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Kutzner chairs team to look
beyond today’s DTV standard

Jim Kutzner, PBS chief engineer, is chairing a team of the Advanced Television Systems Committee that will think ahead about the country’s next-generation broadcast TV system — “probably five years out” from today, he says.

Ideally, the next system would be compatible with broadcasters’ and viewers’ present hardware, Kutzner told Current, but advances in modulation and compression technology are coming so fast that much improved technology will be within sight within a few years.

The Next-Generation Broadcast Television Team, nicknamed PT-2, “will explore potential technologies to be used to define a future terrestrial broadcast digital television standard,” ATSC said in a release May 21 after its annual meeting in Arlington, Va.

Two separate ATSC committees will examine options for two capabilities that could be added much earlier to the present ATSC-developed DTV standard:

  • The 3D TV Team (PT-1), chaired by Craig Todd, chief technology officer of Dolby Laboratories, will report on benefits and limitations of a standard for broadcasting three-dimensional TV.
  • The Internet Enhanced Television Team (PT-3), chaired by Rajan Mehta of NBC Universal, will look at interactive services made possible when TV receivers are also connected to the Internet. In the past ATSC has said the Internet could provide a return loop enabling viewers to buy merchandise or express opinions in polls.

NPR hires ‘chief people officer’
with AOL, Fox on his resume

NPR last week named former Fox Interactive, AOL, and Nielsen human resources official Jeff Perkins as its v.p. and chief people officer, starting July 6. He was founder and managing partner of Huntbridge Inc., a human resources and consulting firm.

Perkins “will lead the development of NPR’s human resources, talent management strategy, and will play a central role cultivating a constructive, supportive and effective corporate culture,” NPR said in a news release. He’ll report to Debra Delman, senior v.p. of strategic operations and finance.

At Fox Interactive Media, Perkins led a staff of 65 and oversaw the hiring of more than 1,000 employees in 26 countries and 11 businesses. Before that he held several high-ranking jobs with AOL Time Warner, including v.p. of human resources for AOL, CompuServe and Netscape and senior v.p. of human resources for AOL Europe. At A.C. Nielsen, he was managing of staffing — North America and director of HR for Nielsen International in Europe.

He earned a B.A. in political science from Wabash College and a master’s in organization development from American University.

Philip Smith becomes manager in Redding; Hansen gives a year’s notice for Sunday mornings, and Skoler comes back to media innovation in St. Paul.

Hansen plans more salt spray,
fewer weekend deadlines

Liane Hansen, host of NPR’s Sunday-morning Weekend Edition for 20 years, will leave the show and go freelance in May 2011, she told listeners May 30 — explaining why they’d be hearing many substitute and tryout hosts over the coming year, while she visits stations around the country and before the lease on her urban apartment and her NPR contract expire. “I’ve made the personal decision to move to where I have always wanted to live — by the ocean,” she said. Hansen started in public radio at WSKG in Binghamton, N.Y., where she hosted a daily newsmag. She became an NPR production assistant in 1979, host of weekend All Things Considered and Performance Today and regular guest host of Fresh Air. Since 1989 she has hosted Weekend Edition Sunday, earning honors including a James Beard Award for a report about Spam. In TV, she won an Emmy as narrator of “She Says/Women in News.”

APTS begins presidential hunt;
Thompson opts for interim role

Public TV’s lobbying unit, the Association of Public Television Stations, has formed a search committee to hire a president. After about 14 months in the position, Larry Sidman quit the job under pressure in March.

Lonna Thompson, general counsel, will serve as acting president and a member of the search committee. She hopes APTS completes the hiring by January. The association took a year to hire Sidman.

Thompson opted not to be a candidate for the top job. “The best thing I could do for APTS iis accept the interim position,” Thompson told Current. “The thought in the board is to have someone serving as interim president who is not applying for the position.”

