To Karen Everhart, recently appointed interim managing editor of Current:
The announcement that the March 12 issue of Current is the last to be published under the editorship of Steve Behrens brought back so many memories for me from the last 35 years. In 1977, Steve and I were colleagues and he was the editor of the in-house publication of the nonprofit where we both worked when I introduced him to my good friend Jim Fellows. Jim loved smart and talented people, and he soon became a fan of Steve's many journalistic talents. So, it wasn't too surprising for me when, a couple of years later, Jim persuaded Steve to join him at the National Association of Educational Broadcasters to design and launch a new newspaper covering exclusively the field of public broadcasting. We greatly missed Steve's talents on our staff, but I understood how persuasive Jim could be. Jim was enormously proud of his honorary title as founder of Current. He believed deeply in the importance of Current's contribution to the development of public broadcasting as a profession and to the field as a whole. I think it's fair to say that Jim was as strong a champion for Current as anyone in public broadcasting for decades. He certainly felt it to be one of the most important legacies of his own long career in educational and later public broadcasting.
Karen Everhart, senior editor of Current for 20 years, will succeed founding editor Steve Behrens after this edition. Larry Kirkman, dean of the American University School of Communication, appointed Everhart as interim managing editor. She joined Current in 1992 and covered public TV for 16 years before moving to the public radio beat in 2007. The school, with support from the Wyncote Foundation, took responsibility for publishing Current a year ago. Behrens, 63, gave notice last fall that he’d retire from the position in six months. Before leaving the premises, he will coordinate the relaunch of Current.org this spring, at long last, using WordPress as a content management system.
Current is likely to have a new publisher in January — the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C.
Details of the contract transferring the print/web publication remain in negotiation, but the governing boards of the university and of Current’s longtime publisher, New York’s WNET, have approved the deal in principle. Approval by the WNET Board, Dec. 9 , prompted coverage in a New York Times blog Dec. 12. WNET accepted responsibility for publishing Current in 1983, after the collapse of the paper’s founding parent, the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
Here’s a piece of unfinished business: reporting back the results of Current’s reader survey taken at the start of the year, with thanks to those of you who responded. We delayed mostly because of the shortage of space in recent issues and not because the results were ugly. Indeed, 72 percent of respondents rated Current “quite useful” or “extremely useful” in their work. In my work, Current and current.org are this useful:
Extremely useful: 31 percent
Not very: 4
Not at all: 1
Readers also rated Current high in fairness, accuracy, readability and other qualities, as you'll see in the chart below. It was especially gratifying to see that 93 percent of respondents rated us “good” or “excellent” in fairness.
Twenty years is an anniversary round enough to permit us at Current to indulge in some hoorah, and to recognize the people who have made the paper possible for two decades. Marking the occasion, we published an updated edition of the paperback A History of Public Broadcasting last month, and inaugurated a companion website of the field's historical documents, Public Broadcasting PolicyBase (PBPB). Since its first issue, March 17, 1980, Current has grown in many respects — in professionalism, in average page count (threefold), in circulation (fivefold), in advertising support (vastly), and in sustainability. (The growth allows and requires us to expand our staff this year, adding a fourth editor.)
It's our pleasure to work on a community newspaper for a community full of so many people with fine passions, admirable skills, high ideals and damned good fights. It's a community paper for a community the size of a small town but spread across a continent.