The Pub, #21: Frontline’s new leader, Raney Aronson; What it means to “distribute” a show; How education can be a business for stations

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Aronson, Schmidt (Photos: Frontline, WHRO)

Aronson, Schmidt (Photos: Frontline, WHRO)

For the first time in its 32-year history, Frontline has a new leader. This week, founding Executive Producer David Fanning finally handed over the reins to his protégé, Raney Aronson.

“Replacing him is a big challenge, but it’s also one that we’ve been working on for years now,” Aronson told me on The Pub. “It really does feel like a very, very careful succession, and one I’m really grateful for, but I’m also entirely prepared and excited for.”

Aronson has already put her stamp on public television’s signature documentary series in her prior capacity as Fanning’s deputy, pushing Frontline toward more collaborations with other news organizations and into the short-form digital video market and a partnership with YouTube.

On this week’s episode of The Pub, Aronson goes deep on Frontline’s production process, her vision for the show’s future, and even some of the stumbles she’s had with her new initiatives, such as the transition from hourlong documentary films to 2-minute web videos.

“We thought that we would be able to excerpt our films, and that those would really fly digitally, especially on YouTube,” Aronson said. “But what we found within, like, a minute, was that excerpts don’t really work, so we really had to start creating little stories.”

Also this week:

  • WNYC decides to self-distribute On the Media and Radiolab, and we explore what that actually means
  • WHRO President and CEO Bert Schmidt talks about how his station is now earning 40 percent of its revenue by creating educational materials

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to adam@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.