December 28, 2004

RSS Feeds from NPR on WILL site 

Want news of a particular stripe any time of day? The web serves it up alright, but it can be tough slogging through the noise to find the signal. RSS, a sort-of new technology for updating content through something called a 'feed,' makes it easier to find specific channels of information. NPR now offers RSS feeds on a wide range of topics, from world news to religion to the environment. You can 'subscribe' to these RSS feeds if you have an RSS reader, which is usually a program you install on your computer. Or you can find a web site that 'aggregates' the RSS feeds for you. That's what we're up to as of today on the WILL site. Imaging getting the most current news from NPR in whatever detail you want, organized by subject category. That's pretty much what you'll find on WILL's RSS News Page. We've only scratched the surface here in terms of other great feeds we could provide. If you want us to add something, just let me know.

December 22, 2004

WILL-TV Says Bye to The Nightly Business Report 

I can't say I'm a devotee, but we know that some people watch The Nightly Business Report on WILL-TV. If you're one of them, we're sad to inform you the show disappears from our schedule after December 31st. To explain, WILLblog turns things over toe WILL-TV Program Director David Thiel:
"Why, after 23 years on WILL-TV, have we dropped NBR? The funds necessary to purchase the new season are not available. Significant increases in our PBS dues, reductions in State and University funding, and a shortfall in member contributions have forced WILL-TV to make a number of budget cuts during our current fiscal year. Where possible, we have made reductions in areas which are largely invisible to viewers. However, for the first time in many years, we must drop an existing program if we are to stay within our budget. There are several reasons why "The Nightly Business Report" appeared to be the best choice. First, it is our single most expensive, individual program acquisition: $13,520 to renew each year. The vast majority of our shows--including all of those from PBS--are purchased in large packages, but NBR is one of a relatively small number of series that we must buy on an individual basis. Such programs are most likely to be affected by cuts to our program budget. Second, the size of the audience for this series--as measured by A.C. Nielsen--has diminished over the years. During the July 2004 "sweeps" period, NBR averaged a 0.1 rating among TV households. That means that for every household with a TV set in our coverage area, one out of a thousand was watching the program. Third, our efforts to solicit corporate underwriting and individual member contributions in support of NBR have met with little success in recent years. Other acquisitions such as "The Lawrence Welk Show," "The Red Green Show" and the various British comedies are both popular with viewers and well supported by them. Is it possible that NBR could return? Yes, but there would have to be a significant, positive change in our financial fortunes. Such changes could include an increase in member contributions, more funding from State and University sources, or a decrease in our PBS dues. While we will continue to do what we can to encourage member contributions, we don't anticipate those other factors to improve in the near future. Regardless, NBR will remain off our air in the short term. Because the WILL stations are "forward funded," the money we raise during this fiscal year (which ends June 30, 2005) goes toward expenses in the next fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2005). During the current fiscal year, there is simply no money available for NBR. I am very sorry to be forced into this decision, and I realize that it will make some loyal WILL viewers unhappy. Unlike many other institutions, WILL-TV does not have the luxury of operating with a deficit. Unfortunately, that occasionally means that difficult choices must be made. I hope that this adequately explains the situation with NBR, and I thank you for your interest in WILL-TV. David Thiel Program Director / WILL-TV"

December 21, 2004

All the Bush News that Fits 

NPR has launched a web feature called "The Second Term" to highlight NPR news reports on the second term of President George W. Bush. NPR calls this an "ad hoc topic section," and says it will contain "stories about George Bush's second term, the cabinet, administration plans, the opposition's reactions, and the inauguration. It will continue as long as the NPR Online editorial team believes it to be valuable, certainly through the inauguration." NPR also offers an RSS feed for this at http://www.npr.org/rss/rss.php?topicId=77. In case you just can't get enough...

