NPR hires two reporters, WXXI news director rappels down 21 stories, and more…

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Ann Thompson

Leila Fadel, Cairo bureau chief for the Washington Post, signs on as NPR’s Cairo-based correspondent in July. She covered the Iraq War for almost five years and won a George Polk Award in 2007 for her reporting from Baghdad. She replaces Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who will report from Kabul, Afghanistan, and then Berlin.

Corey FlintoffGregory Warner, a senior reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace, will join NPR as East Africa correspondent, based in Nairobi, Kenya, in December. Warner now covers the economics and business of healthcare, but he’s previously reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the DR Congo. Warner replaces Gwen Thompkins, who is now living in New Orleans and writing a book of short stories. John Burnett, an NPR correspondent based in Texas, has taken an extended assignment to cover Africa until Warner takes over.

To fill another key post, NPR appointed Corey Flintoff as its Moscow correspondent. He has covered the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, and was a correspondent for NPR’s digital news division. David Greene, now the primary substitute host for Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Saturday and Sunday, had previously been NPR’s Moscow-based correspondent.

Pennsylvania lawmakers recognized Rick Sebak, creator of public TV’s popular “scrapbook documentary” genre, with a resolution marking his 25th anniversary at WQED in Pittsburgh.

Lead sponsors of the Pennsylvania House resolution, presented May 9, were Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny/Washington) and Rep. Paul Costa (D-Allegheny). In addition to his popular local documentaries on Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, fondly remembered amusement parks and favorite restaurants, Sebak “has produced more than a dozen national programs for PBS that celebrate various aspects of modern American culture,” including “a perennial summertime favorite” titled A Hot Dog Program, the proclamation noted. Sebak also was nominated for two Primetime Emmys for Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor.

Julie Philipp, news director at WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., dangled off the side of a downtown building on May 17 to record an “Audio Postcard.”

 Philipp goes to extreme heights to promote WXXI’s service to youth. (Photo: WXXI)

Philipp goes to extreme heights to promote WXXI’s service to youth. (Photo: WXXI)

The adventure was part of the local Boy Scout Council’s “21 Stories for Scouts” fundraising event. Only participants collecting more than $1,000 qualify to rappel down 309 feet, or 21 stories, from the roof of the First Federal Plaza Building.

The council invites the media to climb down skyscrapers the day before the official fundraiser. “I thought it would be a unique way for WXXI News to highlight the commitment we’ve made to covering issues related to at-risk youth in our community,” Philipp told Current. Philipp was up for the challenge because she is unafraid of heights. Her athletic pastimes include indoor rock climbing, downhill skiing and mountain climbing.

The station has been creating “Audio Postcards” for several years, Philipp said. “It’s a great way to capitalize on the strengths of public radio: sound, storytelling, and a personal connection with the listener.”

Because this particular postcard provided such great visuals, Phillipp treated it as a multimedia story. She tapped two WXXI videographers to shoot her descent — one from the top of the building and one from the ground — using small Canon HD camcorders and wore a digital camera on her helmet.

The helmet cam footage was edited by WXXI’s Martin Kaufman. (See the results at

Anne Brachman is the new director of government affairs at CPB.

Anne BrachmanBrachman, who began work in May, serves as the primary liaison between CPB and the federal government, and oversees CPB’s interactions with national organizations and stations in federal funding, authorization and other policy issues. She previously was manager for international and government affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association, a Washington, D.C.–based trade association representing several hundred global telecommunications equipment manufacturers. There, she was responsible for implementing the organization’s international policy efforts and representing member companies before U.S. and other governments. She began her career in the Capitol Hill office of Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).


Former WTTW producer Patricia Barey is co-author of a book coming out in August about a little-known aspect of Julia Child’s life. Julia’s Cats: Julia Child’s Life in the Company of Cats draws on letters and original interviews to reveal the famous pubcasting chef’s relationship with the many felines in her life, from the very first, Minette, a stray that arrived at the Child’s doorstep soon after she and her husband, Paul, arrived in Paris. Co-author is Therese Burson, Barey’s partner in the film production company Tellens, with offices in Tucson, Ariz., and Evanston, Ill.

Cheryl DringAfter a nationwide search, KMFA-FM in Austin, Texas, has hired Cheryl Dring as program director. Starting in August, Dring will oversee talent development and production quality, and manage special programming and community engagement initiatives. She is currently director of music programming at Wisconsin Public Radio, and has held positions as classical music director at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, Calif., and classical music manager at WWNO in New Orleans.

Duncan McFadyen, WCQS-FM morning news host and reporter since March 2011, is leaving the Asheville, N.C., pubradio station to assume the same role across the state at WFAE-FM in Charlotte. “We hate to see him leave,” said Jody Evans, WCQS executive director, “but we all knew he was destined for great things when we hired him. The best part is that Duncan will still be heard from time to time on WCQS when he files stories for the North Carolina Public Radio Association’s news sharing initiative.”

