Jan 11, 2011

Final reports nearing in Editorial Integrity for Public Media project

There were more questions than answers in today's (Jan. 11) NETA session on the Editorial Integrity for Public Media project. Ted Krichels, director of Penn State Public Broadcasting, and Tom Thomas, co-c.e.o. of the Station Resource Group, updated attendees in Nashville on the public TV and radio work to develop a framework of principles, policies and practices for a pubcasting system facing increasingly complex ethical challenges.

What are appropriate boundaries between funders and subject matter? Is it acceptable for a funder to be an editorial partner? Do funding standards differ between news and non-news programming? How can a station ensure that a collaborative, multiplatform project is handled ethically when it is just one partner in the work?
One way to preserve the trust that viewers and listeners place in public media is to be transparent when working through such quandaries. Stations might consider publishing the amount and contractual obligations of  a grant, or explaining specific criteria for the funding. "In today's media environment, transparency could become public media's calling card," Krichels noted.

A 20-member steering committee and smaller working groups have been facing down such issues and are now preparing final reports for feedback. It's the first project to establish comprehensive guidelines since the 1984 Wingspread Conference (PDF).

The work is headed up by the pubTV Affinity Group Coalition and the pubradio Station Resource Group. NETA is providing organizational support and funding is coming from CPB.

More reactions to the shake up at NPR News

The exit of Ellen Weiss as NPR's top news exec -- a departure linked to the hasty and controversial firing of long-time news analyst Juan Williams -- stirred up lots of opinion last week. Here's a sampling:

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard: "Any damage that Williams may have caused NPR with his occasional intemperate remarks on Fox — which was definitely a problem for NPR —was infinitesimal to the damage NPR management did to the company with its ungracious firing."

David Carr of the New York Times: The entire incident leaves NPR President Vivian Schiller "leading a divided organization into a critical budget battle."

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times: "NPR would be wise to do more than just give lip service to some of the reforms it proposed Thursday."

Kelly McBride, ethics expert at the Poynter Institute: NPR isn't the only organization struggling with outdated standards and a star system rife with conflicts.

John Sutton, public radio marketing consultant: It was Ellen Weiss who led "one of the most significant steps in public radio's growth as a national news outlet," the 1995 expansion of All Things Considered.

Head of Bay Area Video Coaltion departing for upcoming project

Ken Ikeda, executive director of the Bay Area Video Coalition, is departing after four years. "I was presented with an opportunity to help build a new organization and considering its objectives, it was something I couldn't walk away from," he said in an online exit interview. "I wish I could share more but I can't right now. It'll be public shortly, and in the end what I'll be doing is not far from the work we do at BAVC." The coalition is a pubmedia pioneer; it's going strong after 35 years.

Who are the lapsed pubTV members? TRAC knows.

TRAC Media Service's primer on "Everything You Should Know About Your Members" was first up today (Jan. 11) in its pre-NETA development workshop in Nashville. Kristen Keubler, director of station research for TRAC, fleshed out its continually updated 2001-03 survey of lapsed pubTV members and talked about the good news (many are longtime, enthusiastic viewers and have "formed a quasi-human relationship" with their station) and bad news (there are "practically no new adult viewers. Everybody has sooner or later sampled the station's programming and decided to view or not to view").

Fear not: There are strategies that work to better connect with local viewers, and bring them along as members. Encourage e-mail and website interaction. Develop on-air viewer and member education campaigns to help them better understand when, how and why to pledge. A biggie: One out of five members has called the station for some reason. Make sure viewer services staffers know how to properly interact. "Don't tell them you took a program off the air 'because no one watching it,'" Kuebler said. "Say, 'Yes, we had number members watching. I loved it too, but we just didn't get enough response.'" That can lead to more conversation.

And don't believe that viewers who lost their jobs will never return. Kuebler recalled interviewing a member in Georgia who lost hers – but went on to marry a wealthy man. "Her annual pledge went from $50 a year to either $2,500 or $5,000, she couldn't remember which," Kuebler said.

Stay tuned for NETA conference coverage

Greetings from chilly Nashville, where even the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel lions need coats. Current is here to cover the annual NETA conference, and will be blogging (and photographing) the action through Thursday (Jan. 13). If you're here, stop by Current's Lucky No. 13 table to say hi and pick up a homemade brownie – and find out why they're called "Darwinians."

" 'Sexiest man' leaves U.S. FCC to join public television series"

Well, that is certainly not a headline you see every day.