Ira Glass’s Public Radio International program This American Life usually gets five to 10 comments per show, but after “Giant Pool of Money,” a May 9 special on the housing crisis produced in partnership with NPR’s All Things Considered, the program received nearly 100 listener comments, reports NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. ATC was also flooded with comments. Shepard lauds the producers for telling the story–13 minutes on ATC and a full hour on TAL–in a “fascinating, compelling way that anyone can understand.” The reporters “take you, the listener, along on their reporting journey where you meet (and in some cases may even like) the people who did the borrowing, the bundling, the loaning, the deceiving and the profiting–until it becomes clear that everyone involved is culpable,” she says. Listen to the ATC report here and the TAL report here.
To help employees save money on gas, West Virgina Public Broadcasting’s Beaver station (WSWP-TV Grandview/Beckley) is experimenting with a four-day work week, reports the local NBC affiliate. If it works out, WVPB may institute the schedule at other stations across the state.
After seven years as president of North Carolina Public Radio (WUNC-FM), the Raleigh News & Observer reports, Joan Siefert Rose is moving out of public radio to run the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, a long-established nonprofit that encourages “high-impact, high-growth” companies in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region. Rose came to WUNC in 2001 after four years as p.d. of Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.
WHYY’s new weekly arts show On Canvas, which premieres tonight on its digital arts channel, is “just the kind of thing the big public station in the nation’s fourth-largest TV market should be doing: a showcase of the variety of performing arts in the region,” writes Philadelphia Inquirer TV critic Jonathan Storm. He lauds the program for not crowding performances–a banjo gathering, classical Arab music, a Native American flute player, a local singer-songwriter–with interviews and explanation.
Public broadcasters have devoted millions of dollars and plenty of angst to prepare for digital broadcasts that will put more channels and HD pictures on big living-room screens. But another DTV transition that’s even more exciting to some pubTV vets is arriving in viewers’ pockets. Mobile digital TV will use slices of stations’ broadcast spectrum to beam live and prerecorded programming directly to cell phones and other handheld screens on the go. Stations will be able to multicast to this new audience while maintaining HD and standard broadcasts to steadfastly stationary sets. “Moving from analog to digital, viewers can use the same system and the same habits watching TV—it’s still a lean-back kind of situation,” says Jim Kutzner, PBS chief engineer, who serves on several industry committees working to develop the platform.
Speaking at Columbia j-school’s commencement yesterday, Fresh Air host Terry Gross tells why she gets better answers in interviews if (a) she urges subjects to draw the line when questions get too personal, (b) she lets them start over with their answers, and (c) she listens to what they say, even the boring parts. (Exception: People in politics aren’t eligible for the leeway of “a” and “b.”) Gross received the school’s highest honor, the Columbia Journalism Award.
The Washington Post approvingly surveys NPR’s earthquake coverage from China, which it describes as “a kind of throwback to an era when radio carried the first audio accounts of major events, before television crews could move bulky equipment to the scene.” All Things Considered hosts Melissa Block and Robert Siegel and seven staffers were stationed 50 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter in the Sichuan province when it happened. “Oddly, without anticipating a crisis, [the disaster] did what we were trying to do here — to put a human face on another place and its issues,” Siegel said.
The licensee of WXEL-FM/TV in Palm Beach, Fla., and New York’s WNET have dropped their 2005 agreement for WNET’s purchase of the Florida station, the Palm Beach Post reported today. Richard Zaretsky, head of a local nonprofit that was to be a part of the purchase, said the group has been raising money and can make the deal on its own. Former suitor Miami’s WPBT said it’s still interested in some arrangement with WXEL. The licensee, Barry University, put the station in play in 2004 and later agreed to sell it to WNET, but the FCC held up the license transfer. Zaretsky said the commission feared the sale would violate its policy favoring local station ownership.
Citing concerns about identity theft, Wisconsin Public Radio has traded in its pledge drive volunteers for a hired call center, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. The station doesn’t want to be responsible for someone stealing info from donors, says Jennifer Dargan, manager of on-air fundraising and volunteers, though WPR isn’t aware that any donor info has been compromised in the past. The station cannot afford the insurance that would protect it if it were sued, while the call center is covered up to $100,000 per incident. Minnesota Public Radio and WNYC in New York are also outsourcing calls.