Bob Edwards, former Morning Edition host now with Sirius XM Radio, will be named a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists “for his extraordinary contribution to journalism,” the society said. He’ll be inducted at the Excellence in Journalism conference, cosponsored by the Radio Television Digital News Association, Sept. 20–22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Past honorees include Edward R. Murrow in 1951, Charles Kuralt in 1981 and Tim Russert in 2008.

Veteran journalist Robbie Harris will be chief of the new bureau covering southwestern Virginia’s New River Valley for Roanoke’s WVTF Public Radio and Radio IQ. Harris is the former news director of WBEZ in Chicago and WHYY in Philadelphia. She’s won numerous honors for her reporting, including a 1991 Public Radio News Directors Inc. award for best documentary for A Pearl Harbor Remembrance, her six-hour radio re-creation of Dec. 7, 1941. The bureau will be based in Blacksburg, Va.

Ann ThompsonAnn Thompson, a reporter and news anchor for WVXU-FM in Cincinnati, is one of seven U.S. journalists selected to go to South Korea this month to report on the country’s free trade agreement with the United States, the upcoming presidential election and new media. She will spend 12 days visiting Seoul, Pusan and Gwangju. “I like to expand my horizons,” said Thompson, voted by the Associated Press as best reporter for Ohio large market radio in 2011. “A couple of years ago, I did a similar trip to Germany and Belgium, and a couple years before that another one to Japan. Opportunities like this are educational and allow good stories to be brought back here.” She will meet leaders in education, politics, business and journalism. The Korea-United States Journalists Exchange began in 2005 with funding from the East-West Center in Hawaii, the Henry Luce Foundation and the Korea Press Foundation.


Jonathan Ahl, news director at Iowa Public Radio, departed the network as of May 31. Neither Ahl nor Mary Grace Herrington, network c.e.o., would discuss his reasons for leaving or the circumstances of his departure. Ahl told Current he is looking for work; he had joined the station in July 2008. He also stepped down as president of the board of the Public Radio News Directors Inc., where he was in his second term. George Bodarky, news and public affairs director at WFUV-FM in New York, will serve as acting PRNDI president until a board election takes place June 30. “PRNDI would like to thank Jonathan Ahl, affectionately known as ‘the chief,’ for his strong commitment to the organization over the years,” the organization said on its website.

Randy Feldman, president and g.m. of pubTV station WYES in New Orleans since 1990, will step down at the end of the year. Feldman announced his retirement to WYES board members June 4, saying he wanted to focus on his personal life. Before departing, Feldman plans to finish private fundraising for the second phase of a $2.5 million capital campaign financing a new $7 million, 20,000-square-foot station facility. “This is as good a time as any,” Feldman said. “We’ll have funding and other things in place, and then someone can take it home from there.”

Lee Ferraro will step down as g.m. of WYEP-FM in Pittsburgh after helping the station’s board find his successor. The decision to depart was entirely his own, Ferraro told Current. He has served as g.m. of the station for 16 years, and was recently involved with the acquisition of Pittsburgh’s WDUQ-FM, now known as Essential Public Radio. Ferraro said he plans to take some time off but will stay involved with public radio. Under Ferraro’s leadership, WYEP’s weekly listeners grew from 45,000 to 95,000, and its membership increased from 3,000 to 6,000.

John McCarroll, executive director of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), will retire by the end of the year, he told the authority’s board last week. McCarroll arrived at OETA in 2003 from KLRU-TV, the PBS station in Austin, Texas. His accomplishments include completion of the $12 million digital conversion of the Oklahoma Network, which required the replacement of 18 transmitters; construction of a new OETA studio; and two regional Emmy Awards for his work on OETA projects. OETA Board Chair Dr. James Utterback said he will appoint a search committee to recruit McCarroll’s replacement.

Veteran broadcaster Sky Daniels will serve as interim g.m. of KCSN/Los Angeles, as Karen Kearns returns to teaching at licensee California State University, Northridge. Kearns will be a professor of radio and media management in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. Daniels joined the station last summer as program director, and will handle those duties as well. Kearns spent three years at the station, shepherding its transition from a predominantly classical music format to contemporary music, or “Triple-A” programming. She also established the station’s HD channels and created KCSN’s classical online programming. “I believe Sky is the perfect person to take the station to the next level,” Kearns said. “I look forward to returning to the classroom and teaching students who can then assist him in his mission as interns at the station.”


Bill Gray, corporate spokesperson for Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, has departed for a post as chief communications officer for People Incorporated. The Twin Cities–based nonprofit operates 40-plus human services programs for persons living with mental illness, traumatic brain injuries, developmental disabilities and other brain disorders. Prior to joining MPR/APM two years ago, Gray spent nine years working in Minnesota’s nonprofit sector and four years at the Twin Cities’ largest PR firm, Weber Shandwick. He also has worked as a journalist and as a legislative aide to U.S. Congressman Sidney Yates (D-Ill.).

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