Masterpiece Trust concept sparks new “Friends of NewsHour” effort

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The PBS NewsHour is developing a Friends of the NewsHour initiative, similar to that created for WGBH’s Masterpiece strand, to allow viewers to contribute directly to the weeknight news program. The fund would solicit gifts from major donors. Bo Jones, president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, told Current that he’s just begun to plan the project. “We want to consult with local stations to elicit ideas and their input,” he said. “We plan for Friends to be a cooperative effort with the stations.” The Masterpiece Trust has raised more than $2.5 million since January 2011, said Ellen Frank, director of major gifts at WGBH in Boston. For the Trust, a station that brings a major Masterpiece donor to WGBH gets half the resulting gift. Masterpiece supporters contacting WGBH directly may earmark a quarter of the gift for their local station. So far, seven stations have brought in contributions.