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.

Reporters “need to stop coddling lawmakers,” Seabrook says

In an interview with Politico, Andrea Seabrook explains how her work on her new project, the DecodeDC website, will differ from her past work as NPR’s congressional correspondent. “I am going to try to focus myself on the stories that none of the other reporters have time to cover,” she said. “NPR would have loved to have had any of these stories.  . . .  The problem is, as a modern, esteemed news organization, NPR also feels that it needs to cover the daily news and the daily news as currently defined is what happened on the floor today, what’s the big debate in Congress, what’s your government doing.

WV pubcasting director proposes cutting nearly $200,000 in spending

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s executive director has suggested nearly $200,000 in spending cuts and cautioned members of the Educational Broadcasting Authority board that further reductions may be necessary, reports the Charleston Gazette. The proposal from Dennis Adkins on Wednesday (Aug. 22) includes dropping the network’s membership in the Association of Public Television Stations advocacy group, a $26,000 savings; cancellation of certain Nielsen and Aribtron ratings services, $25,300; and a halt to publication of Pubcaster, its news and program guide, $46,932. The network faces a 7.5 percent drop in state support next year, part of statewide budget cuts ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. In January, state funding reductions and loss of corporate underwriting forced the station to put pubaffairs TV show This Week in West Virginia on hiatus.  And in June, authority board members called for a formal review of Adkins’ job performance.

M. Ward debuts pubradio app for iPhones

Musician and public radio fan M. Ward has created an iPhone app that serves as a guide to noncommercial radio stations across the country. The Wasteland Companion app, which shares its name with Ward’s latest album, features almost a thousand stations of various formats, according to Rolling Stone. “The idea came out of my own necessity,” M. Ward told the magazine. “When I’m on tour, I want to listen to local radio with music being played by real people and actual voices in that community. Radio has the power to be a cultural hub.”

Ward’s travels have taken him to public radio stations as a guest — you can check him out on The Current in St.

WXEL staff

Closure, finally, in sale of Palm Beach pubTV station

Eight years after the “For Sale” sign first went up on WXEL-TV/FM, the transaction resolving the future of pubcasting in Florida’s affluent Palm Beach region finally closed last month. WXEL-TV, which split from its radio sibling in a 2011 sale to American Public Media Group’s Classical South Florida, is to be transferred to a nonprofit headed by the execs who have managed the station through years of uncertainty…

NPR’s top fundraiser comes from YMCA, Hanley moves to Birmingham and Kendall to Miami, Moe focuses on Wits

NPR has hired Monique Hanson, from YMCA of the USA, as its chief development officer. Hanson joined the YMCA in 2004 and  served as senior v.p. and chief development officer for the $5 billion organization. In her position at NPR, Hanson will oversee NPR’s fundraising programs and work with stations and the trustees of the NPR Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit. “Monique has the experience needed to take NPR to new heights in fundraising,” said NPR President Gary Knell in a press release. “She brings vision and a collaborative spirit that will help us forge innovative partnerships with NPR member stations across the country.

Tess Vigeland leaving Marketplace Money hosting duties this fall

Marketplace Money host Tess Vigeland is departing the American Public Media show at the end of November. APM said Vigeland will continue as a contributor. Vigeland joined the program in 2001, as host of Marketplace Morning Report. She took over her current hosting duties in 2006. 

“From my days as a cub reporter in the early ’90’s,” Vigeland said in a press release, “I knew I wanted to someday work at Marketplace. Any show that had that much fun on the air had to be a great place to do the news — not to mention ‘The Numbers.'” She added, “I will miss our listeners more than I can express.”

Marketplace Executive Producer Deborah Clark said that “it will be great to have her continued contributions to the shows, as she moves forward into the next chapter of her career.”

Insistent sponsors put newsrooms on alert

Underwriters of public radio programs increasingly want to link their names more closely to particular stories and reporting projects, according to station executives, a trend that is requiring journalists to be more vigilant in fighting perceptions of potential conflicts of interest.

NHPTV pairs with WGBH to bolster its program line-up

After discussions lasting nearly a year, New Hampshire Public Television and Boston’s WGBH have hammered out a collaboration to coordinate program schedules and consolidate some back-office operations. The agreement stops short of a merger, and each station will remain independently owned and operated. The arrangement will bring PBS’s full common-carriage schedule to the entire state of New Hampshire beginning in October, a departure from the current setup, under which NHPTV time-shifts the PBS national lineup because of a partial signal overlap with WGBH. The cost savings from outsourcing some technical and administrative functions — including master control and broadcast technologies, membership services and financial administration — to the Massachusetts station will allow NHPTV to revive a local student quiz show, Granite State Challenge. The program went into hiatus last year after legislators zeroed out the network’s state funding.