Polly Anderson, g.m. of KNME-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., and Elizabeth Christopherson, former head of the New Jersey Network and now director of the Rita Allen Foundation in Princeton, N.J., are co-chairs. Other committee members are APTS Board Chair Rod Bates, g.m. of Nebraska’s NET network; DeAnne M. Hamilton, g.m. of WKAR, East Lansing, Mich.; John E. Harris III, president of North Dakota’s Prairie Public Broadcasting network, based in Fargo; Skip Hinton, president of the National Educational Telecommunications Association in Columbia, S.C.; and Tom Karlo, g.m. of KPBS in San Diego.

Pledgemeister imagines deaths
of characters who never lived

Ever read Mr. Ed’s obituary? How about the Flying Nun’s? Betty Crocker? Holden Caulfield?  Barry Nelson, director of on-air fundraising at WGBH, has those obits and more in a new book co-authored with Tom Schecker. Mr. Ed: Dead! Why write imaginary obits? Each character had a fictional life and deserves “an equally creative death,” as the book’s website says. “We think it’s the perfect book for the public radio generation,” Nelson told Current, “filled with popular culture references and the kind of satirical humor they’ve been enjoying for years, such as The Onion and National Lampoon.” Nelson said the book will be available as a thank-you gift for pledge campaigns. Nelson and Schecker’s previous book, in 2006, was War on Xmas: The Official Field Manual.


Lester Crystal, the e.p. who converted the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report to an hourlong NewsHour in 1983, said in May he’ll retire Aug. 31 as president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. Of Crystal’s 57 years in journalism, he has worked 27 years with MacNeil/Lehrer and 20 with NBC News, where he rose to e.p. of the Nightly News and NBC News president. Including his work for NBC and PBS, he produced convention and election-night coverage for eight national elections, including the 2004 coverage shared by both networks. The NewsHour has won multiple Emmys and a Peabody Award, among other honors. In the past five years the NewsHour has tripled its foundation support to more than $7 million a year, the Virginia-based production company said. He entered broadcasting in his hometown of Duluth, Minn., writing for KDAL TV and radio.

In Philadelphia, WHYY installed Eugene Sonn as news director after a period he served as interim news director. Sonn came to the area from WRVO in Oswego, N.Y., where he was a reporter and producer for three years. Then he spent nine years in Trenton, covering New Jersey’s statehouse for both WHYY and Newark’s WBGO, before going freelance.

Toni Randolph, a journalist at Minnesota Public Radio since 2003, has an all-new job title: editor for new audiences — responsible for “connecting with ethnically diverse Minnesotans.” Randolph has served as a newscaster, host and reporter on homelessness and immigration issues. Before moving to the Twin Cities, Randolph reported for WBUR in Boston for seven years.

Michael Skoler, who launched Public Insight Journalism at American Public Media, returns to the Twin Cities as v.p. of interactive media at Public Radio International, starting June 1. The onetime NPR correspondent, with stints on the East Africa and science beats, said he and his family spent a year in southern Mexico, taking a year’s break from North American routine after he left APM. For the past academic year Skoler studied new journalism business models on a fellowship at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

The Upper Midwest Local Journalism Center, a CPB-backed venture of Michigan Radio, Chicago’s WBEZ and Cleveland’s WCPN/WVIZ, hired Micheline Maynard, a senior business correspondent for the New York Times, as editor of its forthcoming news site, Changing Gears: Remaking the Manufacturing Belt. Based in Chicago, she’ll lead three reporters and a new-media producer. She wrote the book The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market.

Tom Rosenstiel, head of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and author of its annual report on The State of the News Media, will be a major speaker at the Public Radio Programming Conference Sept. 23-26 in Denver. The three-decade journalist was media critic for the Los Angeles Times and congressional correspondent for Newsweek.

Last week, local All Things Considered host Charity Nebbe, left Ann Arbor’s Michigan Radio after 10 years to return to her home state. In July she’ll begin hosting the daily Talk of Iowa on Iowa Public Radio. Nebbe is creator and co-host of Chinwag Theater, a nationally syndicated radio show for kids.

