Public Broadcasting: worth every penny

Following the House’s vote to defund Public Broadcasting, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting posted this video of Fred Rogers testifying before Congress in support of some of the earliest Federal funding for public television.

That do-it-yourself determination to harness modern media for the public good is still alive and well in shows like Frontline—which just released the best report I’ve seen on the Egyptian revolution of 25 January. It’s alive and well in NPR’s Planet Money podcast, which started in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and is now the reason I (mostly) understand mortgage-backed securities. It’s alive and well in Radiolab, which is producing the best popular science reporting in any medium. And it’s alive and well in On the Media, where even the question of Federal funding for Public Broadcasting is up for debate.

Want to keep Public Broadcasting alive and well? The Senate hasn’t voted yet. And there’s a website to get you started.

An order of service for the first congregational church of Carl Kassel

Introit: “All Things Considered Theme” (arr. for organ)

Leader: The time is now seven minutes past the hour. I’m Terry Gross. From whence cometh our news?
Congregation: Shallow, adversarial coverage holds sway, on broadcast as it is on cable.
L: From whence cometh our commentary?
C: Humorless, unreasoned opinions are a swelling tide all around us.
L: Yet behold! A gust of Fresh Air for those living in the shadow of Fox.
C: What is this Fresh Air?
L: Our news cometh from Public Radio.
C: Thoughtful, in-depth reporting is the salvation of our days.
L: Our commentary cometh from Public Radio.
C: Measured discussions of relevant issues make our minds easy.
L & C together: Thanks be to listeners like you.

Passing the Peace
The Congregation are invited to stand and congratulate each other on their intelligence and good taste.

Congregational hymns (G. Keillor, song leader)
# 142, “Tell my why”
# 576, “Swedish folksong”
# 606, “Gimme that old-time religion”

All those attending are invited to participate; follow the usher’s cue to walk up the aisle, accept a piece of bagel from the host, and dip it in coffee in the Morning Edition logo mug.

Reading of the Headlines (L. Hansen)
National: Justice Department begins investigation into Congressional fundraising scandal
International: Chinese government cracks down on provincial uprising
Science: Researchers create first human-sheep hybrid embryo
Quirky: Missoula man bicycles from Anchorage to Lima to promote alternative fuels

Our Top Story (S. Simon, special correspondents K. Levine, R. Krulwich)
Global warming: close to home (part three of five-part series)

Meditation (D. Schorr)
This President might be pretty lousy, but he’s no Richard Nixon.

Congregational response: Thanks be to our correspondents!

Hymn of response (I. Glass, song leader)
# 337, “James K. Polk” (They Might Be Giants)

Pledge Drive
Offertory: Selections from The Peter, Paul, and Mary Reunion Tour (available on CD as a thank-you gift for persons pledging $75 or more)
Please place your pledge cards in the tote bag as the ushers pass it down each row. If you are already a member, consider increasing your membership level, or giving a gift membership to a friend or loved one. The ushers will hand out thank-you gifts in the narthex after the service; all new members will receive a subscription to Local Arts Magazine.

Leaders: Behold, you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour.
Congregation: Don’t drive like my brother!
Leaders: Don’t drive like my brother!

Recessional: “Little Deuce Coupe” (Beach Boys)

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On my iPod: Planet Money

Between the gym, the lab, and desk-bound paper pushing, I go through a lot of talky Public Radio podcasts in a week, but I tend to let business/economic ones slide to the end of my queue. Whenever I get to Planet Money, though, I usually find I’m glad I did. Started in direct response to the housing market’s implosion, PM is makes economics more accessible than The Economist, and I like its Radiolab-influenced tone way more than Marketplace. PM is Exhibit A in the case for NPR’s success in the new-media world; they’re a blog, a podcast, a Flickr pool (below), a Facebook page, a Twitter feed

The future of the newsmedia is already on my iPod

An article in Fast Company suggests that, with its booming online presence and willing-to-donate audience, National Public Radio may be the future of news in the U.S. The conflict between local affiliates — who do most of the fundraising, and pay to broadcast NPR content — and the push to make more shows available online is discussed, though it’s not really anything I hadn’t heard before. One thing I hadn’t: from 1998 to 2008, while audiences for newspapers declined 11.4%, and network TV news dropped 28%, NPR’s listenership grew 95.6%.

NPR’s listenership has nearly doubled since 1999, even as newspaper circulation dropped off a cliff. Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly — far more than USA Today’s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN.

Another point made in the article: isn’t able to provide good local news. This seems like an obvious niche for the local affiliates, many of whom produce their own original journalism (though with variable success). Seems like the ideal would be for my profile on to know my zip code, and mix locally-produced content into my programming stream. When it was time for a new travel mug, the main site could direct my donation to the affiliate, maybe collecting a share for the national programming in the process.

Hey! I know that tree!

Tonight’s All Things Considered hits a long overdue topic as part of NPR’s ongoing “Climate Connections” series: the fate of Joshua trees in a warming world. I say overdue, of course, because two chapters of my dissertation will be on the population genetics and phylogeography of Joshua tree, and it’s hard to spend much time with Joshua trees and not wonder about how they’ll hold up under global warming.

I’ve spent two spring flowering seasons in Joshua Tree National Park, where much of the story centers. The Park is right at the southernmost boundary of Joshua tree’s current range, where (all else being equal) you’d expect to see the impact of warming earliest. As the NPR story points out, there does seem to be low recruitment (growth of young trees to replace old ones as they die) in the southern populations. On top of that, drier conditions are contributing to more frequent wildfires across Joshua tree’s range, and sprawl from Las Vegas and Los Angeles is rolling right through Joshua tree woodlands. The Park staff I’ve talked to (including naturalist Joe Zarki, who’s interviewed for the story) are seriously considering that they may have to take drastic measures to prevent Joshua Tree National Park from losing its namesake trees.