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Posts Tagged ‘Thirteen’

‘No Better Place’ for Midge Woolsey, Ending WQXR Career After Two Decades

Avid listeners to Classical station WQXR don’t need a formal introduction to Midge Woolsey. She started as a weekend host under The New York Times ownership. Later, she moved to weeknights, and since 2009 Woolsey has been on the middays.

That is all about to end.

After 20 years, Woolsey is singing a Brahms lullaby, as she holds fort on her final broadcast Thursday.

“Anyone would consider it an honor to be a part of what’s gone on, and what is going on at WQXR,” Woolsey tells FishbowlNY. “I can’t think of a better place to be doing the job that I’ve been doing. There is no better place.”

For the veteran broadcaster, she’ll miss everything attached to ‘QXR.

“It’s the whole package. It’s the connection that we make everyday with the listeners,” Woolsey says.

Those loyal fans have been writing well wishes to Woolsey on their Web site. Perhaps from the strong bond that classical music aficionadoes have with their station, many comments were equally passionate about the longtime host.

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WNET Looks Back at 70s for Second Installment of Pioneers of Thirteen

Don’t put away your bell bottoms just yet!

The calendar has turned to another year, but the 50th anniversary celebration continues hasn’t ended at PBS’ Channel 13. In the second installment of the Pioneers of Thirteen, the 1970s are recalled in detail.

Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep narrates The ’70s – Bold and Fearless, which takes viewers into an exploration of Thirteen’s second decade on air. It was an era in public television that was defined through creative experimentation. Streep had a connection with PBS before hitting it big in movies (Oscar winner in 1979 for Kramer vs. Kramer). Look for her shining in Wendy Wasserstein‘s first play Uncommon Women and Others from 1978.

Perhaps most important to the 1970s was the political scandal by which all others would be measured going forward–Watergate.

The gavel-to-gavel coverage on WNET in 1973 brought newsmen Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer together. It was the precursor for their long-running nightly newscast.

Channel 13 also helped promote the budding career of actor Morgan Freeman (The Electric Company).

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As WNET Marks a Golden Age, Here’s a Look Behind the Scenes at Thirteen’s Lincoln Center Studios

In continuing our series about WNET’s 50th anniversary celebration, the public broadcaster reaches the milestone with new digs. The studios at Lincoln Center were built in 2010, leading to the move of WNET from its antiquated facility near the West Side Railyards on 34th Street. The Lincoln Center locale has no room to fit office space. Regular Thirteen staffers recently moved to the updated WorldWide Plaza on 49th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

At Lincoln Center, passersby notice the street-level studio directly behind the number 1 subway station, the first such studio in the country for public TV.

Unlike the typical studios of the same ilk, WNET keeps a black curtain down during all tapings. PBS constructed the studios at Alice Tully Hall, but they were constrained by what was in front of them. Most notably, the walls are not sound proof.

Even with the curtain drawn the sounds, perhaps a siren bellowing on Broadway, permeate. To counteract, the station says it doesn’t have much live content from the Lincoln Center studio.

Therefore, as a spokesperson told FishbowlNY during our recent tour of the studio that any objectionable sounds from the street can simply lead to a “re-do.”

In the secondary studio above 66th Street, there are no audio concerns during taping, and the screen is not pulled down.

Look for a video “tour” of the upstairs portion after the jump, and you’ll notice the proximity to the studios of WABC/Channel 7 in the background.

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Thirteen Takes Stroll Down Memory Lane for 50th Anniversary

FishbowlNY readers are well aware that Channel 13 is celebrating the Big 5-0. And if we’re running a series a pieces dedicated to the major achievement, you can be sure that Thirteen has some unique plans.

Tonight, New York’s first public TV station begins anniversary celebration with a special four-part series, Pioneers of Thirteen. The first episode: The 60s–Expermental Days, dust off the WNET archival footage for memorable moments in station, if not television, history.

Interspersed are interviews with early Channel 13 staffers and managers, including the WNDT (13′s original call letters) founding general manager Richard Heffner.

But the show comes alive with the vintage clips, some not seen they aired decades ago. In the precursor to Great Performances, viewers will be treated to a young but talented Dustin Hoffman performing Journey of the Fifth Horse. It was 1966, a year before Hoffman breakout role in The Graduate.

Other were already established, such as A Conversation with Muhammad Ali, featuring, of course, “The Greatest.”

Jazz Casual has clips of Blues great, B.B. King and Mel Torme, while Aaron Copland is featured on Music in the 20s.

That only scratches the surface to the decade and in turn the one-hour program.

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Reflections of TV Pioneer Joan Ganz Cooney as WNET Prepares for 50th Anniversary

Joan Ganz Cooney may not be a household name. But Joan Ganz Cooney revolutionized viewing habits from toddlers to teens. Cooney is co-founder of the Children’s Television Workshop, a mainstay on Channel 13 since its launch in 1969. It is a perfect inclusion to FishbowlNY’s special series of interviews and posts dedicated to WNET’s 50th anniversary.

The CTW was producing programming solely for public television. Like national syndication today, it was made available for public TV stations across the country. The first show that Cooney and her CTW employees created was Sesame Street.

While each station made the decision when to air Sesame Street, Cooney had strong views for the start time.

“I didn’t want it in competition with Captain Kangaroo [8 a.m. on CBS], the only other quality children’s show at the time,” Cooney says.

To avoid the “Captain’s wrath,” CTW was encouraging PBS stations to air Sesame Street at either 7 a.m. or 9 a.m.

WNDT, (the original call letters of WNET), was not as accommodating. In a rarely remembered tibdit, Sesame Street actually had its debut on WPIX/Channel 11.

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(Video) Neal Shapiro, WNET President and CEO, Reflects on Thirteen’s Fiftieth

When the independent station taking up space at Channel 13 became a non-commercial station, history was made. It was September 16, 1962. CBS News icon Edward R. Murrow introduced new WNDT (New Dimensions in Television), thus unveiling New York City’s first educational TV station. (Watch the video clip below)

Murrow opened the initial telecast saying, “Tonight, you join me on a great adventure… This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire, but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.”

So it is only fitting that FishbowlNY honors the remarkable achievement with a series of articles commemorating the 50th anniversary of Channel 13.

FishbowlNY recently sat down with WNET president and CEO, Neal Shapiro.

While searching for clips to use in an anniversary documentary/retrospective, Shapiro says Channel 13, which became WNET in 1970, felt like more like a museum, unearthing station artifacts.

“Fifty years ago, the station was just starting and having to reinvent everything,” Shapiro tells FishbowlNY. “Fifty years later, we’re still doing some of that because in the process of discovering our history in turns out things were stored sort of haphazardly. The mediums are different…much of it uncatalogued.”

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Robert Kotlowitz, WNET’s First VP of Programming, Dies at 87

Channel 13 is making preparations for a huge celebration next month, marking the 50th anniversary of the New York City public television station. But today the station pauses to remember Robert Kotlowitz, an early executive at WNET.

Kotlowitz died over the weekend at his Manhattan home, a WNET spokeswoman confirms to FishbowlNY. He was 87.

As WNET was beginning its second decade as an educational force, