Current's The Pub with Adam Ragusea

Current's weekly podcast about news and trends in public and nonprofit media, hosted by Adam Ragusea.
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Current's The Pub with Adam Ragusea




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Aug 6, 2015

This week on The Pub, Mike Pesca, host of Slate's podcast "The Gist." Pesca talks about life after NPR, how public media looks from the outside, his rabble-rousing interview with Kim Kardashian while sub-hosting "Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!" and whether he thinks NPR has heeded his parting advice to be more ambitious and daring. (He doesn’t.)

Also on the show:

- Gayle Wald on her new book about "Soul!", an early PBS show featuring black music, culture and radical politics that CPB defunded.

- Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Emily Jones on the real reason that women’s voices are the subject of so much scrutiny the days.

- Host Adam Ragusea reflects on the differences between podcasting and live radio.

Jul 30, 2015

Michael Oreskes, NPR’s new head of news, likes to say that if you add up all of the American public radio, TV and network journalists, they make up one of the nation’s largest news organizations. Or at least they would if they could act like one news organization. In this week’s episode, Oreskes and host Adam Ragusea discuss NPR's plans for closer station collaboration (including the touchy subject of whether NPR should keep paying freelance fees to station-based journalists for their national contributions), the recent reorganization at "All Things Considered," and the persistent accusations that NPR leans left.

Also on the show:

•Lindsay Patterson, host of The Tumble Podcast, asks, “Where is the YouTube for Podcasts?” We argue that public media should make the YouTube for podcasts, while she argues that YouTube should make the Youtube for podcasts.

•Based on your feedback, we count down the top 10 words or phrases that journalists and broadcasters should stop saying — not because they’re offensive, but because they’re dumb.


Jul 23, 2015

Southern California Public Radio’s recently concluded, three-year, $6 million CPB-funded quest to court Latino audiences met with its share of criticism along the way. How KPCC did it is the subject of the “Brown Paper,” a research report from the Latino Public Radio Consortium in which A Martínez, a Latino host with a background in commercial sports broadcasting, is portrayed as playing a key role for his crossover appeal to new audiences.

“Marketers and radio stations all around the country don’t know exactly what to do with this Latin-American market,” Martínez tells host Adam Ragusea. “They have no idea — like, ‘Well what do we do, do we put a lot of soccer on, and then are they going to like that?’ No, you put interesting things on. You put things [on] that are exciting, that people want to be a part of.”

Martínez joins the show this week with his colleague Edgar Aguirre, whom SCPR hired at this beginning of this process to handle multiethnic outreach. They both insist other stations can duplicate at least a bit of their success, even without $6 million in CPB money.

Also this week:

- Mike Pesca, former NPR sports correspondent and now host of Slate’s daily podcast The Gist, rebuts the argument from last week’s show that there are certain words we shouldn’t say on the air.

- Undaunted by Pesca’s argument, Pub listeners point out some of the words that are common on the air now that we should think about purging from our lexicons.

- Ragusea questions the fairness of media watchdog FAIR’s recent studies criticizing the lack of diversity on station boards and in regular commentator segments on NPR.

Jul 16, 2015

As more people use the NPR One app, NPR is finding out how long people listen to each segment, what they skip and what they share or like. “As people who make the craft of radio, getting this kind of information about how people listen to it is brand new and a little scary, but also priceless,” said Sara Sarasohn, who's in charge of content for NPR One.

This week’s on The Pub, recorded live in an actual pub (Lost & Found in Washington, D.C.), Sarasohn tells us what NPR is learning from this unprecedented peek at listeners' habits.

Also on the show:

- Current’s editors and reporters answer the public media questions you’ve always been afraid to ask, like “What do the hosts make?” and “I’m an intern, will I get a job?”

- Host Adam Ragusea contemplates NPR’s past use of “the R-word” (the racist name of Washington’s NFL team), and what other words we’re saying on the air that our children will be embarrassed to learn we ever said out loud.

- Live music buttons from Current’s Mike Janssen on banjo and Tyler Falk on shaker egg!

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.

Jul 2, 2015

The BBC is cutting jobs, the future of its funding is in doubt, and it has enemies in high places. Host Adam Ragusea talks with veteran U.K. media reporter Maggie Brown, who catches us up on the latest BBC drama and speculates about the venerable Beeb’s future.

Also on the show:

Political scientist Patrick O’Mahen says his research proves countries that spend more money on public broadcasting have better-informed citizens.

Your host shares an old interview with podcaster Marc Maron that did not go the way it sounded in the final cut, and your feedback on a proposal to ensure honesty in editing by posting raw tape to the Internet.

