Mar 24, 2011

Democratic unity in the House on NPR bill sends strong signal, analyst says

Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, has good news for NPR in Wednesday's (March 23) The Hill. The fact that all 185 voting Democrats last week rejected H.R. 1076, which would have banned federal funding to NPR, sends "a very powerful signal to the Senate and the White House," he says. "Anything that brings together Heath Shuler and Maxine Waters," Baker says, will gain notice from other Democratic leaders. Baker is referring to the centrist North Carolinian and liberal from California, respectively. The Hill said Republicans may take another stab at defunding pubcasting in an amendment to other measures, and similar language is included in a bill the House passed that would fund the government through September — a proposal Republican leaders want reconsidered when Congress returns next week, the paper noted.

Annenberg's Neon Tommy reflects "new reality" for journalists, LA Times says

"A generation ago," notes Los Angeles Times media columnist James Rainey, "journalists wrote their stories and moved on to the next thing, with someone else worrying about delivery of the end product. In today's digital world, journalists must not only create the stories but make sure they get to readers." The Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism's Neon Tommy is a laboratory for those practices. Its reports by USC student journos focus on everything from the Egyptian revolution to a standing feature on food called Neon Tummy. Reporters collaborate with other news entities, and each makes sure that content is electronically disseminated as widely as possible. "We are learning all the way around," Annenberg Dean (and CPB Chairman) Ernest Wilson told the Times. "We and other journalism schools, like Columbia and Medill, are part of an ecosystem that is changing and broadening out in ways we never would have anticipated a few years ago."

Former KNME associate g.m. files suit alleging her firing was tied to whistleblowing

Joanne Bachmann, former associate general manager at KNME in Albuquerque, N.M., has filed suit against the University of New Mexico, claiming she was fired for complaining that the university took more than $2 million that should have gone to the station. Co-defendant in the suit is Polly Anderson, current station g.m., who allegedly told Bachmann to "drop the matter," according to Bachmann's March 14 filing in Bernalillo County Court.

The suit says that Bachmann was hired at KNME in February 2001 for digital transition fundraising. She was promoted to associate g.m. in 2005. Anderson came on as general manager in September 2008. Bachmann was told her position was eliminated in October 2009 for budgetary reasons, according to the filing.

Among Bachmann's allegations:

— That the university had kept interest earned on KMNE's community service grants from CPB for about 10 years and although it discontinued the practice in 2004, the university never reimbursed the station;

— That a $2.3 million bond award in November 2004 to KNME for digital upgrades was "redistributed" by the university in 2006 for the "political benefit of UNM," forcing the university to dip into a KNME endowment to cover digital equipment purchases the station already made;

— That when Bachmann and station board members protested, the university removed three KNME board members.

Bachmann is claiming breach of contract as well as violation of the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act. She's asking for damages, court costs and reinstatement to her position.

New distribution path for "American Routes"

American Routes, the New Orleans-based public radio music series hosted and produced by Nick Spitzer, is moving from American Public Media to Public Radio Exchange distribution as of July 1. Spitzer has retained pubradio veteran Ken Mills to manage the transition and "help plan a new independent future for American Routes," he said in a statement. Spitzer and Judy McAlpine, APM senior v.p. of national content, described the split as amicable. PRX picked up distribution of Sound Opinions, the weekly rock music show from WBEZ in Chicago, last July.

What happens with financial returns from pubradio's biggest shows?

As discussions of public radio's federal funding continue, AOL's DailyFinanceblog looks at the finances and talent compensation for top national shows such as Morning Edition, and Fresh Air, This American Life. Net earnings from each of the programs, all of which are produced by nonprofit public media companies, may be reinvested in the show itself or redirected to other operations, AOL's Jonathan Beer reports. For two years during recession, for example, revenues from This American Life covered other operating losses at producing station WBEZ Chicago, spokesman Daniel Ash explains. "However, moving forward, there is no expectation that TAL revenues will underwrite any other...initiative."

Inskeep: NPR News isn't biased, it's "honest and honorable"

It's not his job to address questions about federal funding of public radio, but Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep takes on complaints about "perceived bias" in NPR News programs in today's Wall Street Journal . The "recent tempests," he writes, "have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air."