Visitors get behind-the-scenes peek at Austin City Limits construction

Pubcasters including WNET President Neil Shapiro and Malcolm Brett, PBS Board member and director of broadcasting and media innovations for Wisconsin Public Television, donned hardhats and jaunty reflector vests for a May 19 tour of the spiffy new Austin City Limits theater construction in Austin (background, Current, July 20, 2009). Leading the group through the maze of building material was Bill Stotesbery, g.m. of KLRU. It’s part of a $300 million downtown redevelopment just across from city hall. The 2,500-seat venue is on schedule for a December opening, and funding work is going well. Above, that’s the stage to the right and seating to the left.

Veterans for Peace says Wisconsin PTV outreach “militaristic”

A veterans’ group is complaining that Wisconsin Public Television’s LZ Lambeau outreach event this weekend “has become a pro-war exhibition aimed at getting kids into the military,” writes the Green Bay Press Gazette. Veterans for Peace will conduct its own workshops and discussions on recruiting, combat stress and ongoing international conflicts as the massive event takes place in Lambeau Field (Current, July 6, 2009). WPT envisions the weekend as a tribute to Vietnam-era veterans who never received a proper welcome home. But the Veterans for Peace website calls the happening “a militaristic fair.” LZ Lambeau Project Manager Don Jones told the Press Gazette he welcomes Veterans for Peace participation, and there will be space at Lambeau Field for all veterans’ groups to distribute literature.

Idaho PTV wilderness filming banned for being “commercial”

A forest supervisor’s decision to stop Idaho Public Television from filming in a wilderness area has sparked a U.S. Forest Service investigation, reports the Associated Press. Even Gov. Butch Otter called the ban an “ill-advised decision.” IPTV has been filming in the 2.3-million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area for more than 30 years but this year was told the shoot is considered commercial, and therefore prohibited. “If Ansel Adams were alive today and wanted to bring his camera into the Frank Church wilderness, would the Forest Service let him?” said IPTV g.m. Peter Morrill.

NewsHour’s Crystal retiring in August

Lester Crystal, the president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is retiring on Aug. 31, the production company of PBS NewsHour said in a statement. He will continue as a senior advisor through the end of the year. Crystal was hired in 1983 to transition the show from the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report to the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. He became president of the production company in 2005.

World project to kick off July 1

CPB President Pat Harrison announced a July 1 launch of the multiplatform World content project (Current, Sept. 8, 2009), and told station execs May 20 in Austin that CPB would cover their fees for the first year of carriage. The long-awaited project will use emerging media to draw in producers and news consumers of more widely varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as a younger crowd. The work is being developed by partners including WGBH, ITVS, the Bay Area Video Coalition, NPR and members of the Minority Consortia. One of the first projects is “The Skin You’re In,” incorporating content from stations, viewers and users about everything from genetics to tattoos, to explore the the idea of identity.

“Cove-like” pubaffairs site coming soon to stations from PBS

Starting this fall, Frontline will be more aggressive with viewer engagement on the Web, Executive Producer David Fanning said during yesterday’s panel on PBS’s news and public affairs initiative, moderated by NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. “A narrative bright line runs through the mists of material,” Fanning said. “The idea is to say, here it is, but you don’t have to stay up three nights to figure it out.” Documents will be posted and Frontline journalists will point site visitors to the most important facts. “The Cigarette Papers” in 1998 provides a good example: “Five thousand pages of a drama in three acts starting in 1952,” Fanning said.

Lasar analyzes prospects for Free Press crusade to fund public media

Free Press’s proposals to expand federal subsidies for public media may be one of many “long shot crusades” launched by the progressive media reform group, writes Matthew Lasar in Ars Technica, but one thing is certain–commercial broadcasters and electronics manufacturers “will protest these ideas early, often, and very loudly if any of them actually surface in a Congressional bill.” Lasar believes that Free Press raises important questions about how to fund the journalism that is vital to democracy, and media reformers are better advocates for a new funding mechanism than public broadcasters themselves. “Public television in particular has sunk into a comfortable malaise of genteel poverty and compromise with the very commercial practices it was originally designed to transcend.”