Jun 25, 2015

NPR has joined a lobbying organization that appears to be fighting a proposed increase in royalties to musicians. For singer-songwriter and artist advocate David Lowery (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven), it’s dismaying to see NPR run with that particular crowd. On The Pub, Lowery makes the case that public radio should get on what he sees as the right side of a matter of social justice.

Also on the show this week:

- Doug Mitchell, founder and director of NPR’s Next Generation Radio training project, says public radio needs more talent developers and scouts, like him.

- Host Adam Ragusea proposes a procedure to ensure honesty in editing.

Jun 18, 2015

It’s time for most, perhaps even all, public media journalists to abandon both the practice and the pretense of conventional impartiality. On this week's episode of The Pub, we revisit several of our recent commentaries and interviews on this subject.

Jun 11, 2015

Back in 2012, Jennifer Brandel had the best new idea in local news that anyone has had in a long time. Rather than report the same old stories, ask the audience: What have you always been curious about? Use democratic online tools to pick the best questions, then go out and answer them as best you can.

That was Curious City, a Localore project based at WBEZ in Chicago. It has since been imitated and replicated dozens of times over.

In January, Brandel started Curious Nation, a spin-off company designed to help franchise the Curious City model to other cities. Last week, Curious Nation became Hearken, and with the new name comes a new and broader mission: to help journalists do work that better reflects the information needs and desires of their audience.

Also this week:

- We conclude last week’s investigation into why some national program producers are opting to self-distribute their shows

- WHYY Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue Chris Satullo argues that stations shouldn’t just do journalism — they should support good community journalism, whoever is doing it

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
May 28, 2015

On this week's episode, Eric Nuzum discusses why he is stepping down as NPR's vice president for programming and taking a job at Also, KPBS Station Manager Deanna Martin Mackey talks about ways to grow the number of women in top public media positions, and listeners say that recent episodes on the ethical pitfalls of podcast advertising and Membership Video on Demand amount to slippery slope arguments.

May 21, 2015

On this week’s episode of The Pub, public radio Conor Gillies and host Adam Ragusea debate whether podcast ads are a threat to public media's integrity. Gillies wrote an excellent and widely shared piece last week for The Awl, “Podcasts and the Selling of Public Radio.”

Also on the show:

  • This American Life host Ira Glass responds to the response to his remarks about capitalism, and I respond to the response to the response
  • Is PBS’s plan to offer on-demand video to donors a violation of everything public media stands for?
  • WSKG’s Teresa Peltier and KLRU’s Sara Robertson discuss what young professionals are looking for in a public media workplace
May 14, 2015

In this week’s episode — recorded in front of a live audience at the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin — we contemplate the challenges and the opportunities involved in expanding public television to new audiences. We also learn that the current audience is more expansive than many of us might have thought.

Guests and topics include:

  • Sue Schardt on how the latest round of AIR’s Localore project could help make station programming more inclusive
  • PBS Vice President for Station Services Juan Sepúlveda on the challenges of reaching out to Hispanic audiences without “Hispandering” to them
  • Andi McDaniel, director of the Rewire initiative at Twin Cities Public Television, on how stations can reach younger audiences by going beyond television
  • Craig Reed, executive director of TRAC Media Services, on TRAC’s new project to perform a deep analysis of public media viewers and viewing habits
  • And host Adam Ragusea's thoughts on the impending divorce of PBS and PBS MediaShift, and what it may say about the public television system’s willingness or ability to truly change with the times
May 7, 2015

One of the most effective public radio fundraisers ever wants to quit doing pledge drives. That’s the only way host Adam Ragusea can interpret what This American Life host Ira Glass said to Ad Age last week. On this week’s episode of The Pub, we contemplate the notion that public radio’s biggest star evidently doesn’t want public radio to be public anymore.

Also on the show:

  • Former NPR digital strategist Melody Kramer argues that all public media content should be licensed under Creative Commons so that people can republish it
  • NPR’s top audio engineer Shawn Fox dishes on the “secret sauce” behind NPR’s bright, sharp studio microphone sound
  • Jonah Sutton-Morse rebuts Adam's justification for using favored pronouns when describing transsexual people 
Apr 30, 2015

What would make you give up on your dream gig? Former "Marketplace Money" host Tess Vigeland had to answer that question for herself. If you’re feeling itchy in your seat and thinking about a career change, don’t leap until you listen to this interview!

Also on this week’s show:

- Bruce Jenner reignites the debate over how news organizations should refer to transgender people

- Robert Drechsel, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, considers WNET’s recently-received $20 million grant to fight anti-Semitism, and the ethical pitfalls of donors directing coverage priorities

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.

