Content exec returns in Chicago, WETA chooses ‘Check, Please!’ host, and other comings and goings

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Steve Edwards is returning to WBEZ as VP and chief content officer.


Edwards previously spent 14 years at the Chicago station, working his way from host to program director and content development director.

He left in 2012 to become executive director at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, a public policy institute led by political commentator David Axelrod. Edwards helped develop the podcast The Axe Files in collaboration with CNN.

Edwards will assume his new position at WBEZ in early August. He succeeds Ben Calhoun, who also left for a previous workplace: This American Life.

The new WETA version of the public TV program Check Please! will be hosted by Washington, D.C., restaurateur Rose Previte.

Previte owns Compass Rose, “named to every Washington D.C. best restaurant list upon its opening in 2014, and a darling of local and national media,” according to the Washington, D.C., station.


The Check, Please! franchise has grown from its original production at Chicago’s WTTW to versions on KQED in San Francisco, WPBT in Miami and Arizona PBS. For each episode, three guests recommend a restaurant for review by two other guests. They all later join the host to discuss their dining experiences. The WETA program began filming last week for a fall premiere.

“I can’t wait to take viewers on a journey around the city exploring the people and businesses that make our neighborhoods so diverse,” Previte said in the WETA announcement.

She is married to NPR Morning Edition co-host David Greene.

PBS has a new VP of human resources, Mike Jacobson, who starts work Monday.


Jacobson previously worked as director of talent for TED Conferences, the nonprofit known for TED Talks. During his tenure at TED, according to PBS, Jacobson streamlined HR operations and improved performance management, compensation and benefits systems as well as talent acquisition.

His previous HR leadership experience includes serving as senior director, talent, culture and communication at Advent Software, as well as HR VP at Visa International and Wells Fargo Bank.

He began his career teaching high school math and computer science.

At PBS Jacobson will oversee all HR operations, including organizational development, talent management and development, employee relations, talent acquisition, analytics and compensation and benefits.


Longtime public TV talk-show host Tavis Smiley will launch The Tavis Smiley Podcast on the PodcastOne network. The weekly podcast features Smiley interviewing celebrities, authors, academics, attorneys and politicians. The network will release a two-part special July 10 and July 17, with the weekly podcast premiering in mid-September.

KPCC-FM is promoting John Rabe to production and promotions director, effective July 5. Rabe created and hosted the weekly Off-Ramp series, which the Pasadena, Calif., station calls “a lively look at Southern California life.” Earlier in his career Rabe worked at WKAR in East Lansing, Mich., WHYY in Philadelphia and Minnesota Public Radio. In his new role, Rabe will work closely with KPCC’s locally produced shows, “especially with reporters and producers new to the medium, helping them to capture the fun and flavor of radio,” according to KPCC. Off-Ramp will end production July 2. Apparently Rabe is known around town for his often mispronounced surname.

Journalist Alexandra Olgin has joined the newsroom at WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., to cover health care. Her previous experience includes reporting for South Carolina Public Radio in Columbia, KJZZ in Phoenix and KBIA in Columbia, Mo.


Blue Ridge Public Radio in Asheville, N.C., has hired Matt Peiken as the station’s first arts producer. Peiken will produce local segments for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He will also develop digital elements for the station’s web and mobile platforms and start work on a new weekly arts and performance show. Earlier in his career Peiken wrote for 10 years for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He also produced 3-Minute Egg, an online program on the arts scene in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., for Twin Cities PBS. And he produced and hosted the podcast Metal Brainiac, which featured conversations with heavy-metal musicians.

Community relations

Pioneer Public Television in Appleton, Minn., has hired two community relations representatives. Darin Sorby is a former news director of KDMA-AM radio in Montevideo, Minn. And Kayla Hawkinson was a senior manager for the American Cancer Society’s local Relay for Life. She also serves on the city council of Chokio, Minn.


The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School, has announced recipients of its first reporting fellowships on gun violence. Fellows have nine months to work on projects in the Midwest. Among the eight fellows are Jon Collins, a reporter at Minnesota Public Radio, who will look at how disinvestment in neighborhoods by local governments can affect gun violence; and Andrea Tudhope, a reporter/producer at KCUR in Kansas City, Mo., who will produce an audio series on how domestic violence, a history of trauma and substance abuse can lead to murder.

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