March 17, 1980 — At National Association of Educational Broadcasters, James Fellows hires Steve Behrens to launch Current as a journalistic service, replacing NAEB’s association house organ Public Telecommunications Letter. Behrens insists on a publication name with no six-syllable words.

February 1981 — Brooke Gladstone, later to become co-host of WNYC’s national show On the Media, arrives as assistant editor in time to cover the NPR fiscal crisis.

Sept. 28, 1981 — NAEB, beset with financial imbalance, publishes its last edition of Current. The association dissolves by vote of its members Nov. 3, 1981.

March 31, 1982 — With help from an informal Current Publishing Committee of stations, Current resumes publication under the umbrella of WNET, though its office remains in Washington.

January 1983 — The newspaper begins serializing “Snookered 50 Years Ago,” Eugene E. Leach’s history of a crucial political battle between commercial and educational radio in the 1930s.

Brooke Gladstone

January 1984— Elizabeth T. Robinson is promoted to editor when Behrens takes a magazine job in New York. (Behrens returns seven years later.)

September 1984— Joy Mastroberardino is promoted to succeed Elizabeth Robinson as editor.

February 1986 — J.J. Yore, later to become executive producer of public radio’s Marketplace, is promoted to editor after joining staff as associate editor in August 1985.

July 1986Current gets a bold redesign by freelance art director Mark Jenkins.

September 1986Currentmoves its office from overheated basement on 16th Street to an apartment above a purple store that sells antique doorknobs (pictured at right) on 18th Street, N.W., in D.C.’s Adams-Morgan neighborhood.

March 1987The History of Public Broadcasting, by John Witherspoon and Roselle Kovitz, begins serialization. Later in the year, Current publishes the history in paperback.

January 1987 — David Giovannoni begins regular radio audience column; George Hall begins technology column. David and Judith LeRoy begin a TV audience column a year later. Skip Pizzi and Steven Vedro technology columns are added in 1993 — all subsidized by CPB.

July 1987 — Fellows and Yore develop a Group Subscription Plan to expand circulation, expanding its value to the field and helping it develop advertising revenues, which became its major source of revenue growth. The plan offered lower per-copy prices to stations but required that they buy certain numbers of subscriptions in proportion to staff size. The unusual subscription plan was widely accepted until after 2000 because it resembled the cost-sharing that underlies PBS, NPR and other cooperative services.

December 1987Current hires its first display ad salesperson, Harold Crabill; display ad sales begin growing. In fiscal 1989, Crabill doubles ad revenues and pulls Current out of the red.

March 1988 — Former Current Business Manager Val Taylor begins comic strip, “As Current Flows,” starring pubcaster fatale Muriel Aerial.

November 1988 — Richard Barbieri, who served as associate editor between March 1986 and July 1987, begins two years as editor, succeeding Yore. (Yore moves to Marketplace and after a while becomes its executive producer. Barbieri later edits Legal Times, the leading lawyers’ newspaper in Washington, D.C.)

December 1989Current features Christopher Whittle, the businessman who sold ads on the classroom TV service Channel One, at the top of the paper’s year-end “15 Who Made a Difference” profiles, and PBS temporarily drops its subscription in protest

March 1991— Steve Behrens returns as editor and establishes what he regards as a timeless design. He begins pandering to new PBS stars (pictured at right).

June 1992— Karen Everhart, associate editor, begins annual Pipeline surveys of future public TV series, now published annually in November. Theodore Fischer later picks up the assignment.

August 1993 — Under the influence of a business manager with traditionalist tendencies, the paper moves its offices to an actual office building on K Street.

Fall 1994 — Aides to CPB President Richard Carlson, critical of Current coverage of the corporation, withdraw CPB-funded audience research and technology columns from the newspaper. CPB mails out the columns separately and later puts them on the Web, but readership withers. After Carlson leaves, Giovannoni brings his columns back to Current for the Audience 98 study.

May 1995 — In a random-sample survey of readers, 68 percent rate their satisfaction with Currentas “good” and 26 percent as “excellent.” Just 4 percent say “fair,” and no one says “poor.”

Oct. 10, 1995 — Behrens hand-codes and launches Current website at current.org.

January 1996 — The paper begins serializing David Stewart’s book about public TV programming, later published by TV Books as The PBS Companion (1999).

Spring 1997 — Business staffers Taryna Wong, Denese Scott and Stephanie Briggs (pictured at right) begin giving away hot-pink plastic yo-yos, kazoos and other tschotskes at booths during major conferences.

February 2000Current publishes a new paperback edition of A History of Public Broadcasting with updates by Robert Avery and Alan Stavitsky (cover pictured at right). Current and National Public Broadcasting Archives collaborate on a companion website for the history book, Public Broadcasting Policybase, which collects major documents in pubcasting history.

December 2003 — Founding Chairman James Fellows is seriously injured in traffic accident and retires from active involvement in the publication.

August 2005 — After 25 years in Washington, Current moves from K Street, a realm of turbo-lobbyists, to Takoma Park, Md. (map), mere yards outside of D.C., a haven of acupuncturists, azaleas, macrobiotic dog food, and traditional stringed instruments.

January 2009 — Senior Editor Dru Sefton, a refugee from daily newspapers, begins accelerating the blog on Current‘s website to make it a wide-ranging source of aggregated news briefs.

Jan. 1, 2011 — With support from the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia, WNET transfers stewardship of Current to American University School of Communication under Dean Larry Kirkman. For the time being, Current maintains its separate office in Takoma Park.

Jan. 6, 2012 — Never fully recovered from his accident eight years earlier, Current founder James Fellows dies, age 77.

Feb. 11, 2012A wholly unexpected death occurs: newly hired Senior Editor Jeff Kaye, of a heart attack at age 57.

March 12, 2012 — AU School of Communication names Karen Everhart as top editor of Current; Steve Behrens retires as editor, 21 years after returning to the job and 32 years after starting the paper. His temporary task: oversee the launch of a new current.org built by a vendor.

August 2012 — Current.org overhauled and relaunched using WordPress as content management system. (See the letter from the editors.)

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