Evans joins ranks of pubradio station chiefs

Pubradio programming veteran Jody Evans will sign on as executive director of Western North Carolina Public Radio in June. Evans, former p.d. of Austin’s KUT and Vermont Public Radio, was appointed after a national search for a new manager at the Asheville-based public radio outlet known as the “Mountain Air Network.” “Jody has experience building a statewide public radio organization in Vermont and has a passion for strengthening community-based programming,” said WNCPR Board Chair Lach Zemp. Evans directed programming at VPR when it split its network to offer two distinct services–all-news and all-classical. WNCPR also broadcasts two different program streams: classical music and news on WCQS 88.1 and its network of FM translators, and all-news on WYQS 90.5.

Frontline will go year-round with $6 million grant from CPB

CPB is providing Frontline with a $6 million grant to allow it to produce programs year-round, according to the New York Times. The show is also strengthening its cooperation with journalism schools and nonprofit news orgs, including the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica, e.p. David Fanning told the paper. More of its original reporting will go onto the Web, and more content will be shared with pubTV and pubradio stations. And “Frontline/World,” its international coverage partnership with KQED in San Francisco and WGBH in Boston, will move entirely online.

Meacham could join Stewart in Clinton’s lap, Shales retorts

In an online chat yesterday, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales responded to complaints about a remark in his vividly critical May 11 review of Need to Know’s premiere that co-host Alison Stewart “looked as though she would have been much more comfortable in [Bill] Clinton’s lap” during an interview with the former president. Shales said that he only meant that Stewart seemed too cozy with Clinton. “I perhaps should have said that cohost Jon Meacham looked as though he wanted to broadcast from Clinton’s lap, too. They were both too soft on Bill, but then he brings that out in journalists — of both sexes. .

All eating green eggs and ham, no doubt

Coming to you from Austin, a whole bunch of PBSers and station folks disguised as Cats in their Hats at breakfast today. Ironically, Martin Short (just left of center), the voice of the lead character in this fall’s “Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That” on PBS, appears to be the only one in the entire hall without one. Kate Klimo, longtime editor of Theodor Seuss Geisel, told the crowd in the later PBS Kids session that Audrey Geisel “maintains close personal contact with her husband in the hereafter,” and told Klimo that it was “PBS or nothing” for a Cat in the Hat animated series. “Because, you see, Dr. Seuss had very high standards,” Klimo said. “For him PBS represented everything good about children’s TV.”

Blogosphere blow-out preventer backfires on Ifill

As blogosphere spats go, this one is rather perplexing. Washington Week in Review’s Gwen Ifill doesn’t name the “journalism professor from New York University” and “self-appointed media critic” who recently described her show as the quintessential example of everything that is wrong with political journalism. Ifill would have preferred to ignore the Washington Post opinion piece by this nobody, she acknowledges in a reply posted May 13 on WWR’s website: “Fighting against blogs is a lot like trying to stop oil escaping from a blowout preventer – it can go on forever. Hitting that ‘send’ key can get you in deep,” she writes. Ifill defends her political roundtable show as a refuge from cable TV news nets, a show for people who “want more light than heat; who do not turn their televisions on to watch yet one more group of pundits race past explanation to battle.”The critic that Ifill chose not to name is Jay Rosen, a leading advocate for public journalism who blogs, tweets, and is often called upon to share his opinions on the future of journalism.Rosen aimed his WashPo critique not at the tone of the banter around Ifill’s Friday night PBS mainstay, but at the political journalists she brings in to distill the week’s news.

Cooney, Fanning honored in Austin

Children’s television pioneer and Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney is the recipient of this year’s Be More Award from PBS. She accepted her honor at the PBS National Meeting, continuing in Austin. From the podium, PBS President Paula Kerger said Cooney’s work from 1968 to 1990 at her Children’s Television Workshop makes her “one of the single greatest educators of children in the world.” Former Be More winners include Bill Moyers and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Frontline’s David Fanning received the 38th annual Ralph Lowell Award from CPB last night in Austin.

Study of 21 pubTV stations shows median of 57 underwriters

A 7 a.m. session with an overflow crowd? The results of the 2010 Local Underwriting Category Study lured folks in, coffee in hand, at the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin. The research was conducted by Enginuity Workshop, formerly Public Radio Partners. The workshop’s Jim Taszarek said he believes this is the first such report for pubTV, although pubradio has compiled similar research for years.Notable: Event revenue pulled in a half-million dollars at one station (the report didn’t name stations but  linked to their data). Another sold $600,000 in sponsorships for high school sports broadcasts.