Gwen Thompkins, NPR’s East Africa correspondent, received a fellowship from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard. She’ll study the art of storytelling in a variety of forms, including music, filmmaking, epic poetry and the history of science. The longtime Times-Picayune journalist worked with NPR producer Sarah Beyer Kelly on a series of Katrina aftermath reports before Thompkins joined NPR. For a decade she was senior editor of Weekend Edition Saturday.

Kim Masters, who covered the entertainment industry for NPR from 2003 through 2008, will start work this summer as editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter (THR.org), now under new management. She had been on the beat for Tina Brown’s website The Daily Beast. Masters will stay with KCRW, Santa Monica, hosting a Monday-afternoon half-hour, The Business, and has begun a new four-minute cutaway during All Things Considered on Thursdays, The Hollywood Breakdown, in which she and Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter John Horn “schmooze” (the news release says) about show biz. Context: The Hollywood Reporter itself already generated some buzz as the new laboratory for Janice Min, former star editor of Us Weekly. Former THR owner Nielsen Business Media sold the 80-year-old trade paper (plus Billboard, Adweek, Backstage and more) to a new venture, e5 Global Media, and killed Editor & Publisher outright.

John Bracken, a blogger on media-tech who has worked with the MacArthur Foundation and, before that, the Ford Foundation, was hired this month by the Knight Foundation to run its annual Knight News Challenge competition and to serve as is director of new media. He was previously a MacArthur program officer who managed projects in innovation, Internet freedom and nonprofit startup viability. His blog is at www.johnbracken.net.

California Watch, a reporting project launched last year by Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, added three staffers on three investigative beats, bringing its total to 11 reporters, editors and multimedia producers. Ryan Gabrielson, public safety, previously worked for the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., and is now a reporting fellow at UC Berkeley. He won a Pulitzer Prize and exposed problems with immigration law enforcement, tax fraud by scholarship charities and financial malfeasance at a community college district. Susanne Rust, environment, reported on dangerous chemicals and lax regulation for the Milwaukee Journal Sentineland was a Pulitzer finalist last year.Rust is now completing a Knight fellowship at Stanford. Joanna Lin, who will be an enterprise reporter, helped start FairWarning, a nonprofit online publication on corporate and government performance and accountability and formerly reported for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Los Angeles Times. In addition, CIR said California Watch Director Lewis Freedberg will return to investigations as a senior reporter covering education. He led distribution efforts, which put stories in some 60 media outlets around the state.


After a national search American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio promoted its classical music e.p., Brian Newhouse, to managing director for classical music programming. He’ll be responsible for MPR’s classical stations plus APM’s syndicated Classical 24 service and national programs Performance Today, SymphonyCast, which he hosts, and Pipedreams. Newhouse joined MPR as an announcer in 1983, left a decade later for several years on German radio and returned in the late ’70s as a newscaster. He helped start APM’s Speaking of Faith and moved to the classical music team in 2004. Newhouse won a Peabody Award for the radio doc The Mississippi: River of Song. He wrote the memoir A Crossing: A Cyclist’s Journey Home.

Excerpts from the nonfiction films of Frederick Wiseman, many of which aired through PBS, will be shown and discussed at the AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival June 21-27 in Silver Spring, Md. The master of cinema verite directed the groundbreaking Titticut Follies and 37 other docs — most recently La Danse, his look at the Paris Opera Ballet, which premiered theatrically last fall in New York. Wiseman will be honored as subject of the Charles Guggenheim Symposium during the festival.

Also in Montgomery County, Eric Eggleton, chief content officer of Maryland Public Television, has moved to the cable access world as director of content for Access Montgomery in the big suburban D.C. county. Eggleton is former v.p. of programming for locally based Discovery Networks, where he helped launch Discovery Kids and Discovery Home Video.

Tavis Smiley and Clark Atlanta University have donated $25,000 each to establish the Sheryl Flowers Scholarship at the university. Flowers, a Clark graduate who helped shape Smiley’s public radio talk shows, died of breast cancer last June at the age of 42. She was supervising producer of his daily NPR show starting in 2002 and e.p. of the two-hour weekly Public Radio International show that had its 5th anniversary in April. The PRI show is produced in a Los Angeles studio named for Flowers. The scholarship includes an internship with Clark’s WCLK-FM and with the Smiley show.

