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Current's The Pub

Current's biweekly podcast about news and trends in public and nonprofit media.
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Current's The Pub
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May 31, 2018

When Sarah Delia at WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., got the idea for what would become the new investigative podcast "She Says," she wasn’t sure what form the project would take, or even whether the person at the center of the story would be willing to participate.

But as Delia followed the story of a woman she calls Linda, her reporting sent her on a deep dive to find out more about how the criminal justice systems handles sexual assault cases. Listeners will hear about Linda’s case, still unsolved, even though the survivor says she knows who’s to blame.

The podcast launches Thursday. I talked with Delia about how the story found her and what listeners can expect.

Apr 19, 2018

If you work in public radio, you might just be on a sugar detox right now. And no, that’s not a comment on the stereotypically healthy diets of public media staffers.

Public radio folks across the country recently took part in the 6th annual Public Radio Cake Week. The tradition started at Vermont Public Radio when several staffers’ birthdays fell around the same time in April. Rather than have one cake to celebrate, the station leaned into the sugar consumption and celebrated with a week of cake. As other member stations learned about the sugar binge, the event took on a competitive quality.

Stations spend all week baking, with each day centered around themes like news story of the year, historic events depicted in cake, “this is not a cake,” station pride and public radio stereotypes. This year a record number of stations participated with cakes that were as visually impressive as they were hilarious and, one can assume, delicious. On this week’s episode of The Pub, we hear from four Cake Week winners about their sweet victories and why they think the event is so special. See their cakes at current.org/thepub!

And there’s no use having a surplus of cake if you have no utensils to eat it with. We hear from staffers at two public media stations who recently found themselves short of forks and spoons at their stations. They took to Twitter to complain and got packages from a little utensil fairy at NPR.

Please subscribe to The Pub in iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me on Twitter; Current’s digital editor, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to annie@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Mar 23, 2018

What are public media’s classical stations doing to innovate? For one station, the answer involves a throwback to an earlier broadcasting era.

Back in the day, radio and TV stations all had jingles. But thet tradition has fallen out of fashion — few stations have their own dedicated theme. Up until last year, KMFA in Austin, Texas, didn’t either.

On The Pub, KMFA Director of Broadcasting and Content Anthony McSpadden shares the story of how the station commissioned local composer Dan Welcher to write a theme to commemorate KMFA’s 50th anniversary. Other composers have written variations on the theme. It’s just one of the many ways KMFA is active in Austin’s vibrant music community.

Please subscribe to The Pub in iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me on Twitter; Current’s digital editor, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to annie@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Mar 8, 2018

It was only a matter of time before public media had its own #MeToo moment. And it’s had more than one over the past six months, with hosts and senior leaders changing roles or no longer in their jobs following a range of accusations about harassment, bullying and inappropriate workplace behavior.

Such allegations have a particular sting for public media’s listeners and employees. Newsrooms that hold public officials and other organizations to account for such behavior seem to be unable to effectively deal with the problem in their own shops. And even as they respond, some staffers say they’re too late.

On this episode of The Pub, we look inside what one writer described as a culture of bullying and exploitation at WNYC in New York City. Boris Kachka’s article about the station was published by New York magazine.

Kachka told me the station “was almost a punchline” as he spoke with WNYC staffers. “It was like, ‘I’ve never seen a worse culture than this, and I’ve worked at’ name-your-horrible-big-media-conglomerate.”

Please subscribe to The Pub in iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me on Twitter; Current’s digital editor, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to annie@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Feb 22, 2018

You’ve done your interviews, written your script and filed your story. But did you do one last fact-check?

No longer just for magazines or long-form projects, some public media newsrooms have begun to apply more robust fact-checking to their daily and feature work.

Our audiences expect our stories to be accurate, and on top of that, they expect our journalists to hold newsmakers to account for falsehoods that come out in interviews.

But how do we balance the need for rigorous fact-checking with the daily pressures of filling newscasts and covering our communities? WFPL News Director Erica Peterson shares what her newsroom has done to avoid errors big and small.

What is your newsroom doing? Share your fact-checking tips (or horror stories) with me at annie.m.russell@gmail.com.

Please subscribe to The Pub in iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me on Twitter; Current’s digital editor, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to mike@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Feb 8, 2018

So your favorite podcast has a new host! Do you keep listening? We certainly hope so.

I’m Annie Russell, the new host of The Pub. I’m an editor at WBEZ and a stand-up comedian. As I navigate this new role, I wondered how a new host goes about taking the reins of an established program. It looks like I’m not the only one facing that particular question. Researching this episode, I found that quite a few public media programs and podcasts have experienced a changing of the guard in the past year or so.


Russell
For new hosts: How do you fill your beloved predecessor’s shoes while still honoring the longtime audience? When you inevitably make changes, will they run for the hills?

