May 19, 2010

Evans joins ranks of pubradio station chiefs

Pubradio programming veteran Jody Evans will sign on as executive director of Western North Carolina Public Radio in June. Evans, former p.d. of Austin's KUT and Vermont Public Radio, was appointed after a national search for a new manager at the Asheville-based public radio outlet known as the "Mountain Air Network." "Jody has experience building a statewide public radio organization in Vermont and has a passion for strengthening community-based programming," said WNCPR Board Chair Lach Zemp. Evans directed programming at VPR when it split its network to offer two distinct services--all-news and all-classical. WNCPR also broadcasts two different program streams: classical music and news on WCQS 88.1 and its network of FM translators, and all-news on WYQS 90.5.

Frontline will go year-round with $6 million grant from CPB

CPB is providing Frontline with a $6 million grant to allow it to produce programs year-round, according to the New York Times. The show is also strengthening its cooperation with journalism schools and nonprofit news orgs, including the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, e.p. David Fanning told the paper. More of its original reporting will go onto the Web, and more content will be shared with pubTV and pubradio stations. And “Frontline/World," its international coverage partnership with KQED in San Francisco and WGBH in Boston, will move entirely online.

Meacham could join Stewart in Clinton's lap, Shales retorts

In an online chat yesterday, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales responded to complaints about a remark in his vividly critical May 11 review of Need to Know's premiere that co-host Alison Stewart "looked as though she would have been much more comfortable in [Bill] Clinton's lap" during an interview with the former president. Shales said that he only meant that Stewart seemed too cozy with Clinton. "I perhaps should have said that cohost Jon Meacham looked as though he wanted to broadcast from Clinton's lap, too. They were both too soft on Bill, but then he brings that out in journalists — of both sexes. . . " (Video of whole interview.) On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann named Shales "the World Person in the World," leading Rupert Murdoch's New York Post to point out that Stewart's husband is a top MSNBC exec. Stewart herself told TVNewser that Shales' remark was a "crude, crass and sexist ... suggestive insinuation."   

Shales' review was more than suggestive about the show's first episode. He called it "a monstrosity."
Viewers quoted by PBS ombudsman Michael Getler last week were mostly disappointed, especially those comparing Need to Know with the previous occupant of the time slot, Bill Moyers, who retired in April. Marty Kaplan commented on Huffington Post:"Need to Know positions itself as an antidote to the poisonous advocacy of cable news. What it succumbs to instead is the on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand pathology that makes mainstream news so impotent."

All eating green eggs and ham, no doubt

Coming to you from Austin, a whole bunch of PBSers and station folks disguised as Cats in their Hats at breakfast today. Ironically, Martin Short (just left of center), the voice of the lead character in this fall's "Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" on PBS, appears to be the only one in the entire hall without one. Kate Klimo, longtime editor of Theodor Seuss Geisel, told the crowd in the later PBS Kids session that Audrey Geisel "maintains close personal contact with her husband in the hereafter," and told Klimo that it was "PBS or nothing" for a Cat in the Hat animated series. "Because, you see, Dr. Seuss had very high standards," Klimo said. "For him PBS represented everything good about children's TV." (Image: PBS)

Blogosphere blow-out preventer backfires on Ifill

As blogosphere spats go, this one is rather perplexing. Washington Week in Review's Gwen Ifill doesn't name the "journalism professor from New York University" and "self-appointed media critic" who recently described her show as the quintessential example of everything that is wrong with political journalism. Ifill would have preferred to ignore the Washington Post opinion piece by this nobody, she acknowledges in a reply posted May 13 on WWR's website: "Fighting against blogs is a lot like trying to stop oil escaping from a blowout preventer – it can go on forever. Hitting that 'send' key can get you in deep," she writes. Ifill defends her political roundtable show as a refuge from cable TV news nets, a show for people who "want more light than heat; who do not turn their televisions on to watch yet one more group of pundits race past explanation to battle."

The critic that Ifill chose not to name is Jay Rosen, a leading advocate for public journalism who blogs, tweets, and is often called upon to share his opinions on the future of journalism.