Apr 16, 2015

How do you figure out how to pronounce an unfamiliar name or word, and how do you let other hosts and reporters know so they don't screw it up live on air? Celeste Headlee drops by The Pub with some tips.

Also, Vera Ranieri of the Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses the major victory she helped win last week against Personal Audio, a infamous patent-troll company that has been claiming it owns the technology behind podcasting

Host Adam Ragusea's take on a controversial "Latino USA" episode about Chicago mayor candidate Jesús "Chuy" García, and his (limited) defense of one-sided reporting.

And we learn the hard way that the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law doesn’t count on SoundCloud.

Apr 9, 2015

A recent listening tour has done little to change the outlook of Stephen Segaller, VP of programming at WNET in New York City. He still sees an upside to the station's controversial plan to move documentary films out of a Monday night prime-time slot on its primary station. Segaller discusses the situation with host Adam Ragusea.

Also on this week's show, the growing drive to unionize in public media, and how bodybuilding is like public TV.

Apr 2, 2015

This week, host Adam Ragusea talks with Howard Husock, who holds a Republican seat on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In an article for the journal "National Affairs", Husock suggested ways that public radio and TV stations can increasingly redirect their resources away from acquiring national programs and toward local journalism.

Also, newsroom consultant Judith Smelser on why it’s so hard for stations to find a good news director these days. And Adam explains his slogan, “Authenticity is the new authority” in media, with the help of deputy editor Matt Thompson, who previously launched NPR’s Code Switch blog.

Mar 26, 2015

On this week’s episode, some common liberties that public media people take with copyright, and fair use expert Patricia Aufderheide tells us whether they’re legal, or should be legal. Also, is "The Pub" too long? Many of you think so. But are you listening with your broadcaster brain or your normal person’s brain? Is there an optimal length for podcasts?

Mar 19, 2015

On this week’s episode, we contemplate how public media can plug the brain drain of tech-savvy workers leaving for other jobs. Host Adam Ragusea talks with P. Kim Bui, now with First Look Media.

Also on the show:

Where is the line between pronouncing a foreign name or word correctly, and over-pronouncing it?

Current’s Mike Janssen reports from SXSW, where several recent public media dust-ups have been looming large

NPR updates its policy governing when reporters at university licensee stations are allowed to file stories about their own employers; we talk to Emily Reddy, news director at Penn State’s WPSU

Responses to Adam's argument that public media reporters should shed conventional rules of impartiality

Mar 12, 2015

This week on The Pub, an interview with pioneering journalist Maria Hinojosa about how public media covers communities of color and who's involved in the conversations on shows such as Latino USA.

Also, the conclusion of host Adam Ragusea's three-part argument that public media should abandon both the practice and pretense of impartiality. Daniel Hallin, the University of California, San Diego media scholar who coined the term “sphere of consensus,” reacts to the argument. And Adam contemplates a different way that NPR CEO Jarl Mohn might have responded to a Diane Rehm Show caller who was angry about underwriting.

Mar 5, 2015

Melody Kramer talks with host Adam Ragusea about public radio membership models, and the CEO of Voice of San Diego discusses his news nonprofit's own approach for attracting members. Plus, public media and impartiality in journalism, and your thoughts on last week's conversation about unpaid internships.

Feb 26, 2015

After eight years, Jesse Thorn is ending the internship program on his NPR-distributed culture interview show Bullseye — not because it wasn’t working, but because he thought it was wrong. He explains why to host Adam Ragusea. And law professor David Yamada discusses the legality of unpaid internships.

Plus, Adam's thoughts on Diane Rehm, her advocacy for the “right to die,” and the true definition of objectivity; and what you can do to be a “member” of The Pub and help the show sustain itself (no, it doesn’t involve paying money, yet).

Feb 19, 2015

On this week's episode, we contemplate how much children's public television has changed since the day of Mister Rogers. Host Adam Ragusea interviews Linda Simensky, PBS's v.p. of children's programming. Also, Deanna Garcia, a reporter for WESA in Pittsburgh, takes us to a new exhibit of Misters Rogers' Neighborhood set pieces now on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

Also on the show, film writer and former Current reporter Andrew Lapin is worried that the PBS documentary showcases POV and Independent Lens are in danger.

A week after his sudden death, we look at New York Times media columnist David Carr's thoughts on public media, courtesy of The Pub intern Ben Conarck.

And we listen to some of your feedback on our two recent shows concerning vocal fry.

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