Not our petitions, NPR says

NPR released a statement today (July 30) to Poynter Institute blogger Jim Romenesko, that it is “not involved in any way” with petitions circulating online that ask the White House Correspondents Association to give now-retired longtime reporter Helen Thomas’s front-row seat in the White House briefing room to the network. Petitions have been put forward by CREDO Action, a progressive advocacy site; it already has 254,218 signatures to give the chair to NPR rather than FOX News. Another progressive online group,, is also getting involved. “NPR was not consulted about either petition and we learned about them via Facebook and e-mail. We have no position on the petitions, and no comment on the other media organizations that are competing for the seat,” the statement said.

Dish Network finally inks pubcasting deal, just not with APTS

After the Association of Public Television Stations spent several years trying to get the satellite provider Dish Network to sign a carriage deal for HD noncoms, Dish finally has done so. But not with APTS. Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that Dish has struck an independent HD carriage agreement with at least 30 “geographically diverse” pubcasting stations.

Pittston, Pa., pubradio nearing return to the airwaves

WVIA-FM 89.9 in Pittston, Pa., will return to the air Aug. 3 after a $2 million fire five months ago completely destroyed its transmission facilities, the station said in a statement today (July 29). The fire began while electricians who were working on the building on Penobscot Mountain accidentally set the ceiling ablaze. Many listeners have been affected, the statement says, “from difficulty with a signal that is spotty and barely satisfactory, to the complete absence of WVIA-FM in several areas that once received it.” The station has been operating out of a trailer next to the site.

International Sesame Streets now on demand through Amazon

For the first time, fans can watch individual episodes of Sesame Street’s international productions via Amazon Video On Demand. Included are co-productions from Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Palestine, Russia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, India and Egypt, the Sesame Workshop said in a statement July 29. (Image: Sesame Workshop)

MHz develops social networking/learning site for the digital media industry

Indie pubcasting network MHz is partnering with IDMAonline on a new website that offers a “social learning network specifically for the digital media industry,” the two announced in a statement Monday (July 26). Site members have access to the Commons, to meet with colleagues and ask and answer questions. What makes the site unique, the two said in the statement, is the “live online” professional training in the digital media arts: multimedia, filmmaking, animation and photography. There are full certificate programs and mentorship initiatives where students can focus on a specific topic. MHz Worldview, MHz Networks’ flagship channel, brings international programs to audiences though cable, satellite and online affiliates.

Lehrer came into Emanuel interview with “pre-conceived notions”: CPB ombudsman

CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode faults PBS NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer for “an opportunity lost and a lesson in what can happen when an interview is constructed on the basis of pre-conceived notions.” In Bode’s latest report, he’s reacting to a viewer’s complaints that Lehrer “has increasingly lost his impartiality,” particularly in an interview with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “It seemed designed to build a narrative that President Obama has slow political reflexes and is disengaged from key decisions of his administration,” Bode said of the July 7 interview. “Mr. Emanuel convinced this viewer otherwise.”

KCET lays off 13

At an all-station meeting in Los Angeles Tuesday (July 27), KCET staffers were told that 13 employees are being laid off. Cuts come from across several departments, and at least one vice president is affected. In June 2009, KCET cut 12 full-time and part-time staffers and announced furloughs and pay cuts. The station also dropped its 45-year-old program guide that month, citing financial reasons.

LJCs launch in Upper Midwest, Florida

Two of the local journalism centers backed by CPB in April are up and running. “Changing Gears,” helmed by New York Times veteran Micheline “Micki” Maynard, has launched its website and a blog pointing readers to coverage from the three partner stations, Chicago’s WBEZ, Michigan Radio, and Cleveland’s ideastream., a collaboration of five public stations in central Florida, has hired Jennifer Molina to lead its editorial team. Launch plans for additional LJCs are still pending; Fronteras, the largest collaboration to be announced so far, is recruiting a social media editor for its project covering immigration and border issues in the Southwest.

Working group begins planning PBS national online giving initiative

PBS is moving ahead with its national online giving campaign, a topic of much conversation within the system (Current, June 7, 2010). The working group recently met for preliminary talks. Station reps include Tim Olson, veep of digital media and education at KQED; Kelly McCullough, g.m. at Eight/Arizona PBS; Joe Krushinsky, veep of institutional advancement at MPT; Ken Yanhs, director of WGBH Online; Michal Heiplik, director of membership at Houston PBS; Shane Guiter, KLRU’s director of development in Austin, Texas; Robert Altman, president of WMHT in Troy, N.Y., with David Preston, Twin Cities Public TV membership manager, speaking for the Development Advisory Council.And fear not: Despite rumors of the DAC’s demise, it’s still up and running. DAC and PBS continue to mold its future role with the network, which is evolving in the wake of four positions eliminated in PBS Development as of June 15. Those staffers had specialized in several aspects of station fundraising.PBS recently hired Carol Sorber as its director of professional development; she’d held similar positions at several law firms. According to a PBS internal memo, she will “coordinate our professional development offerings to stations and develop a leadership training curriculum.”

