After This American Life parts with longtime distributor Public Radio International July 1, it could become public radio’s most widely carried show without a major distributor representing it. That’s if the show pursues that option. Program host and creator Ira Glass has hinted in interviews with the New York Times and Chicago media reporter Robert Feder that he’s considering self-distribution. But there may be good reasons that few shows have gone that route. Self-distribution poses challenges that few resource-strapped program creators are willing to take on, including handling their own billing, marketing and station relations.
• The Pacifica Foundation announced the appointment of a new interim executive director, even as the one the foundation attempted to fire, Summer Reese, reportedly continues to camp out at the foundation’s headquarters. Bernard Duncan, previously station manager at Pacifica’s Los Angeles outlet KPFK, is the new interim head of the network, according to a statement on Pacifica’s website. “What Pacifica needs right now is a skilled manager who can hit the ground running, and I’m very pleased Bernard’s taken us on,” board chair Margy Wilkinson said in the release. Duncan resigned from KPFK in January. • PBS’s POV will host a Twitter chat with veteran documentary filmmakers April 8 from 1-2 p.m. Eastern time. Directors Gary Hustwit, Doug Block and Bernardo Ruiz will discuss how they made their first films. Interested participants can send their thoughts with the hashtag #docchat.
• WUGA-TV in Athens, Ga., is cutting all local programming from its schedule and eliminating six staff members as of June 30, the University of Georgia announced Thursday. The changes come as a result of a study requested by Jere Morehead, president of UGA, the station’s licensee. The study determined that the cost of ramping up local programming and student involvement for the station “was just too great relative to the cost of the operation,” according to the release. WUGA will switch to carrying the PBS World Channel full-time beginning July 1. The move will save the university about $565,000 annually, the release said.
When Torey Malatia unexpectedly announced his resignation as president of WBEZ licensee Chicago Public Media Friday, July 26, news of the longtime leader’s exit reverberated across Chicago media and public radio.
As one of the most popular podcasts of all time, Public Radio International’s This American Life has had to deal with its fair share of imitators and parodies over the years, and many other podcasts have appropriated the “This American…” moniker to draw attention to their own audio. On Feb. 5, SF Weekly spotlighted one such effort that was reportedly getting heat from Glass and his attorneys over trademark violation: This American Whore, a podcast covering sex workers’ issues, created in November 2012 by Siouxsie Q, a San Francisco sex worker. Siouxsie Q first tweeted on Feb.
This American Life host and public radio superstar Ira Glass continues his foray into scripted entertainment, as a producer of a new television series in development at the Sundance Channel. The project, billed as T, will follow Terrence, a transgender man who has recently undergone sex reassignment surgery, and the story will be split between his present life as a male and former life as a female college student named Thora. Fellow TAL producer Alissa Shipp will also produce T.
Glass ventured into the world of independent film this summer with Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, which he co-wrote and produced. The film, which had a budget of $1 million, has grossed more than $2.2 million in theaters to date, making it a financial success. This is also not the first time Glass has dealt with a commercial TV station.
Current’s Feb. 27 story on This American Life’s recent breakthroughs with enterprise reporting describes the inspiration behind “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” the story on Apple factories in China that was later retracted. Glass tells Current that after seeing Daisey’s monologue last October, he was already “editing the radio version in my head” as he left the theater. “I thought [Daisey] was doing something remarkable,” said Glass, “which is taking a fact that we all already know — that these devices we love are made in China in conditions that are probably not so wonderful, and he makes us feel something about it.”
Glass invited Daisey to lunch, and he recalls feeling nervous when they met Nov. 16.