Monday roundup: PBS, NPR ombuds address Gaza reporting; commercial TV station tries memberships

By Andrew Lapin

• Public media’s coverage of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has some audience members questioning news outlets’ objectivity. Last week, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler and NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos published a total of three blog posts about coverage of the battle between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas, rounding up complaints from readers with diverging criticisms.

Getler focused on the PBS NewsHour‘s coverage of the conflict in his two reports. In the first, he fielded complaints about the show’s selection of guests and its usage of the term “occupied.” The second column concerned Gwen Ifill’s interview with a UNICEF specialist regarding civilian casualties in Gaza, which Getler said prompted more mail than any segment since the conflict started.

Schumacher-Matos took a broader view of NPR’s reporting on Gaza within Morning Edition, All Things Considered and newscasts, touching on subjects such as guest selection and the religious affiliations of the network’s on-the-ground reporters.

The ombudsmen appraised the coverage as fair. Getler criticized Ifill’s segment, however, calling it “a seriously missed opportunity” that Ifill did not ask the UNICEF spokesperson about Hamas’s tactics of storing weapons in civilian homes and public facilities.

• WMGM-TV, a commercial NBC affiliate in Linwood, N.J., has introduced a public media–like membership program in an effort to raise funds from viewers, reports the Press of Atlantic City. The “Friends of 40 Summer Membership Club” is not a nonprofit entity, but station General Manager J. Roger Powe III hopes residents will give up to $400 each to support the station in exchange for gifts. WMGM will lose its NBC affiliation and network programming at the end of the year, when it transfers to new owner LocusPoint, who will likely sell the station in the FCC’s upcoming spectrum auction.

• For anyone who’s always suspected that On the Media co-hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield would make a terrible couple: The two yell at each other in a re-enactment of a Mad magazine parody of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for an episode of Public Radio International’s Studio 360. Both programs are produced by WNYC.

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