NPR apologizes for “dark continent,” but should it?

NPR apologized to listeners Feb. 16 after newscaster Jean Cochran referred to Africa as “the dark continent” in a newscast. “This is simply an outdated reference as well as being outrageously offensive,” said one of many listeners who complained. But the apology in turn drew criticism accusing NPR of hypersensitivity. Should the network have apologized?

Pubradio merger fizzles in California

KAZU-FM in Pacific Grove, Calif., will remain under control of California State University Monterey Bay, the board of the school’s Foundation decided yesterday. (Coverage in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and a university press release (PDF).) The decision ended a year of formal negotiations over a merger of the station and KUSP, a nearby pubradio outlet that airs some of the same programs as KAZU. “I’m sorry the university has chosen to go it alone, and pass on this opportunity for us to work together to serve the public,” said Terry Green, KUSP’s g.m., in a press release (PDF).

Post-IMA ruminations lean negative

This year’s recently concluded Integrated Media Association conference has inspired some pessimism among pubcasters keen on new media. John Proffitt of Alaska Public Telecommunications wrote on his blog: “In my (current) view, IMA appears to be at an impasse. We seem to have reached a point where integrated media advocacy has given out, where recommendations and demonstrations fail to move our organizations to meaningful action.” Responding on his own blog, independent producer Stephen Hill foresaw a bleak future for public radio and added: “After six or seven years of trying to push the river, I’ve regretfully come to believe that the forces that control the legacy public media system — both public television and public radio — are simply too entrenched, too torpid, too scared, and too innovation-phobic to respond meaningfully to the challenges of the digital era.”

Excuse me, what is that music you play when you read the stock figures?

While WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein is tutoring journalists in Bhutan (earlier item), Marketplace reporter Lisa Napoli has a Bhutanese radio producer shadowing her while she subs as morning host for the APM business newscast. Her guest is Ngawang Pem, 25, a deejay and producer from the youth-oriented Kuzoo FM, first nongovernment station in Bhutan, which is adopting democratic forms under a limited monarchy and installing a new, young king. Napoli has volunteered her help on two trips since Kuzoo launched last year.

Her students: journalists covering a new democracy

Andrea Bernstein, political director at WNYC Radio in New York, is in Bhutan this week, taking a break from U.S. campaigns to train 43 reporters — twice as many as expected — for coverage of the Himalayan country’s first legislative elections, set for March 24. She was invited by Kinley Dorji, who founded the country’s first newspaper with a Mac in the 1980s. She’s reporting back in her blog.

Wear a sweater for Mr. Rogers

In honor of Fred Rogers on what would have been his 80th birthday, Mr. McFeely announced that March 20 will be sweater day in the Pittsburgh metro area. In a YouTube video produced by the Beaver County Times, McFeely (David Newell) urges fans everywhere to wear a favorite sweater to cap off “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” Days events and activities, March 15-20. The celebrations are hosted by WQED and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood production company Family Communications, Inc., who brought the show to PBS 40 years ago. 

NPR’s Folkenflik: from print to radio

“Joining NPR from the world of print was a bit like entering the Marine Corps at Parris Island,” says NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik in an interview with Chip Scanlan on “You’re completely stripped down and then built back up.” Folkenflick talks about his transition to radio reporting, how he puts a story together, and how NPR’s reputation is different than newspapers’. It’s a “gratifying shift,” he says, to hear not what’s wrong about the newspaper he works for, but what’s right about NPR.

Starr: McCain’s people never talked to me

Various participants in a 1990s Pittsburgh station swap proposal weighed in last week on the nature of Sen. John McCain’s involvement in the deal, which has received new scrutiny in light of questions raised by the New York Times about the GOP presidential candidate’s dealings with a communications lobbyist. Now Jerrold Starr, a sociologist and activist who opposed proposed Pittsburgh deal, refutes McCain’s recent claims that the senator’s staff also met with advocates who were against the proposed sell-off. “It never happened,” he told ABC News. Any lobbying “would have come through us,” said Linda Wambaugh, Starr’s co-chair on the so-called Save Pittsburgh Public Television Campaign. “There was absolutely no contact whatsoever — no meetings, no phone calls, no correspondence.”

