Web series explores what Black Folk Don’t do

Doing yoga, going green and enjoying winter sports sound like innocuous topics for a public media web series — that is, until they’re preceded by “Black folk don’t…”

Now midway through its third season, the web series Black Folk Don’t aims to spark frank discussions of racial identity in modern-day America. Actors, scholars and ordinary black folk ponder stereotypes about African-Americans and how historical or cultural contexts might have led to such generalizations. “It was just an idea that popped into my head, being someone who technically does things that black folk ‘don’t do,’” series creator and director Angela Tucker said. Tucker and Black Public Media launched the show in August 2011 after Tucker, a documentary filmmaker whose credits include a 2011 documentary about asexuality, responded to an open call for pitches for web series. The show combines vetted interviews and spontaneous chats with people on the street.

NPR newscasters sign off for final time after taking buyouts

It was a bittersweet broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition Dec. 20 as the show and network said goodbye to five staffers who opted to take an offer for a voluntary buyout. NPR newscaster Jean Cochran gave her final newscast Friday, concluding her 33-year career with the network. Cochran said she planned to travel and pursue new career options, possibly to include consulting and voice-over work. Last Newscast from Ben Mook on Vimeo.

Omidyar and Greenwald’s new journalism venture will be incorporated nonprofit

First Look Media, a new journalism organization backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and headed by former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, will include a 501(c)3 nonprofit as part of its structure. The company, announced in June with $250 million in promised capital from Omidyar, will comprise several entities, including a for-profit division dedicated to exploring new media technologies. According to a Dec. 19 announcement, the still-unnamed nonprofit-journalism side of the company will create a digital publication. Funds from the technology wing will support the journalism, which will retain editorial independence.

After 30 years, still no meetings or memos for Shearer’s Le Show

Harry Shearer’s eclectic, acidic Le Show marks 30 years on public radio this month, and The Associated Press observes the milestone with an in-depth interview. When he launched his show on KCRW in Los Angeles in December 1983, Shearer figured that if no money changed hands in the deal, no one could tell him what to do. “The show has stayed free in both senses of the word,” he said. “That’s the only way you can do it for 30 years — without meetings and memos — if you have other things to do in your life.” Shearer pretapes the show’s multicharacter sketches and compiles and writes the remainder before the weekly broadcast.

PBS programming vet Wilson, education s.v.p. Lippincott exiting in January

Two more senior v.p.s are leaving PBS: John Wilson, a PBS programmer for nearly 20 years, and Rob Lippincott, who has led the network’s education strategy and partnerships since 2007. Their exits, which take effect Jan. 3, bring the total number of executive-level departures within the past four months to six. In a Dec. 13 memo to station managers, President Paula Kerger noted that Wilson has served the network “with tremendous insight, understanding, and leadership.

TV critic questions NewsHour reruns, pubcasting author segments

Is PBS NewsHour padding its content with previously aired segments and infomercials for books authored by pubcasters? Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik believes so. Today he notes that in its final half-hour Tuesday night, NewsHour ran a segment that had already aired on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, as well as an interview with Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton about her book on the popular PBS series. Zurawik pointed out that in October NewsHour ran an interview with its founder, Jim Lehrer, about his novel on the Kennedy assassination. The show also featured a story about ultra-tiny apartments in New York City that NewsHour Weekend produced and ran three months ago. So the last half of Tuesday’s NewsHour “was a phantom newscast,” Zurawik writes.

Chicago Public Media editorial staffers vote to join SAG-AFTRA union

The broadcast union SAG-AFTRA said Wednesday that it had secured a majority of votes to represent staff members at Chicago Public Media. SAG-AFTRA said it would represent 49 editorial members of Chicago Public Media, the pubcaster that operates WBEZ and Vocalo. In September, 36 full-time editorial staff members and three additional employees signed a petition seeking union representation and presented it to CPM interim CEO Alison Scholly. “We have great leaders and a committed board and we believe organizing as staff members is an important step to achieving the goals we all share here: producing excellent journalism that serves the public and making this important local institution even stronger than it is today,” said Rob Wildeboer, criminal and legal affairs reporter for WBEZ, in a prepared statement. The National Labor Relations Board conducted the election, which took place Dec. 18.