In the Los Angeles area, KCRW has slotted new four-minute mini-shows at 4:44 p.m., including LA Observed blogger Kevin Roderick on Mondays, stage producer and teacher Anthony Byrnes discussing L.A. theater on Tuesdays, and Good Food host Evan Kleiman dishing about good restaurants with LA Weekly critic Jonathan Gold on Fridays.


Lucy Sholley, director of station marketing and promotion at WGBH in Boston, took a voluntary layoff in May and is looking forward to her first summer off since age 17, she said. Her deputy, Karen Frascona, will oversee promotion and PR.

Tim Isgitt, CPB’s senior v.p., communications and government affairs, is temporarily the corporation’s press spokesperson, with the departure of Louise Filkins, senior director of media relations. Isgitt has worked as a legislative aide for a member of Congress, a manager at the PR firm of Burson-Marsteller, and special advisor to the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. At the time CPB President Patricia Harrison was assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs and acting undersecretary.

Beth Warren, former head of KSUT in Durango, Colo., has taken a six-month position as development director of KNAU, Flagstaff, Ariz. She worked 18 years at the station, in roles such as development director, business manager, executive director and, most recently, community development director. “She is probably best known among listeners for conducting some of the most entertaining and compelling interviews heard on local public radio,” according to the station blog. Warren said she expects to return to Durango for weekend visits with friends and family.

Joan Miller, a former recording and sound engineer with KQED-FM in San Francisco, has joined Deborah Blakeley’s Blakeley & Co. and Israel Smith’s I.S. Marketing as a station relations associate. Miller, based in Silicon Valley, has been a technical writer and editor, most recently for Palm Inc.

Kelley Hamilton, senior development v.p. at Detroit Public Television, who worked at the station 14 years and  helped it wrap up a $22 million campaign last year, is moving to the University Liggett School, an independent day school in Grosse Point Woods, Mich., to head a $10 million endowment campaign.


Arlen Diamond, director of broadcast services at Missouri State University in Springfield, retired May 28. Tammy Wiley, assistant director and g.m. of both Ozarks Public Television and KSMU-FM, will succeed him, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Diamond was a founding director of public radio’s University Station Alliance. Wiley has worked with Diamond 20 years, since she was a college student. News Director Missy Shelton who has worked at the radio station for a decade, told the News-Leader, “The most powerful testament to his management style and him as a person, is people tend to start working here and stay for years,” News Director Missy Shelton told the News-Leader. Shelton has worked there for a decade. Diamond led KSMU’s growth as it added five more transmitters around the state and moved into new quarters, plus a TV signal when the university acquired Ozarks Public Television in 2001.

Myron Tisdel will retire at the end of June as g.m. of KIXE in Redding, Calif., to be succeeded by Philip Smith, who spent the past four years as senior v.p. of operations at KLRU in Austin, Texas. Before joining the Austin station, Smith worked more than two decades for commercial TV network affiliates in Birmingham, Ala.; Lexington, Ky.; Tampa, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Louisville, Ky.  Tisdel worked with public TV in San Diego, Fairbanks and Idaho Public Television in Boise before moving to KIXE in 1987, initially as program manager. He was promoted to g.m. in 1994.

Jody Evans is moving south again, starting work this month as executive director of WCQS (Western North Carolina Public Radio) in Asheville. Evans, the longtime p.d. of Vermont Public Radio and former board chair of Public Radio Program Directors, also had stints as a consultant and curator of the Fundraising Soundbank, developed by Public Radio Exchange, and for a year as p.d. of KUT in Austin, Texas. At the Asheville station, Program Director Barbara Sayer served as interim g.m.

Boston-based American Public Television has hired entertainment attorney John Taxiarchis as contracts manager. Taxiarchis has been a member of the Massachusetts Bar since 2002. APT distributes about 300 titles a year to public TV broadcasters.