Nobody knows this challenge better than journalist Robert Costa. He’s a reporter for the Washington Post and took over as moderator last year for PBS’ weekly public affairs program Washington Week. Costa describes how he approached what could have been a tricky transition after the death of previous longtime host Gwen Ifill.

Plus, I check in with food writer and host of public radio’s The Splendid Table, Francis Lam, who made the jump from filling in occasionally to taking over the program permanently.

As The Pub’s new host, I hope to continue to have meaningful conversations with folks who work in public media — and I hope to hear from more of you. Please don’t be shy! Write in with a segment idea or a topic suggestion. What’s a question your station or newsroom is grappling with? Whose important voice have we not heard on The Pub?

Please subscribe to The Pub in iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a rating and a comment! That will help boost our search results and allow people to find the show more easily.

We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me on Twitter; Current’s digital editor, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to mike@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Jan 3, 2018

Whether they’re talking to your kids or to Congress, the hosts and characters of public media children's programming are powerful. They promote understanding, inclusion and education. Plus, they’re really entertaining.

But is children’s programming the future of public media?

Mel Kramer and Betsy O’Donovan say it is. In a white paper for the Knight Foundation, they argue that all of public media’s public funding should be spent on content for kids. And not just shows. O’Donovan and Kramer make the case for multimedia, easy-to-access content that reaches young viewers wherever they are. This not only makes for happy kids, they say, but for better citizens.

And it seems like it’s an urgent time to rethink children’s media. Strange, sometimes disturbing videos aimed at kids are winding up in front of impressionable eyeballs, thanks to some nefarious gaming of the YouTube algorithm. One critic puts the blame on the profit motive. Could this plan solve the growing problem?

But not everything online is dangerous. Facebook admits that the psychological effect of its service can vary based on how you use it. In the Opening Shot, we look at the contrast between positive and negative on social media.

Dec 6, 2017

Terry Gross listens to tons of podcasts — including The Pub — and her own NPR show, Fresh Air, is also one of the most popular podcasts around. And yet, she remains committed to radio, both as a host and as a listener.

“I don’t want a world of just podcasts. I don’t want a world where everything is boutique-y and fragmented,” Gross told me on The Pub. “I want a world where there’s an All Things Considered and a Morning Edition — the kind of things you can only do with the kind of model that NPR has.”

In this, host Adam Ragusea's final episode of The Pub, he has a wide-ranging conversation with Terry Gross about all of the big issues facing public media; also, she turns the tables and asks Adam more than a few questions, because — duh — she’s Terry Gross and that’s what she does.

Also on the show, we take the occasion of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th anniversary as an opportunity to drill a live audience in Washington about what public media’s fundamental purpose is supposed to be — to raise the bar, or to fill the gaps?

Jul 9, 2015

There’s increasingly money to be made in podcasting. But not much, and drooling over the modest amount to be had is like drooling over a bowl of moldy gruel — you only do it because you’re starving.

But eat we must. So this week we look at the intersection of podcasting and money — how podcasters can make money to support their podcasting, maybe even themselves. And maybe the gruel won’t look so moldy by the time we’re done.

We talked to a panel of podcasting experts at the Public Media Marketing and Development Conference in Washington, D.C.. Our guests:

  • Kerri Hoffman, c.o.o. at Public Radio Exchange, which distributes 13 podcasts through its Radiotopia network;
  • Wendy Turner, v.p. for digital and technical operations at WBEZ in Chicago; and
  • Erik Diehn, v.p. for business development at Midroll Media.

This episode is a co-production with Greater Public.

Jun 4, 2015

On this week’s episode of The Pub, Raney Aronson, the new executive producer of public TV's "Frontline," goes deep on the show's production process, her vision for its future, and even some of the stumbles she’s had with new initiatives, such as the transition from hourlong documentary films to 2-minute web videos.

Also this week:

  • WNYC decides to self-distribute "On the Media" and "Radiolab," and we explore what that actually means
  • WHRO President and CEO Bert Schmidt talks about how his station is now earning 40 percent of its revenue by creating educational materials
Apr 23, 2015

Did one of public TV’s most revered figures really cede editorial control to a celebrity? It certainly looks that way to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler. On this episode, Ben Affleck's request to Henry Louis Gates and the aftermath.

Also, Current’s Dru Sefton dishes on the many other mentions of public media organizations and personalities she’s found in the leaked Sony emails.

CBC gadfly Jesse Brown returns to The Pub to dissect the CBC’s internal investigation into how former "Q" host Jian Ghomeshi allegedly got away with abusing women for years.

And host Adam Ragusea contemplates why local public radio voices tend to sound more bassy and boomy than national voices.

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