CPB reacted Jan. 8 to the attack on journalists at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by announcing grants totaling $7.5 million to four public media newsrooms.
“Now more than ever it takes so much courage to be a journalist,” said CPB President Pat Harrison in an to public media managers. “To understand that every word you may write, every cartoon you might draw could be your last. The chilling effect this can have may result in stories not told, reports not filed, journalism watered down.” CPB awarded the grants in memory of eight journalists who were killed. The money is given “in support of freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” Harrison said.
New York’s WNET issued a statement responding to a PandoDaily article that scrutinized funding for its topical reporting series, The Pension Peril. In the article, published Wednesday, reporter and columnist David Sirota argued that the WNET production was ethically tainted by undisclosed funding provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which has a political agenda promoting public pension reform, the topic examined in its series. WNET rebutted Sirota’s criticism that it sought to obscure the funding relationship. The Arnold Foundation’s support for the series was “clearly disclosed” on the PBS NewsHour Weekend broadcasts that have featured the Pension Peril segments, according to the station’s Feb. 12 statement. WNET also posted a compilation of opening credits to the three broadcasts, each of which mentioned the Arnold Foundation without directly linking it to the Pension Peril segments.
Charges that a public TV reporting initiative about pensions is ethically compromised by its funding sources led to a fiery exchange today between the funder in question and reporter and columnist David Sirota, who leveled the claims in an article for the Silicon Valley news site PandoDaily. Sirota pointed out in his story that The Pension Peril, a two-year reporting initiative produced by New York’s WNET, receives most of its funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Co-founder John Arnold, a hedge-fund manager and former trader for Enron, has contributed to political campaigns urging state lawmakers to reduce pension benefits for public employees, according to Sirota. WNET largely neglects to disclose the relationship, Sirota wrote, though he did turn up a reference on a Pension Peril report’s web page. According to WNET, The Pension Peril has so far delivered reports for two shows that it produces: PBS NewsHour Weekend, which PBS distributes nationally, and Long Island Business Report, which airs on WNET’s Long Island outlet. The reporting project examines “the deficit in funding for public employees’ retirement benefits,” according to a news release from the station.
Public TV stations are backing PBS’s first foray into weekend news by committing airtime to PBS NewsHour Weekend, which debuts next month, although several program directors question PBS’s decision to invest in the broadcast when its flagship weekday program is struggling financially.
In addition to launching a weekend edition of the PBS NewsHour, New York’s WNET has secured a contract to create an integrated website for the flagship series and its new sibling. The WNET Interactive Engagement Group (IEG), a subsidiary that specializes in developing customized WordPress platforms, will complete the web development project by December, but aims to make some enhancements before the Sept. 7 launch of PBS NewsHour Weekend. That new Saturday and Sunday evening news show will originate from the New York City pubcaster, while the weekday NewsHour maintains its longtime home at WETA in Arlington, Va. The redesign will be the first major back-end overhaul in 10 years for the NewsHour’s website, which is built on a homegrown content management system (CMS), according to Vanessa Dennis, online art director.