CPB announced Thursday that it has hired Jan Schaffer, a journalism teacher and founder of the J-Lab journalism institute, as its new ombudsman.
Schaffer begins Tuesday in the role, dedicated to fielding concerns from the public about public media programming. She succeeds Milton Coleman, who is at the end of his three-year term in the job.
“I think public media right now is in a more optimistic place than other media, and I think the opportunities it has to take on some new roles in the emerging media landscape are very exciting,” Schaffer told Current. “I’m eager to be an observer and commentator on that.”
CPB’s ombudsman writes several columns each month about programming and related issues and prepares an annual report on objectivity, balance, fairness, accuracy and transparency.
Schaffer said she plans to take an “explanatory” approach to the position and will be critical when warranted. She is interested in looking at collaborations, innovations and trends, and cited the recent acquisitions of Gothamist properties by public radio stations as one potential subject.
Schaffer is the executive director of J-Lab, a journalism institute she launched to fund new approaches to journalism and research. She recently finished a journalism practitioner’s residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy and has taught in the Social Journalism program at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and the media entrepreneurship program at American University. She is a former fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
Schaffer also spent more than 20 years in reporting and editing positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer. As a federal court reporter at the Inquirer, she helped write a series that won the 1978 Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service. The series led to the freeing of a man who was wrongly convicted of five murders and the jailing of the perpetrators.