New home for Democracy Now!: greener than gold

Take a look at Democracy Now’s new studio/offices in lower Manhattan, the first broadcast facility to receive LEED Platinum rating for low adverse environmental impact ­– low energy and water usage, high levels of recycled materials, and the rest, says a report in the July/August architecture mag Metropolis. Extra care in design and construction, such as using sheetrock that’s not only recycled but locally made, helped the handsome, not-too-lush renovation of a former printing plant win the top rating from the U.S. Green Building Council (study up). Co-hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez guest-star in the slideshow.

Fund to back reporting collaborations for Philadelphia

An accountability journalism project announced last week by J-Lab will back in-depth reporting and collaborations among news organizations in the Philadelphia region. The Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Fund is seeking proposals for enterprise, investigative, explanatory or computer-assisted reporting projects that enhance public understanding of important city or regional issues, engage in developing solutions or reveal new information. Collaboration–among news creators or between journalists and programmers, for example–is a key focus of the project. “This experimental pilot is intended to demonstrate the power and potential for increased civic accountability when strong, professional public affairs news operations are given incentives and resources to work together in the public interest,” said Shawn McCaney, program officer with the William Penn Foundation, which created the Fund. The project follows up on the findings of J-Lab’s recent analysis of the landscape of online news covering regional Philadelphia.

Sale of licenses could help NJN become a “model” of pubmedia, prof writes

The struggling New Jersey Network should turn into a public corporation, sell off several of its licenses and use that money to become a private community nonprofit. That would “turn it from an outdated television network into a model for multiplatform public media that fits the conditions of the twenty-first century.” So says Princeton Prof. Paul Starr in “A Future for Public Media in New Jersey: How to Create a New Basis for Public Radio, TV, and Online Media in One of American Journalism’s Worst Covered States.” The Trenton-based think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective released the paper today (July 27) as statehouse discussions over the future of NJN continue (Current, July 6, 2010). “The hour is late to save NJN,” Starr warns in the report.

Nigeria meets the Muppet it named

Sesame Workshop is welcoming a new Muppet to the family at Sesame Square in Nigeria. On Monday (July 26) Zobi made his public appearance – the first Muppet to be named via a mobile phone vote, with callers from around the country. Sesame Square launches later this year in Nigeria. It will be hosted by Kami, an HIV-positive girl Muppet, and Zobi, a furry blue boy Muppet. In a statement from the Workshop, Zobi said: “I’m so excited about telling all of you all about my favorite things – and especially about my obsession with yams!

Unwelcome competition in Delmarva

Pubcasters on Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula are not rolling out the welcome wagon for their newest neighbor, WRAU 88.3 in Ocean City, a station simulcasting NPR News and talk programming from WAMU in Washington, D.C.

The region now has five public radio stations broadcasting NPR News shows, reports the Delmarva Daily Times, including a signal from Baltimore’s WYPR broadcasting on 106.9 FM. “If WAMU were to bring a different format, we’d welcome it with open arms,” says Gerry Weston, g.m. of Public Radio Delmarva. “Those stations [WRAU and Baltimore’s WYPO] have resources in big cities and they are deciding to come down here.” WAMU PD Mark McDonald says listeners lobbied his station to expand its signal into the Delmarva region. “There will be duplication, but our aim is to be distinctive in our local coverage,” he tells the Daily Times.

Princeton ending University Channel, 121 pubstations affected

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that on Nov. 3, Princeton University is ending its University Channel, which provides academic programming to schools and 121 pubTV stations. A statement from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs said the cancellation was due to financial reasons. The online audio and video service began in 2005 and supplies lectures by scholars on political affairs from 47 colleges both here and overseas. ” …

“This Old House” warns of end of civilization; that’s a tough renovation

This Old House is looking for those new faces, according to the Hartford Courant. Yes, the perennial pubcasting fave is putting out a casting call for painters and electricians, particularly those in New England. Perhaps the show is bracing for the upcoming rebuilding efforts after the end of the world. Yes, tucked between stories on its home page including “How to Install a Solar Attic Fan” and “Lawn-Less Yard Solutions,” is this terrifying headline: “10 U.S. Cities That Could Disappear Tomorrow.” Egad.

Attention, social (media) butterflies

CPB is looking for a social media guru. An RFP on its website says that stations tell CPB they want to improve social media skills, learn best practices and increase their use of the online services. The consulting contract is for six months.

UNC-TV lays down its press shield

Is a public TV station licensed to a state university system an agency of the state if a legislative committee says so? Attorneys and management at North Carolina’s UNC-TV network conceded that it is, and earlier this month obeyed a General Assembly committee’s demands that it turn over reporting materials from a journalist’s investigation into the licensing of hydroelectric dams by aluminum giant Alcoa.

NPR’s Daniel Schorr dies at 93

Veteran newsman Daniel Schorr, a pioneer of broadcast journalism who was part of Edward R. Murrow’s legendary CBS team, died this morning (July 23) after a short illness at the age of 93, NPR announced. Since 1985, Schorr was a senior news analyst on Weekend Edition and All Things Considered; his last segment was July 10. Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition, said in a statement, “I was privileged to know Dan Schorr for 25 years and cherish him as a fierce journalist, and a tender friend and father. We used to joke, ‘I’m not Dan’s son. But I play Dan’s son on the radio.’ Sharing the studio with him, and so many laughs and memories, has been the blessing of a lifetime.”Schorr’s news career began in 1946 as a foreign correspondent for Christian Science Monitor, then the New York Times.