APTS board forms CEO search committee

The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) Board of Trustees has formed a CEO search committee to fill its top spot, vacated when Larry Sidman recently left after a year in the job (Current, March 14, 2010). Committee co-chairs are Polly Anderson, g.m. of KNME-TV, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Elizabeth Christopherson, president of the Rita Allen Foundation, Princeton, N.J. Committee members: APTS Board Chairman Rod Bates, g.m., Nebraska Educational Telecommunication; DeAnne Hamilton, g.m. of WKAR, East Lansing, Mich.; John Harris III, president of Prairie Public Television, Fargo, N.D.; Skip Hinton, NETA president; Tom Karlo, g.m. of KPBS, San Diego; and Lonna Thompson, APTS acting president. The committee will develop a job description, set a timeline, and evaluate search firms. plans for online national fundraising heats up session in Austin

In a sometimes acrimonious session at the PBS national meeting in Austin, station reps and PBS execs faced off over the controversial topic of online national fundraising on session had been intended to introduce PBS’s new development s.v.p. Brian Reddington and give an update on development work; he announced at the top of the meeting that there had been “a change in agenda to emphasize what we are doing to strengthen the stations’ economic health.”Reddington provided a bit more information on one topic that station reps have been wondering (and talking and worrying) about, PBS’s national online fundraising project. PBS has “engaged a strategic partner,” M+R Strategic Services of Washington, D.C., which has helped develop fundraising for nonprofs including AARP, the Human Rights Campaign and Oxfam America. Many details — including the all-important formula for how PBS will share online revenues and potential member emails with the stations — are still being worked out. PBS hopes to launch the online donation campaign by this fall.Reddington assured the audience that the effort will be coordinated with stations’ own online and donor work. “I won’t be going into your territory without your knowledge and consent,” he said.

Scholarship and studio named in honor of Smiley’s producer, Sheryl Flowers

Tavis Smiley and Clark Atlanta University have donated $25,000 each to establish the Sheryl Flowers Scholarship at the university. Flowers, a Clark graduate who helped shape Smiley’s public radio talk shows, died of breast cancer last June at the age of 42. She was supervising producer of his daily NPR show starting in 2002 and e.p. of the two-hour weekly Public Radio International show that had its 5th anniversary in April. The PRI show is produced in a Los Angeles studio named for Flowers. The scholarship includes an internship with Clark’s WCLK-FM and with the Smiley show.

New standard proposed for mapping impactful public media: Zing!

How do you define success for a media project that reaches beyond broadcast and tries to engage audiences Web 2.0-style? In an evaluation of its Makers Quest 2.0 initiative, the Association for Independents in Radio, Inc., and American University’s Center for Social Media assert the time has come to break from the ratings-based methodologies developed for public radio by researcher David Giovannoni in the influential CPB-backed study Audience 88. “Looking forward, we must recognize as a point of departure that the current system puts highest value on media that attract and hold the greatest number of individuals in one place for the longest amount of time,” write co-authors of “Spreading the Zing: Reimagining Public Media through Makers Quest 2.0,” a report released early this month. “In the new public media world, and as we seek new ways to understand and define effective public media 2.0, this emphasis on the core listening audience becomes obsolete; we now must consider the core audience as just one element in a larger ecology.”AIR’s Sue Schardt and CSM’s Jessica Clark adapted assessment tools from the center’s 2009 white paper Public Media 2.0, and developed five standards for evaluating Makers Quest projects. Their “elements of impact” are reach, inclusion, innovation, engagement and “zing,” a quality melding the extent to which media craftsmanship inspires people to act or participate.

APM reassigns American RadioWorks doc unit

American Public Media is cutting production of American RadioWorks, the investigative documentary series that won a duPont-Columbia Silver Baton in January. MinnPost’s David Brauer reports that Executive Editor and host Stephen Smith and some members of his team will remain at APM to produce coverage of higher education and sustainability, which are priority editorial topics for APM. “Some of this work will appear as ARW docs, some will be shorter in nature and appear in regular programs such as Marketplace or as specials,” writes Judy McAlpine, senior v.p. of national content, in a memo to staff. “Along with the documentary work, we will continue to build out smaller features and online content as part of these projects. As a result of this realignment, ARW will no longer be a stand-alone editorial team.