December 14, 2004

In Memory of Lost Friends 

It's difficult to understand why someone would take their own life. It's even more difficult when that life has been so well-spent, with so much more promise to come. Similar tragedies in the past month make me pause and try to appreciate this moment, every moment, before it's gone forever. Iris ChangIris Chang, an extraordinary writer and alumnus of the University of Illinois College of Communications, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on November 9th. Her first book was Thread of the Silkworm, which told the remarkable story of the Chinese scientist Tsien Hsue-shen, founder of the Chinese rocket program who emigrated to the United States only to be isolated in America. Her second book, The Rape of Nanking, earned international acclaim and served to announce Iris Chang as a ground-breaking scholar and human rights advocate. He third book, The Chinese in America, told the extraordinary narritive of her own ancestors in a way that revealed America's own identity. I had a chance to interview Iris Chang in 1995, and was immediately struck by her intelligence and humanity. Apparently she had a similar impact on everyone she met. About 100 people attended a recent event in her honor at the University of Illinois, where her former professors, friends, and colleagues spoke movingly about her life, her work, and our loss. A scholarship in honor of Iris has been established by her family, with information available at the University of Illinois College of Communications, 217-333-2350. Gary WebbGary Webb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, was found dead last Friday at his home in Sacramento County, California along with what appears to be a suicide note. Gary Webb won the Pulitzer for his reporting on the Loma Prieta earthquake. In 1996 he wrote a series for the Mercury News alleging that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had helped finance the Contras by selling tons of crack cocaine in Los Angeles with the knowledge of the CIA. Under attack, the Mercury News later backed away from supporting Mr. Webb, who went on to publish a book-length treatment of the story entitled Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Today's college students most likely don't even know the word "Contra," unless they like the traditional dance. These stories are important to remember. With that in mind, and as an observance of the lives of these fine writers and human beings, we're republishing WILL's interviews with Iris Chang and Gary Webb (RealAudio format). They are gone, but their work lives on. Iris Chang: Thread of the Silkworm, from Focus 580, November 22nd, 1995 The Rape of Nanking, from Focus 580, December 17th, 1997 The Chinese in America: A Narrative History, from The Afternoon Magazine, May 19th, 2003 Gary Webb: Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, from Focus 580, August 13th, 1998

December 13, 2004

Blood, Oil, and Eagle Feathers 

I keep missing great interviews on WILL's Focus 580. Several from last week were worth spending the gas money to drive around with the radio on, which is about the only time I normally get to listen. But one of the great things about the web is you can time-shift your listening. So if you can, check out two programs from last Friday - Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Foreign Oil, with author Michael Klare; and John James Audobon: The Making of an American, with author Richard Rhodes. Both interviews are available in RealAudio and MP3 format on this Focus 580 archive page. And let's all marvel that David Inge can read two somewhat heavy books for interviews on the same day.

December 03, 2004

Please no thongs, we're British 

Boy, we sure wouldn't want to offend anyone in our audience. So when Denise Perry, our manager of special projects and resident Clay Aken fanatic, produced a feature for WILL-AM's program Sidetrack, accompanied by a web page with pictures of her posing with her official Clay Aken thong....some people voiced concern it was too racy for a public broadcasting web site. Golly, but it seems like some of the radio shows I've produced here over the years might have crossed that line for us long ago, and no turning back. But never mind, we threw it out there without fanfare, and gosh, there was audience demand: Denise's "Not a Claymate" page got more hits last month than all but two other pages on our site. Even more than WILLblog, if you can believe that! (Ha-ha, whatever...) Jeepers, no one in our web audience minded a bit seeing Denise hold up a small piece of celebrity-themed underwear, but apparently someone on our own staff took offense. The claim (which reached me 3rd-hand) was that the display of a thong "sexualizes women." And before I even knew of the complaint, the page was removed from the WILL site. So golly gee willacres, I have a couple of points to make about this. Nobody gets to remove stuff from our site like this without asking me about it, so I put it back up. As to the claim of our staff member, I think this is a lovely chance to have a conversation about what does or does not constitute sexualization, and if that's automatically offensive, politically incorrect, in bad taste, or otherwise ookey. Could I pose with my underwear and offend people too? Or would it have to be someone else's underwear? Now I want to be open-minded about this, so I'm prepared to have that conversation. In the meantime I restored the web page with one minor alteration: I pixelated the thong. I happen to think that's funny, and there's a place for funny on our site. There's no place for censorship though, and it seems to me that's what's at work here. What do you think?

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