‘Tell them Newt asked you to help’

Fundraising pitches by House Speaker Newt Gingrich drew unprecedented media coverage and helped to boost March pledge receipts at WPBA, Atlanta, home-town public TV station for the powerful Georgia Republican who has vowed to end federal aid for public broadcasting. Gingrich taped a series of spots urging national and local viewers to “open your wallets” and support public television. “Tell them Newt Gingrich asked you to help make sure that PBS stays on the air and Channel 30 stays strong because more than ever it’s going to need our support as individuals to make sure it has the funding it needs,” the congressman said in a self-scripted 45-second message for Atlanta viewers. Late last week, only a handful of stations elsewhere had begun to use national versions of the spots in their on-air campaigns. WCET, Cincinnati, reported that viewers had responded negatively to its use of the pitch.

Spare that living tree

The little town where I grew up — Manning, S.C. — was small enough that we could walk to church on Sunday. My Sunday School teacher was a Southern matriarch named Virginia Richards Sauls, one of nine daughters of a South Carolina governor. Miss Virginia, as we called her, never tired of telling us the great stories of the Bible. Her favorite was the Parable of the Talents. In that parable, a rich man leaving on a journey entrusts his property — measured in what were called talents — to his three servants for safekeeping.