Indie producer Michael Kirk receives honorary degree from his alma mater

Kirk, a key contributor to PBS’s Frontline since its inception, was cited for his body of work in producing more than 200 investigative documentaries. He joined Frontline as senior producer for its 1983 national debut on PBS; in 1987, he left the show to produce through his own independent company, the Kirk Documentary Group. His documentary films have been recognized with Peabody Awards, duPont-Columbias, a George Polk Award, national Emmys and Writers Guild of America awards. Kirk earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho in 1971 and was inducted into the UI Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000. The university presented the honorary degree Dec.

PBS hires former DNC adviser as new v.p. of station services

Juan Sepúlveda, former senior adviser for Hispanic affairs for the Democratic National Committee, joins PBS Jan. 6 as senior vice president of station services, PBS President Paula Kerger told station managers in an email Tuesday. Sepúlveda replaces Joyce Herring, who exited PBS in October. “The national search for this position included a wide range of highly talented candidates — both from within and outside of our system,” Kerger said in the email. Kerger said she first met Sepúlveda several years ago when he was the host of Conversations on KLRNin San Antonio.

Jury convicts off-duty deputy in shooting death of NewsHour shuttle driver

A sheriff’s deputy has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a PBS NewsHour shuttle driver last May, reports the Washington Post. After two days of deliberations, the jury recommended a six-year sentence Dec. 13 for Craig Patterson, an Arlington (Va.) County deputy. Dawkins was shot in the early morning hours of May 22. He had worked for the NewsHour for nearly three years.

Will news organizations follow as audio moves beyond radio?

In 2014, smart radio organizations will consider a “mobile-first audio strategy,” predicts Jim Schachter, news v.p. at WNYC in New York, in a piece for Nieman Journalism Lab. What that means, he writes, “is that our news reports and stories increasingly will be produced and packaged in forms divorced from the formats dictated by a radio clock,” as consumers increasingly filter their news through apps or playlists. “I guess I’m predicting more work for me and my colleagues,” he notes. “But I’m also predicting bigger audiences than ever for high-quality audio journalism.” His piece is part of Nieman Lab’s interesting “Predictions for Journalism 2014” series, running through Friday.

LPB content grants go to nine programs, including two web series

Latino Public Broadcasting announced today that it is backing nine programs through its Public Media Content Fund, which supports Latino-themed content for public TV and the Web. Independent filmmakers submitted 83 proposals this year, according to LPB. “Our selection process was highly competitive with many outstanding projects making it to the final round,” said Sandie Viquez Pedlow, LPB executive director, in the announcement. “We look forward to working with these talented filmmakers in bringing these compelling stories to the American public on PBS, and extending the reach of this content into classrooms across the country.”

Submissions were judged by a panel of public media professionals, station programmers, academics, executives from funding organizations and other filmmakers. Grants range from $5,000 to $100,000 for several genres: documentary, narrative, performance, new media or mixed genres.

CPB grants $1.4M to new Local Journalism Center focusing on energy

CPB will award $1.4 million to seven public radio and TV stations for the creation of a new Local Journalism Center covering energy policy, production, use and innovation. The grant is for two years, and the LJC will hire seven new positions along with freelance multimedia reporters to cover the beat, according to CPB spokesperson Kelly Broadway. Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO-FM in Colorado are the lead stations on the initiative, which will focus on the West and Great Plains. The other participating stations, together covering six states and parts of Canada, are northern Colorado’s KUNC-FM, Colorado Public Television, Wyoming Public Media, Wyoming PBS and Prairie Public. The energy LJC, which will use data-based reporting to cover local and regional energy issues, is the second that CPB has committed to funding this year.

David Isay gets help running StoryCorps with new chief executive

StoryCorps has hired its first chief executive in its decade-long history, reports the New York Times. Robin Sparkman, currently editor in chief of The American Lawyer magazine, joins the Brooklyn-based oral history project next month. Founder David Isay “will continue to be the public face of the organization,” the report said, as creative director and chief fundraiser. Sparkman will focus on management and strategic planning. StoryCorps content is a longtime favorite of NPR audiences.