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Bad News Bloggers

Did 2007 finally mark the beginning of the end for KPBS, the public radio and television station pair owned and operated by San Diego State University? With public contributions flat and growing competition from streaming news sources on the Internet, some questioned the station's continuing viability. In August, honcho Doug Myrland abruptly axed Full Focus, KPBS's only regular public affairs television show, on which local policy wonks matched wits with host Gloria Penner. The station's strategy of timing the announcement in the dog days of summer to avoid negative attention backfired when Myrland commandeered a blog on the KPBS website and blasted away at critics of the cancellation. "KPBS has been in existence for 46 years, and NEVER has it been a collective, or even a participatory democracy. I make decisions in the same way every General Manager before me did," wrote Myrland, a state employee. "We aren't elected officials -- every budget line item and every personnel decision and every bit of information we collect is not everybody else's business. Just because you give a contribution or pay taxes doesn't give you the right to decide -- or even influence -- what goes on the air and what doesn't."

The tempest drew the attention of San Diego city attorney Mike Aguirre, who made a request to SDSU under the state's Public Records Act to turn over documents regarding cutbacks at the station and alleged untoward influence being brought there by the Union-Tribune. In October, Michael Marcotte, the station's news director, fired back at the quixotic city attorney, saying that finances played no role in the demise of Full Focus. It was, he said, "removed for failing to draw viewers, which amounts to a responsible programming decision, not a dereliction of duty." He added that the stations produced "more than 15 hours a week" of programming "to help our region better know itself."

As it turns out, Marcotte, a 12-year station veteran, will no longer be around to contribute to the betterment of self-knowledge. A month after his anti-Aguirre piece, he announced his own departure in a blog post headlined, "Happy Birthday Public Broadcasting (I Quit!)." Marcotte's blog entry said he was leaving on "good terms," though it didn't explain why. He has become a "public media consultant" in Santa Barbara.

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Did 2007 finally mark the beginning of the end for KPBS, the public radio and television station pair owned and operated by San Diego State University? With public contributions flat and growing competition from streaming news sources on the Internet, some questioned the station's continuing viability. In August, honcho Doug Myrland abruptly axed Full Focus, KPBS's only regular public affairs television show, on which local policy wonks matched wits with host Gloria Penner. The station's strategy of timing the announcement in the dog days of summer to avoid negative attention backfired when Myrland commandeered a blog on the KPBS website and blasted away at critics of the cancellation. "KPBS has been in existence for 46 years, and NEVER has it been a collective, or even a participatory democracy. I make decisions in the same way every General Manager before me did," wrote Myrland, a state employee. "We aren't elected officials -- every budget line item and every personnel decision and every bit of information we collect is not everybody else's business. Just because you give a contribution or pay taxes doesn't give you the right to decide -- or even influence -- what goes on the air and what doesn't."

The tempest drew the attention of San Diego city attorney Mike Aguirre, who made a request to SDSU under the state's Public Records Act to turn over documents regarding cutbacks at the station and alleged untoward influence being brought there by the Union-Tribune. In October, Michael Marcotte, the station's news director, fired back at the quixotic city attorney, saying that finances played no role in the demise of Full Focus. It was, he said, "removed for failing to draw viewers, which amounts to a responsible programming decision, not a dereliction of duty." He added that the stations produced "more than 15 hours a week" of programming "to help our region better know itself."

As it turns out, Marcotte, a 12-year station veteran, will no longer be around to contribute to the betterment of self-knowledge. A month after his anti-Aguirre piece, he announced his own departure in a blog post headlined, "Happy Birthday Public Broadcasting (I Quit!)." Marcotte's blog entry said he was leaving on "good terms," though it didn't explain why. He has become a "public media consultant" in Santa Barbara.

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