Thursday roundup: Slate plans for Pesca, Oxford burns PBS, ProPublica sells data

By Andrew Lapin

Bowers

• Slate has big plans for poached NPR reporter Mike Pesca, reports Nieman Journalism Lab. Pesca will anchor a daily 20-minute podcast about current events, made available for afternoon download for listeners’ evening commutes (when they might otherwise listen to All Things Considered). The aim is to cultivate new habits among podcast listeners, according to Andy Bowers, Slate’s e.p. of podcasts and another NPR veteran. Slate will hire a producer for Pesca’s show.

• A new Oxford University study found that proposed U.K. government cuts to BBC funding would halve the amount of TV produced in the country, reducing the organization to “a minor sideshow” in British culture — “the equivalent of America’s PBS.” (Ouch.) The report’s authors talked to The Independent.

• Nonprofit newsroom ProPublica has opened an online “data store” filled with government data from their reports. Some data sets are available to users for free; other “premium” sets are for sale to journalists and academics. “We’ve long worked informally with people interested in purchasing our datasets,” senior editor Scott Klein and data reporter Ryann Grochowski Jones wrote in a post announcing the launch of the store. “We hope that providing a clearinghouse for all of our datasets will help this material reach a broader community and will support, in spirit and financially, our journalistic mission.”

• An NPR report about snake viruses helped connect scientific collaborators and inspired new biomedical research related to understanding the Ebola virus. After hearing the 2012 story, Jonathan Lai, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at New York’s Yeshiva University, sought out the researchers who had produced the study and shared similar work his lab had separately tackled. That resulted in the publication of another paper and breakthroughs in visualizing the virus’s structure.

“This work all started from the piece I had heard on NPR,” Lai wrote on the college’s blog. “While making lasting scientific discoveries is more complex than flipping on the radio, my experience shows the role nonscientific public media can play in fostering important and fruitful collaborations among scientists with different backgrounds and expertise.”

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