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WQED hires director for education center

Friday, September 17, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

WQED has hired a director for its newly created educational resource center, designed to connect students and teachers to PBS's educational programming.

Linda Tabakin joined WQED Sept. 1 from KPTS, the PBS station in Wichita, Kan., where she worked as director of programming and educational services/outreach.

WQED President George Miles said the creation of the station's educational resource center has been a longtime goal.

"If we're an educational, informational, cultural organization, education is part of our mission," Miles said. "With our assets of television and radio programming we can help facilitate and enhance education within the schools and within our cultural organizations. We can act as a catalyst for education in the community."

Miles said the center will provide added depth to the programs broadcast on WQED.

The station has also hired a new director of events, a position that's been vacant since August 1998. Sonya Shumway will join WQED in October from Family House. Her tasks will include planning station fund-raisers such as the annual Elsie Awards.

In other station business, WQED's yet-to-be-named nightly magazine program is in development and expected to launch in mid-January. A name of the program has not been determined and a host has not yet been hired.

Ric Sebak's "North Side Story" will air nationally on PBS for the first time Monday at 9 p.m. following "Antiques Roadshow." Sebak is currently at work on "Things That Are Still Here" for broadcast sometime in early December.

WQED will broadcast a debate between the candidates in the race for county executive Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. Chris Fennimore will host a new cooking special on Nov. 20 titled "Church Lady Cooking."

Last week PBS President Ervin Duggan resigned, and Miles praised him for "building a network that is very strong."

That same day the Corporation for Public Broadcasting released a report on the donor list controversy that revealed 9 percent of PBS stations engaged in list swapping or rental from political organizations, almost all through third-party list brokers.

Neil Mahrer, WQED executive vice president, said WQED never sold names of its members to political organizations.

"We have rented names from political organizations and used those in our direct mail because with direct mail you are looking for people who have donated in response to mail [in the past]," Mahrer said. This summer's PBS list-swapping controversy rose out of an article published four months earlier, Mahrer said. When discovered, the article gave ammunition to those opposed to funding for public broadcasting.

"Like so many things you run into, reality is not what's important, perception is what's important," Mahrer said. "There was no evidence any of these stations tried to get their [members'] names to any particular [political] party."

Mahrer said the WQED board will be presented with a formal policy for adoption that recommends the station not exchange lists with any political organizations in the future.

Financially, WQED saw contributions rise by more than $360,000 in the financial year ended June 30, 1999. Revenues were up from a year ago and expenses were down.

This year WQED ended with a positive gain of $155,843 in excess operating revenues over operating expenses. At the end of the last fiscal year the station had a $70,410 deficit.

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