Frontline, public television’s investigative news showcase, announced two major donations Wednesday, including the largest grant from individuals in its 30-year history. Most of the $5 million from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler, longtime supporters of producing station WGBH, will create a reporting endowment for the program to ensure the series’ long-term sustainability. The remaining $1.5 million will support existing programming and digital efforts over four years. Meanwhile, a two-year, $800,000 gift from the Ford Foundation will back a new cross-platform Enterprise Journalism Group. The funds will pay for initial recruits for the in-house group of digital journalists and producers.
• I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! Granted, that’s probably not among the verses in The Liberal Media Made Me Do It!, a new collection of poems based on public broadcasting stories and shows. But the book does contain pubmedia-centric contributions from more than 50 poets who were inspired by Radiolab, Performance Today, A Prairie Home Companion and other fare. “For me, the greatest delight in receiving these pieces has been to recognize the stories I have heard on the radio, with the added dimension of another’s perception added in,” writes editor Robbi Nester. “This brings home the truth that each of us could start with the same raw material and yet produce finished products that resemble one another only in incidental ways.”
• Frontline today won a George Polk Award for “League of Denial,” its investigation of the NFL’s efforts to downplay evidence linking head injuries of football players to long-term brain disorders. The nonprofit newsroom Center for Public Integrity also won a Polk for “After the Meltdown,” which explored the aftermath of economic crash caused by sub-prime mortgage lenders. A full list of Polk winners, presented by Long Island University, is here. • While CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan agrees with WNET’s decision to return a $3.5 million grant for its series reporting on public pensions, he remains troubled by “the lack of transparency by both WNET and PBS” in handling the controversy. He suggests the original agreement between WNET and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation needs to be disclosed.
Kirk, a key contributor to PBS’s Frontline since its inception, was cited for his body of work in producing more than 200 investigative documentaries. He joined Frontline as senior producer for its 1983 national debut on PBS; in 1987, he left the show to produce through his own independent company, the Kirk Documentary Group. His documentary films have been recognized with Peabody Awards, duPont-Columbias, a George Polk Award, national Emmys and Writers Guild of America awards. Kirk earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho in 1971 and was inducted into the UI Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000. The university presented the honorary degree Dec.
Cable network ESPN on Aug. 22 withdrew from its reporting collaboration with Frontline on an investigative documentary project examining the NFL’s allegedly lax response to head injuries among football players.
Frontline is spending $1.5 million to bolster its ability to manage its news collaborations, which are growing in number as well as importance. Raney Aronson, deputy executive producer, said the investigative showcase will establish a four-person collaboration desk through a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation. She tapped Frontline’s series budget for matching funds for the desk, which will also concentrate on transmedia efforts. “The way we do journalism has changed,” Aronson told Current. “Frontline is no longer simply a documentary series on a Tuesday night.” More than half of the films and online reports produced by Frontline are done in collaboration with kindred organizations such as the New York Times, NPR, the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and, more recently, Spanish-language network Univision.