June 28, 2006

Summer Reading? 

Why do we focus on summer reading? Probably most of us read year round, but for readers there's something magical about a lazy summer day sprawled in a chair or hammock, a cool drink at the ready, and a chance to lose yourself in another time or place or life right at your fingertips. I'm one of those people who compile lists of books. I read a review and I think "I'll like that one," and I shove a little scrap of paper in my purse, where I can't find it the next time I'm at the library. If I'm lucky I'll remember part of the title or the author's last name. I get several book reviews emailed to me--one weekly from the Christian Science Monitor, and another one this summer from NPR. I'm always fascinated by what "real" people read. Does a neurosurgeon read philosophy? Can a scientist comprehend poetry? Do English majors read only novels? I listen to WILL's talk show hosts Celeste Quinn and David Inge whenever I have the chance. I know they read a lot. They've pointed me in directions I never thought I'd find myself--from a mystical trip with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, by Susanna Clarke, I've been through a brick wall with Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and travelled through The Planets with Dava Sobel. But what do they read when they're not getting ready for an interview? I've asked David and Celeste and some of the other folks at WILL to share with all of us what they read and--we've added a twist to it--what music they like. Who would've guessed that TV program director David Thiel is a movie soundtrack junkie? And that AM 580 reporter Jeff Bossert is a fan of the movie "About a Boy," and the music that accompanies it. (We all know about Denise Perry's Clay Aiken fetish!) And that VideoWorks John Paul is a history buff who likes music from the 70s? Read some of their suggestions and add some of your own.

June 09, 2006

Congress to cut funding for...Mickey Mouse? 

The annual Congressional ritual to slash funding for public broadcasting has begun. On Wednesday the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut $115 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget next year, a 23 percent reduction. It was a straight party-line vote, led by Representative Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the appropriations panel. Moveon.org and others are cranking up the email lists to oppose the cuts, and I'm sure we'll be talking about it as the federal budget process progresses, if that's the correct term. Last year similar cuts by the House Appropriations Committee were firmly rejected by a bi-partisan Congressional majority after an outpouring of citizen support for public broadcasting. And for the most part support for PBS and NPR is indeed bi-partisan, which bodes well for our longevity. Public broadcasting should serve the public interests of all Americans regardless of political party, and as a producer I know we work very hard to do that. Still, it seems like someone is always trying to make partisan hay out of a supposed liberal bias in PBS and NPR programs. I'd love to talk with anyone about balance and fairness and the qualities that make for great journalism and public affairs programming. But it's harder to do this productively while being threatened and belittled. Plus, it'd be nice if our critics actually knew what they were talking about instead of simply relying on "principles." Rep. Regula reveals something interesting when he refers to our efforts to defend public broadcasting: "They'll trot out Elmo and Mickey Mouse and Lord knows who else, and I'll be out there kind of by myself." Mickey Mouse? Uh, that would be Disney. If only public broadcasting had that kind of money.

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