Seeger doc depicts ‘power of song’ but no ‘stupid things I’ve done’

Pete Seeger, influential folk singer and activist who was persecuted during the second Red Scare for his former membership in the Communist Party, criticized this week’s American Masters profile of him, “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” because it “didn’t show any of the stupid things I’ve done.” (Part of a broader story about Seeger and the film in the Washington Post.) Director Jim Brown didn’t try to make a totally balanced film, according to Susan Lacy, executive producer of American Masters (as paraphrased by the Post). “That’s not meant in a negative way,” Lacy is quoted as saying. “It’s just that Pete Seeger is such a principled idealist, such a good man.” Not surprisingly, conservative media watchdog NewsBusters has jumped on the doc.

Kids Sprout competitors: nap time and snack time

That’s what Sandy Wax, president of PBS Kids Sprout, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer in this interview. The digital cable channel for preschoolers, now carried in 37 million homes, recently moved into Philadelphia’s new Comcast Center. Comcast is one of the principal partners on the channel, along with PBS, Sesame Workshop and London-based HIT Entertainment. The 24-hour channel runs ads but has “very strict policies” about what it accepts, Wax says. No sugary cereals, for example, but “[we] love the Geico gecko,” she says.

Brandon: No useful data from venting listeners

“You know, this is not a forum that gives us usable research,” WYPR President Tony Brandon says in a Baltimore Sun column on the Feb. 20 community meeting that drew some 300 supporters of fired host Marc Steiner. Brandon sat “at the front of the auditorium, with his back to the crowd, and didn’t speak during the meeting,” the Sun reported. The new mid-day show hosted by Steiner’s replacement, former Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, debuts today at noon.

More responses to “Is PBS Still Necessary?”

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, the NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer and NewsHour viewers respond to the recent New York Times column, “Is PBS Still Necessary?” Lehrer tells the New York Observer: “I read that and I said, my god, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t know where he got his position. But it wasn’t based on any reporting.”

Steiner fracas continues in Baltimore

Three weeks after Baltimore’s WYPR-FM dumped Marc Steiner, fans of the longtime talk-show host are still registering their dissatisfaction. Online hubs of activity include the glitzy Bring Steiner Back and the somewhat humbler Save the Steiner Show. Supporters of Steiner can also sign a petition, buy T-shirts and join a Facebook group. More than 300 Steiner fans attended a meeting of WYPR’s Community Advisory Board Feb. 20 to voice their unhappiness, reports the Baltimore Sun.

Pittsburgh station swap gets new wave of attention

Recent coverage of Sen. John McCain’s conflicts of interest has refocused attention on his role in the attempted sale of WQEX-TV, sister station of Pittsburgh’s WQED, and his ties to lobbyist Vicki Iseman, who was involved in the deal. Iseman was “terrific, very aggressive and very supportive of what we were trying to do,” said WQED President George Miles in a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article. In a defense of McCain published on the Huffington Post, Lanny Davis, WQED’s lobbyist at the time, says “what I wanted Senator McCain to do, he refused to do. And he did so out of a concern of appearances of impropriety. That is a fact.”

Mundt heads to Louisville

Todd Mundt, until recently the director of content and media for upstart network Iowa Public Radio, is leaving for the Public Radio Partnership in Louisville, Ky. He’ll serve as director of new media strategies at the Partnership. Donovan Reynolds, president of the three-station network, previously worked with Mundt while head of Michigan Public Media in Ann Arbor.

New Hampshire pubTV splits from university

New Hampshire Public Television is separating from the The University System of New Hampshire, reports the Portsmouth Herald News. USNH will continue to hold NHPTV’s broadcasting license, but the station’s board will take over management of day-to-day operations, including employment. Steps to make NHPTV, which has been part of the university since 1960, a separate nonprofit will take place over the next year. “This change is an opportunity for NHPTV to more nimbly adapt and respond to viewer needs and interests,” said station head Peter A. Frid, “and to provide targeted educational programs, partnerships and services to the greater New Hampshire community.”

Americans won’t pay “twice” for TV?

“There’s a fundamental difference between paying for radio and paying for a channel on TV,” writes syndicated columnist Ben Grabow. People don’t give money to PBS, he says, because “television, unlike radio, requires a subscription” and viewers don’t want to “pay twice” for a TV connection and content. Not accounting for digital over-the-air signals, Grabow writes, “a new television fresh from the box, unlike its black and white predecessor, offers nothing but fuzz” and “with local stations scaling back the analog signal, [it] all but requires a monthly cable or satellite fee.”

A better search tool

“Public radio and TV has so much wonderful inventory–if I cannot find it, has it any value?” asks Robert Patterson in his blog. Writing from the FASTForward tech conference about “search-driven innovation,” he writes, “I have come to the conclusion that higher levels of search–enabling me to have it my way and to reflect back in real time my preferences to the producers–is going to be key to any system that public media rolls out.”