Friday roundup: Diane Rehm’s right-to-die advocacy, Pacifica perpetually on the brink, and more

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Welcome to this week’s Friday roundup — not to be confused with the Friday News Roundup, that’s the thing Diane Rehm does every week. And it’s Rehm we’re leading off with, after the Washington Post ran a lengthy article detailing the public radio host’s involvement in the right-to-die debate. As her husband approached his death from Parkinson’s last year, he wanted to die but was barred from assisted suicide under Maryland law. He instead had to go without food or water for 10 days.

The painful experience inspired Rehm to start working with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life organization. “The move puts Rehm in an ethically tricky but influential spot with her 2.6 million devoted and politically active listeners,” writes the Post‘s Michael S. Rosenwald.

“As strongly as I feel, I don’t want to use the program to proselytize my feelings,” Rehm told Rosenwald. “But I do want to have more and more discussion about it because I feel it’s so important.”

After the Post article appeared, Rehm addressed the topic head-on on her show Tuesday, which Rosenwald also covered (plus, he was a guest on the show). “I have told them something very personal because I so believe that this issue one that the country needs to debate,” Rosenwald quoted Rehm as saying on-air. “We need to be able to have an open discussion.”

This all prompted a predictably critical post on the conservative NewsBusters website, as well as an illuminating Twitter exchange among NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik and new NPR ombud Elizabeth Jensen. Jensen said she plans to address Rehm’s role in the right-to-die debate, so you’ll probably be hearing more about this.

Meanwhile, should we just let Pacifica Radio die? That’s what Matthew Lasar asks in a Nation article, “Is Pacifica Radio Worth Saving? Once a beacon of progressive programming, the network is now beset by financial woes and infighting.” You would be forgiven for checking the date on the story, since that headline would fit atop pretty much any story about Pacifica written in the past 15 years. Heck, several of those stories were probably in The Nation to boot. This time around, “. . . the obvious question is how Pacifica got to this awful place, followed by the next logical query: What is to be done?” Lasar asks. He goes long on the “how” but is less forthcoming with solutions, which isn’t surprising since the network seems hopelessly broken (yet mysteriously durable).

Among stations not on the brink of collapse, Connecticut’s WNPR is working with the Hartford Foundation on a StoryCorps-ish “community-wide storytelling project to find, record and share the everyday acts of kindness that happen all around us but often go unheard.” And St. Louis Public Radio will use a $75,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation for investigative reporting on the unrest in Ferguson.

WBUR’s Learning Lab takes a look at Listen Current, a company started by former WBUR reporter Monica Brady-Myerov. Listen Current provides public radio stories for use in middle-school and high-school classroom lessons. “What makes Listen Current stand out to me is that we live in a really visual ‘Youtubey’ world and this is asking kids to become better listeners,” says one teacher. “What we’ve noticed is that just drawing one’s attention to ‘How do I pay attention?’ ‘How do I hear and also listen closely?’ – is in itself an incredibly worthwhile academic experience.”

And writing for Radio Survivor, Paul Riismandel responds to one of our articles about HD Radio with some thoughts of his own. While HD Radio creator iBiquity “claims that 50% of new car models include HD Radio, and nearly 10 percent of those on the road can receive it, I seriously doubt many actual listeners are taking advantage of it,” he argues.

Two fun Sesame Street–related tidbits — this nifty observation (it’s true, see for yourself):

(though yes, now other people and Muppets can see Mr. Snuffleupagus.) And this spoof of Birdman, featuring Big Bird.

Enjoy the weekend!