Ifill made “big mistake” in defending fired journalist, says PBS’s ombud

In his latest column, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler considers a recent flap involving PBS NewsHour correspondent Gwen Ifill, who on Wednesday tweeted in support of fired journalist David Chalian. Chalian, the Washington bureau chief for Yahoo News, was fired after he said that Mitt Romney was “happy to have a party with black people drowning,” referring to the Republican National Convention starting as Hurricane Isaac approached New Orleans. Chalian was unaware that his microphone was on, and the comment was broadcast. Before joining Yahoo, Chalian had worked as the NewsHour’s political editor. “I can understand Ifill’s wanting to go to bat for a friend and colleague,” Getler wrote, “but my personal view is that this was a big mistake on her part, feeding, unnecessarily, a conviction among many critics and reflecting poorly on PBS.

Utah educator named director of state’s broadband network for schools

Utah Education Network, the only public TV licensee to receive a federal broadband grant and to join the national US Ignite project to develop broadband apps, has appointed a Utah school superintendent, Ray Timothy, as its c.e.o. and executive director, effective Oct. 1. Timothy is superintendent of the Park City School District, former super of the rural Millard County district and a former deputy super of the state Office of Education. He succeeds Mike Petersen, who took a faculty position with Utah State University. Since Petersen left in January, the network’s interim chief has been Eric Denna,  co-chair of the UEN Board and chief information officer of the Utah System of Higher Education and the University of Utah.

Philly’s WXPN brings less-known blues musicians to town

This month Philadelphia’s WXPN launched the Mississippi Blues Project, a concert series and website featuring eight musicians who have had limited exposure outside of their home state. “We wanted to bring awareness to a somewhat obscure form of blues from Mississippi,” said WXPN’s Bruce Warren, executive producer of the project and assistant station manager, in a Philadelphia Inquirer article. “The Delta blues is always the foundation of the blues. We wanted to focus on … dozens and dozens of incredible blues guys and women who rarely play outside of juke joints and areas of rural Mississippi.”

The concert series kicked off Aug. 19 with a performance by Big George Brock and the Cedric Burnside Project.

Gwen Ifill covers GOP convention 2008

NewsHour gives party conventions 18 hours, assigns female anchor team

With the NewsHour‘s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff stepping into co-anchor roles for PBS’s coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, producers have reconfigured their set and editorial plans for the 18 hours of live broadcasts that begin airing on PBS stations on Tuesday.

The coverage, airing at 8 p.m. ET through Thursday on most PBS stations, marks the passing of the torch from retired anchor Jim Lehrer, and makes Ifill and Woodruff the first female anchor due to co-anchor coverage of the major party conventions…

Jerry Nelson, Count von Count’s voice and early Henson collaborator, dies at 78

The man behind the voice of Sesame Street’s Count von Count is gone. Jerry Nelson, who worked with Muppets creator Jim Henson early in his career, died Thursday at age 78. Nelson also played Gobo Fraggle on the 1980s Henson TV series Fraggle Rock. Jim Henson Co. C.E.O. Lisa Henson said in a statement that Nelson “imbued all his characters with the same gentle, sweet whimsy and kindness that were a part of his own personality.

WNYC premiering podcast-originated ‘Gabfest Radio’ this weekend

WNYC in New York will launch Gabfest Radio, a one-hour program combining edited versions of two popular podcasts led by editors of online magazine Slate, with two weekend broadcasts. The move is a fast turnaround for WNYC, which first announced the program and collaboration with Slate in a Tuesday press release. Slate’s Political Gabfest, which began in 2005, is hosted by website editor David Plotz,  chief political correspondent John Dickerson and senior editor and legal correspondent Emily Bazelon. Its Culture Gabfest, which originated in 2008, is hosted by deputy editor Julia Turner,  movie critic Dana Stevens and culture critic at large, Stephen Metcalf. Slate and the Slate Group of online properties are owned by the Washington Post Co.

Apparently, pubcasting has gone to the cats

First came WYPR’s pledgecats. Then, WBEZ’s cats posing as pubradio personalities. Now, cute kitties have invaded the KCRW studios for its latest pledge pitch. There’s an appearance by on-air personalities at the Santa Monica, Calif., station, including Steve Chiotakis, afternoon news anchor, as well as a cameo by a very famous author (we won’t spoil it for you). But the real, multiple stars are the oodles of cute, adoptable kittens from the Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles.

University of Texas regents approve KUT signal expansion

After a delay earlier this month, KUT-FM in Austin, Texas, has purchased KXBT, a commercial station now broadcasting classic rock at 98.9 FM. The $6 million deal was approved by the University of Texas System Board of Regents today (Aug. 23). The new KUTX will operate as a noncom music station, with KUT switching to all news. The new formats will begin sometime this fall, following FCC approval of the deal.