Monday roundup: PBS, NPR ombuds address Gaza reporting; commercial TV station tries memberships

• Public media’s coverage of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has some audience members questioning news outlets’ objectivity. Last week, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler and NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos published a total of three blog posts about coverage of the battle between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas, rounding up complaints from readers with diverging criticisms.

Getler focused on the PBS NewsHour’s coverage of the conflict in his two reports. In the first, he fielded complaints about the show’s selection of guests and its usage of the term “occupied.” The second column concerned Gwen Ifill’s interview with a UNICEF specialist regarding civilian casualties in Gaza, which Getler said prompted more mail than any segment since the conflict started. Schumacher-Matos took a broader view of NPR’s reporting on Gaza within Morning Edition, All Things Considered and newscasts, touching on subjects such as guest selection and the religious affiliations of the network’s on-the-ground reporters.

Basic memberships: More trouble than they’re worth?

Basic memberships offered during pledge drives and in direct-mail appeals are a time-tested enticement for converting pubcasting viewers and listeners into contributors, but station-based development staff are perplexed about how to set the rate for this donation level. Some pubcasters are weighing whether to stop offering basic memberships altogether. A survey conducted this fall by Plymouth, Mass.–based direct-marketing consultant DMW Direct found that most stations charge below $50 for a basic membership, and few have adjusted the rate within the last five years. The basic median rate among the 41 public TV and radio stations that participated in the survey is $40, but 16 stations reported to DMW that they charge less. These rates are far below average gift amounts for public stations.

Winning members at their doors

One of the most promising new membership initiatives to come along for public television in years doesn’t involve phone banks, on-air pitches or premium packages. It’s door-to-door canvassing, the grass-rootsy technique for talking up causes and soliciting donations face-to-face.