Wittstock says CNC kept working in good faith to avoid collapse of news bureau

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The head of the closed Capitol News Connection bureau in Washington, Melinda Wittstock, apologized yesterday to former pubradio clients of the news service Dec. 12 and asserted that CNC was seeking only a 24 percent subsidy from CPB for 2012, and much less in 2013. CPB radio chief Bruce Theriault said that CNC asked for 100 percent support from CPB (Current, Dec. 12).

An email identified as Wittstock’s was leaked to Current today.

Everyone —

Many of you will have read the article in Current today about the very painful demise of CNC.

Confidentially, I would like to correct some inaccuracies in the piece.

1. Bruce Theriault said CNC asked CPB for “100% funding” going forward. This is false. CPB asked us for a business plan to make CNC sustainable. We needed two years of funding that represented no more than 24% and 8% of our budget respectively in 2012 and 2013. Our profound issue was cash flow, or lack of it. Further as we progressed with promising talks with several buyers, we required more time to close deals – even a tiny CPB grant would have made that possible.

2. On July 13 CPB told us funding would be “a challenge” (not that it wasn’t going to happen). This came after we had signed stations, a deliverable of our contract with CPB. At that time, we asked if CPB would be amenable to considering funding if we could find a buyer. The answer was “yes”: we started looking for a buyer. On August 24, the prospect of funding from CPB did indeed look dimmer, but we also were making significant progress on talks with several potential buyers and another six figure grant was in prospect (that ultimately did not work out).

3. At no time did Bruce Theriault confront me “point blank” about anything.

At all times we worked in good faith with all our stations and maintained in our nine years a record of honesty and transparency that all good journalists have in common.

I believed we would make it — just as I had believed (and done) many other times in CNC’s challenging funding history. My apologies to all of our station news directors, including Dan, were fulsome and sincere.

One note: I did not speak to Current about our CPB grant or Jim Russell because of confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses in our respective contracts.

If you have any questions or you want any further update I am happy to talk. And once more, I am very sorry for what happened. I tried my best and it wasn’t good enough.


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