CPI hires four, Abumrad gets $500K MacArthur fellowship, three join FCC panel, and more…

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Ellen Weiss

Ellen Weiss, the NPR News chief who took the network’s blame for the Juan Williams affair, has joined the Center for Public Integrity as its executive editor as of Oct. 3, the watchdog newsroom announced. The center is headed by one of her predecessors at NPR, Bill Buzenberg.

“Ellen Weiss is one of the best and most creative news executives in the business,” he said in a news release. CPI hired three other top editors, including Christine Montgomery, the center’s new chief digital officer, who was managing editor of PBS.org for two years while it expanded and then sharply reduced its online-news plans.

Montgomery is also president of the Online News Association, which just held its annual meeting in Boston.

Weiss worked at NPR News for most of its first 29 years, including 12 as e.p. of All Things Considered and head of the National Desk and the past five as senior v.p. for news, managing more than 400 staffers, a $75 million budget and 36 news bureaus.

The center, based in Washington, D.C., also hired former Washington Post reporter R. Jeffrey Smith as managing editor of its National Security Desk; Australian journalist Gerard Ryle as director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; and investigative journalist John Dunbar as managing editor of its Financial Desk. Since 1990 the nonprofit, nonpartisan center has released more than 475 investigative reports and 17 books on aspects of accountability for government and other major institutions.

Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad gets $500K MacArthur fellowship

Jad Abumrad speaking at PRPD Sept. 2011

Jad Abumrad speaking at PRPD, Sept. 2011.

Jad Abumrad, auteur/producer and co-host of WNYC’s Radiolab, is one of 22 scientists and other creative types who will receive $500,000 MacArthur Fellowships — also known as “genius grants” — in recognition of their achievements and potential. “This show is the central creative mission of my life right now, and the money might give me the space to bring new things into it,” Abumrad said in a New York Times article reporting the awards from the MacArthur Foundation.

MacArthur called him “a radio producer engaging a new generation of listeners with audio explorations of scientific and philosophical questions that recreate the thrill of discovery.” Fellows are U.S. residents who have shown “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Ramer reupped as CPB chair, Cahill elected vice chair

Hollywood powerhouse attorney Bruce Ramer was re-elected chair of the CPB Board Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C. The new vice chair is Patricia Deal Cahill, g.m. of KCUR-FM in Kansas City, Mo., who coincidentally announced the next day that she’ll retire from the Kansas City job in June. “I’ve been a general manager since 1976, when I was appointed in Wichita,” Cahill told the Kansas City Star. She’s headed the station since 1987 and was appointed to the CPB Board by President Barack Obama in August 2009.

Three join FCC diversity panel

Three pubcasters have been named to the FCC’s Diversity Committee. Joaquin Alvarado, senior v.p. for digital innovation for American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio; Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; and Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media, will serve on the committee, which advises the commission on policies and practices to enhance diversity in telecom. It is chaired by former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera. The committee’s first meeting will be Dec. 6.


Elizabeth Cheng, a Hearst Television executive, is the new g.m. of public TV’s World Channel, WGBH announced Sept. 20. Cheng will oversee all business, technical and creative aspects of production, distribution and marketing for the packaged channel, which was developed by WGBH and WNET in 2004 and relaunched on multiple platforms last year (Current, June 7, 2010) with CPB aid. At Hearst, Cheng was a v.p. as well as director of programming and communications for WCVB-TV in Boston and director of programming for WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., both ABC affiliates. In addition to executive-producing specials and series programming, she was in charge of Chronicle, WCVB’s nightly newsmag covering New England.

Sandie Pedlow, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting, and Joseph Tovares, CPB’s senior v.p. for diversity and innovation, are on this year’s list of Most Powerful and Influential Latinos as named by the Imagen Foundation. The nonprofit advocates positive portrayals of Latinos in entertainment media.

Kevin KloseNPR president for a decade, 1998-2008 – is stepping down as dean at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, a job he has held since February 2009. In a memo to colleagues that was posted on Jim Romenesko’s Poynter Institute blog, Klose said he will return to the classroom, “where the work of educating the next generation of journalists challenges us all,” as of July 1, 2012. He’s also a past president of the NPR Foundation and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and a former Washington Post journalist.

DeAnne Hamilton becomes president of WESA-FM in Pittsburgh, the former WDUQ, Oct. 17, Essential Public Radio announced Sept. 28. She previously was g.m. of WKAR at Michigan State University, and, before that, station manager of KQED-TV in San Francisco. Hamilton also is a member of the PBS Board. Essential Public Media finalized its $6 million deal this month to buy WDUQ from Duquesne University.

Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy is the new chair of the board of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the first public media news director elected to the position. Members chose Duffy during the 2011 Excellence in Journalism Conference Sept. 25–27 in New Orleans.

Stacey Godfrey has joined Iowa Public Radio as an executive administrative assistant. She most recently served as a legal administrative assistant and legal secretary for Hopkins and Huebner, P.C., in Adel, Iowa.


Fred Fiske, senior commentator at Washington’s WAMU, retired from radio last month at age 91. It was his 64th anniversary on the local airwaves. “It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said in his final commentary. Fiske started on radio as a child actor in the 1930s. He served in World War II under Col. Jimmy Stewart and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals. He covered the inaugurations of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower for Mutual Broadcasting. In the 1950s, Fiske hosted a midday pop-music program at Mutual’s WWDC and became the city’s top music host. He began hosting talk shows on WAMU in 1977. He’ll be honored at WAMU’s 50th anniversary gala Oct. 29.

Bob Blackman, host of the former WKAR Radio program The Folk Tradition in East Lansing, Mich., and a community advocate for folk music, received the Midwest Lifetime Achievement Award at the Folk Alliance Regional Midwest gathering Sept. 24 in Chicago. Blackman hosted Folk Tradition virtually every Sunday evening for more than 27 years until retiring in April 2010. His association with WKAR started in 1975, the same year he co-founded the Ten Pound Fiddle local bluegrass concert series. He’ll be back on-air Oct. 9 to host a four-hour fundraising special for WKAR Radio’s annual drive this week.


Joe Krushinsky, former v.p. of institutional advancement at Maryland Public Television, has joined PBS as a director of station development services with Valerie Pletcher, reporting to Joyce Herring, senior v.p., station services. The two provide training, guidance and expertise to station development professionals. Krushinsky has worked in pubcasting for 20-plus years. At CPB he directed the Public Television Future Fund.

Jennifer Kotler Clarke is the new v.p. of domestic research for Sesame Workshop, moving up from assistant v.p. Before joining the workshop, Clarke worked on evaluation of a school-based violence-prevention program at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She taught as an adjunct professor at the Teachers College at Columbia and Georgetown University.

Also at Sesame Workshop, Renee Mascara has been promoted to v.p., international media distribution. She’ll be responsible for expanding and strengthening home video and international publishing while continuing to supervise TV program sales and distribution. Mascara has been with the workshop for 25 years, most recently as v.p. of international TV distribution. She was responsible for establishing the first Sesame-branded program blocks in Poland, Hungary and Croatia, and she secured the broadcast of Bert & Ernie’s Great Adventures, the first Claymation version of Sesame Street. Before joining the workshop, Mascara spent four years at Columbia Pictures International as marketing assistant to the v.p. of merchandising.

Pittsburgh’s WQED is welcoming back Kweilin Nassar as director of broadcast sales. She held various jobs there from 1990 to 2001. This time around, Nassar handles underwriting and sponsorships for TV, radio and web services. In the interim she was a project director at the Highmark Foundation, the charitable arm of a local health care provider. She also served as executive director of the River City Brass Band in Pittsburgh.

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