PBS unveils talent behind new American drama, LeRoys transfer ownership of TRAC, and other comings and goings in public media

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Josh Radnor star in Mercy Street, PBS's first scripted drama in a decade. (Photo: PBS)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Josh Radnor star in Mercy Street, PBS’s first scripted drama in a decade. (Photo: PBS)

PBS has revealed the cast and production team behind Mercy Street, its Civil War-era drama set to air early next year.

The six-part series — the first original American drama to be green-lit by PBS in more than a decade — follows the lives of medical workers on opposing sides of the war at Mansion House, a luxury hotel in Alexandria, Va., that was transformed into an Union Army hospital.

Executive producers are Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise), David W. Zucker (The Good Wife), Lisa Q. Wolfinger (Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower) and David Zabel (ER). Lead actors include Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nurse Mary Phinney, a feisty New Englander; Josh Radnor as Jedediah Foster, a surgeon who grew up in a privileged Southern slave-owning household; Gary Cole as James Green Sr., struggling to maintain his family business while living in an occupied city; and Shalita Grant as Aurelia Johnson, a beautiful, stoical laundress at the hospital.

The series, which began production last month, is based on historic memoirs and letters from actual doctors and nurse volunteers at the Mansion House Hospital. It’s being shot in locations in Richmond and Petersburg, Va.

David and Judith LeRoy have transferred ownership of TRAC Media Services to three directors who now run the company as partners.

Two have taken on expanded roles to oversee daily operations of the research firm in Tucson, Ariz., which has provided independent audience analysis to public TV stations since 1982.

Reed

Reed

Craig Reed, former director of audience analysis, has stepped up to executive director. He continues to develop research that guides program strategies of TRAC station clients, and now takes a lead role in developing projects with PBS, CPB and other national organizations.

Kristen Kuebler, previously director of station research, is director of client services, overseeing TRAC’s activities in public media programming and development.

Simone LeRoy, daughter of David and Judith, continues as director of communications.

The senior LeRoys, co-founders and co-directors of TRAC for more than three decades, continue to work in an advisory role. “David is happily immersing himself in public broadcasting research questions that he previously hadn’t time to pursue,” Judy said in an April 14 statement, “and I enjoy working with TRAC communications and on special projects.”

TRAC Media Services conducts independent research and monitors Nielsen ratings, pledge data, online statistics and qualitative information to help member stations build audience, membership and community engagement and visibility.

Management

Seymour

Seymour

Michael Seymour, who founded the Programming Service for Public Television in 1996, transitioned from president to an advisory role as executive counsel on May 1. BaBette Davidson, s.v.p. for 15 years, rises to president. The service, based in Tampa, Fla., currently assists 25 public TV client stations nationwide with program scheduling and on-air fundraising schedules.

Veteran ABC News producer Richard Coolidge joined PBS NewsHour April 20 in the new position of senior content and partnerships producer. Coolidge is managing, planning and producing news and features for broadcast, online and social media and coordinating content from PBS member stations and news partners such as New York Times Video. Coolidge worked 18 years at ABC, where he produced political, national security and foreign affairs content domestically and internationally. He also spent three years developing content exclusively for digital platforms.

David Feingold takes over this summer as general manager and c.e.o. of WCQS-FM in Asheville, N.C. Feingold, currently assistant g.m. for content at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, previously served as executive editor of Reuters Television in London and held several senior news management positions at CNN. He also has worked at NPR stations in Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio. Feingold replaces Jody Evans, who resigned from WCQS last December to lead the Public Radio Program Directors Association.

Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, N.Y., has hired Bill McColgan as director of production and content. McColgan has more than 25 years experience in media production management and broadcast news, most recently serving as executive director of Access Framingham, a nonprofit community media center in Framingham, Mass.

Programming

WBHM in Birmingham, Ala., has hired two journalists. Sherrel Wheeler Stewart is now managing editor for the Southern Education Desk, a new position at the station. She supervises reporters in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee. Her previous experience includes reporting and editing at the Birmingham News and stringing for Reuters News Service. Chris Osborne begins hosting All Things Considered and producing for the station next month. Previously, Osborne managed public affairs and communications for the Red Cross in Alabama.

Two local news veterans have joined WGBH in Boston. Henry Santoro, daytime radio news anchor, previously served as news director at RadioBDC, a streaming service from the Boston Globe. And TJ Killilea, new executive producer for the station’s public affairs TV program Greater Boston, previously worked as e.p. for mornings at NECN (New England Cable News).

PBS NewsHour Weekend producer William Brangham has moved to PBS NewsHour in Washington as a correspondent. He covers breaking news and events for NewsHour online and broadcast. Prior to joining NewsHour in 2013, Brangham produced and reported for Need to Know. He has also worked for Frontline, Bill Moyers’ Journal, and NOW on PBS.

Sponsorship and underwriting

Gina Garrubbo is the new president of National Public Media, which manages underwriting sales for NPR and PBS. Garrubbo previously advised clients on media sales as c.e.o. of Garrubbo & Co., and was senior v.p. of Hearst Magazines’ Totally Global Media, where she built a global digital advertising platform for Hearst and its publishing partners.

Harry Clark is a new partner at Market Enginuity in Phoenix, which links public media clients and corporate supporters. Clark’s initial role will be as e.v.p. and market manager at KCRW in Los Angeles. Most recently Clark was g.m. of New York Public Radio’s corporate underwriting and integrated media sponsorships department, and also held senior positions at Arbitron and Emmis Communications.

Beth Davis has signed on as director of underwriting and event sales at Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Her 25 years of experience includes recent work was a national sales trainer with TransWestern Publishing and sales training for regional media outlets including Adirondack Life Magazine.

Digital

NPR’s “It’s All Politics” blog has two new writers, Jessica Taylor and Danielle Kurtzleben, who start in May. Taylor, who will be lead writer on the team, was most recently campaign editor for The Hill newspaper and research director for the Almanac of American Politics. Kurtzleben, who will write as the political data blogger, was a founding member of the Vox editorial team and previously worked in a variety of jobs at US News and World Report. NPR Washington Editor Beth Donovan said in an internal email that the two will help re-launch the blog over the next few months.

KCPT has promoted Carla McCabe from operations director to v.p. for digital and multimedia, a new position at the Kansas City, Mo., station. She now leads a team focusing on digital-first content, digital storytelling and cultivation of outside digital storytellers, journalists and filmmakers. Her background includes working as a production planner at the BBC and as head of production at Tern Television, overseeing productions in Belfast and Glasgow, Scotland.

Honors

Terry Gross  (Photo: WHYY)

Terry Gross (Photo: WHYY)

Terry Gross, e.p. and host of public radio’s Fresh Air, is one of 197 new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 2015. The academy, founded in 1780, is one of the nation’s oldest societies and independent policy research centers, with 4,600 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members. “Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world,” said Don Randel, chair of the academy’s board. Neil deGrasse Tyson, former host of Nova ScienceNow, will also be inducted at a ceremony Oct. 10 in Cambridge, Mass.

Nonprofit news

Norberto Santana Jr. has moved from editor-in-chief to publisher at Voice of OC, a investigative newsroom covering politics and government in Orange County, Calif. “It’s time for me to focus on building the business end of our community newsroom,” said Santana in an April 14 blog post. Managing Editor David Washburn is now editor-in-chief.

Development

Dean

Dean

WNED in Buffalo, N.Y., has promoted Annmarie Dean to manager of foundation development. She joined the station’s corporate communications division in 2011 and has served in various roles. In her new position, she will work with funders and as part of capital campaign team.

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