Apr 11, 2011

Frontline creates managing editor role for former Washington Post newsman

Philip Bennett, a former Washington Post managing editor and current Duke University journalism professor, is joining Frontline in the new role of managing editor. Bennett will oversee program content across multiple platforms and help develop longterm editorial strategy for the series.

During 12 years at the Post, Bennett was deputy national editor and assistant managing editor for foreign news, supervising the newspaper's international coverage. He was named the Post's managing editor in 2005.

He joined the Duke faculty in 2009, and will continue in his role there. He'll also plan collaborations between the award-winning WGBH show and university.

Little hope of increased revenues for pubcasting system, early report data shows

Initial findings of a CPB-funded study on the potential impact of the reduction or loss of federal funding to the system anticipate further local production and staff cutbacks, as well as scant new revenue sources for stations, the CPB Board heard at its meeting in Washington, D.C. today (April 11). Matt McDonald of Hamilton Place Strategies, which also consulted on collaboration projects in New York and Illinois, presented the first phase of research, which looks at how stations have reacted to the recession. Using budget numbers from 2008 and '09, the report shows that on average station fundraising was cut 7.5 percent; local production, 7.1 percent; general operating/administration, 5.2 percent; broadcasting engineering, 4.4 percent; and other costs, 7.6 percent.

The report also examined the viability of other income sources to mitigate loss of federal cash. On the revenue side, McDonald said, "there are no easy, high-revenue options" — short of more commercial-like advertising. "The reality is that revenue increases won’t make up for cuts in federal spending."

"The strong message here," noted CPB President Pat Harrison, "is that the federal appropriation is the key, there isn't a silver-bullet fix out there" if that drops off. The numbers show that the argument by some on Capitol Hill that pubcasting could simply raise its own money "is false," she said, "and if in fact that were possible, we'd be called commercial media. There'd be no CPB, no oversight. In order to raise money, stations would have to give way to more commercial time."

McDonald anticipates completion of the first phase of the report within the next few weeks. The second phase will explore the fallout of losses in federal funds, including the impact that reduced local programming may have on member fundraising, and estimates of the number of stations at risk of closing or becoming pass-throughs.

Practical rift among journalists of color

The National Association of Black Journalists decided over the weekend to pull out of next year's panethnic Unity: Journalists of Color conference, Richard Prince's Journal-isms blog is reporting. One practical reason: Though NABJ members amount to half of Unity conference attendees in 2008, the association didn't share proportionately in Unity event revenues and will do better by holding a separate conference in 2012.

Unity conferences have been held every four or five years since the first in 1994. The participating groups have been NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.

Separate meetings are held in other years, including those planned this year for NABJ, in Philadelphia, Aug. 3-7; the Hispanic association in Orlando, June 15-18; the Asian group, in Detroit, Aug. 10-13; and the Native American association, in Fort Lauderdate, Fla., July 13-17.

But the groups had planned to meet jointly next year for Unity, in Las Vegas, Aug. 1-4, 2012.

Blogger admonishes KUHF chief over "reckless" Facebook postings

The Houston Press hit KUHF President John Proffitt for H.L. Mencken quotes he posted on his Facebook page.

The quotes — "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," and "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican" — "confirm every fanatical right-wing zealot's preconceptions of a public broadcasting muckety-muck," wrote blogger John Nova Lomax, who advised Proffitt to reconsider. Think of how elitist statements brought down NPR fundraising chief Ron Schiller and his boss, former NPR prez Vivian Schiller, Lomax pointed out.

"After what happened to the two Schillers, posting those quotes seemed to us downright punk-rock, reckless as a raised middle finger to the whole entire world. We told Proffitt that we feared this blog item might be received 'explosively' in some quarters in this post-Schiller environment. . . . We believed he was making the rabid right's case for them -- that all those in power at public radio view all but the well-heeled, college-educated, classical-loving as slack-jawed, dull-eyed mo-rons."

Profitt explained that he admired H.L. Mencken's ascerbic commentary, but heeded Lomax's warning. "I take your point," Proffitt said. "I honestly did not follow that line of reasoning before."

KUHF, which is planning a controversial signal expansion that will split its news and classical programming on two channels, is in its spring fundraiser.

Huffington challenges grantmakers to help revitalize local news with AOL's Patch network

Arianna Huffington, head of AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group, opened the second day of the Council on Foundations annual conference in Philadelphia today (April 11) with an invitation to more than 1,000 foundation execs to join with her in reshaping local news and information through social media. Criticizing the mainstream media’s preoccupation with institutional conflict, sensationalism and fear-mongering, Huffington referenced “the fourth instinct” — a need for spiritual fulfillment and community — that, she said, co-exists with the primal drives of survival, sex, and power. In a 25-minute speech that mixed business promotion with inspiring messages, Huffington encouraged the leaders of philanthropy to join with her in a revitalization of local news through Patch, AOL’s rapidly expanding network of local news sites.

Noting that Patch is now operating in 900 communities, Huffington presented it as a vehicle through which local civic leaders can “accelerate what is working and ... identify needs.” And she ended this section of her remarks with a direct invitation to the assembled grantmakers: “I would like to work with you on this,” presenting Patch as a way to make local problem-solving “scalable.” — Mark Fuerst in Philadelphia

WGBH to establish private trusts backing more of its programs

During a weekend symposium on non-profit investigative news, WGBH production chief Margaret Drain described how PBS's top producing station plans to fund its national series by creating private trusts aiding programs such as Frontline and Nova. Fundraising has always been a challenge for WGBH producers, Drain told participants, and she acknowledged feeling "not very optimistic about the future of PBS."

"The problem that PBS faces is the blurring between commercial and noncommercial broadcasting," Drain said, according to MediaShift's Mark Glaser, who reported from the Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium in Berkeley, Calif. "I think we need to protect the noncommercial part of broadcasting. And it's all in the perception. We do take ads on our websites because monetization is an issue, but we don't want commercialization to foul our nest.

Drain was a panelist at the symposium, an invitation-only event convened by investigative reporter Lowell Bergman. Glaser filed several blog reports from the event: Day One, including an appearance by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange via Skype; and Day Two, sessions on open journalism collaborations [top item] and the panel on nonprofit investigative news on which Drain appeared with Robert Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting and Raney Aronson-Rath of Frontline, among others.

WGBH unveiled the Masterpiece Trust, backing production of the iconic British drama series, in January.