nonprofit Blue Cross of California was converted to for-profit WellPoint Health Networks [10-year report in PDF].

A notable departure among the funders: JEHT Foundation closed in January because its assets were managed by all-star crook Bernard Madoff.