Rosen aimed his WashPo critique not at the tone of the banter around Ifill's Friday night PBS mainstay, but at the political journalists she brings in to distill the week's news. Ifill and her regular panelists are "pros" who have mastered the game of professional politics, and therein lies the problem, Rosen writes: "They're in the same business as the people they cover--the game of professional politics, also called the permanent campaign. As lifers in this game, they share a sensibility with their subjects: that in politics savviness is next to godliness, and everything's really about the next election."

After Rosen expressed ambivalence about responding to Ifill, pubcasting social media advocate John Proffitt took up the cause for him. By not taking Rosen's criticism seriously or acknowledging his expertise on the subject of political journalism, Ifill demonstrated that Rosen was right all along, Proffitt writes on his blog. "Dismissing his argument simply reinforces his point: that this program, the host and its guests are beltway insiders talking shop rather than helping the public hold politicians to account in meaningful, public-service ways....[T]he demonization of Rosen is breathtakingly ignorant and/or deliberately dismissive at a level unbecoming of a PBS-sanctioned 'journalism” host.'"

Cooney, Fanning honored in Austin

Children's television pioneer and Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney is the recipient of this year's Be More Award from PBS. She accepted her honor at the PBS National Meeting, continuing in Austin. From the podium, PBS President Paula Kerger said Cooney's work from 1968 to 1990 at her Children's Television Workshop makes her "one of the single greatest educators of children in the world." Former Be More winners include Bill Moyers and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Frontline's David Fanning received the 38th annual Ralph Lowell Award from CPB last night in Austin. The prestigious honor has been presented since 1975 (when Cooney won) for outstanding contributions to public television. Fanning began his career in journalism at a newspaper in his native South Africa before beginning his career in pubTV in 1973. Other Lowell Award winners include Julia Child in 1998; Newton Minow, 1982; and Fred Rogers, 1975.

Study of 21 pubTV stations shows median of 57 underwriters

A 7 a.m. session with an overflow crowd? The results of the 2010 Local Underwriting Category Study lured folks in, coffee in hand, at the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin. The research was conducted by Enginuity Workshop, formerly Public Radio Partners. The workshop's Jim Taszarek said he believes this is the first such report for pubTV, although pubradio has compiled similar research for years.

Notable: Event revenue pulled in a half-million dollars at one station (the report didn't name stations but  linked to their data). Another sold $600,000 in sponsorships for high school sports broadcasts. Another drew $200,000 in pledge drive sponsorships.

The median number of underwriters per station was 57. Four stations — two large and two very small — had more than 100 each. Banks and credit unions were strong performers, providing 11 percent of support. But the largest category, 14 percent of revenue, was the catch-all "Other," which includes corporate and private foundations as well as sponsors unique to certain metro areas (such as oil companies in Houston).

The genres ranked by underwriting revenue: First, prime time. Then news and pubaffairs, kids and how-to.

Will there be a followup next year? "We're pushing for that," Taszarek said. "We gotta go deeper here. Do more case studies so we can say, here are 10 things that are working well, you can do these three and generate a few hundred thousand dollars more for your station."

The crowd was so engaged that the meeting ran long, and there was a request for Taszarek to facilitate ongoing discussion so stations could share what he called their "Aha!" moments of underwriting sales inspirations.

All stations were invited to participate in the study and 21 did: 10 from Markets 1-25; six from Markets 26-50; five from Markets 50+. Five are state networks. Data is based on fiscal 2009 net underwriting revenue excluding tradeouts.

Stations in the study: New Jersey Network; KETC in St. Louis; Chicago's WTTW; KVIE in Sacramento, Calif.; KCET in L.A.; Oregon Public Broadcasting; WHRO in Norfolk, Va.; WJCT, Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin's KLRU; KTXT in Lubbock, Texas; UNC-TV of North Carolina; Smoky Hills Public Television, Bunker Hill, Kan.; Georgia Public Broadcasting; WPBS, Watertown, N.Y.; WKNO in Memphis; Minnesota's Twin Cities Public Television; Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver; KUED, Salt Lake City; San Antonio's KLRN; WSRE in Pensacola, Fla.; and KHET, Honolulu.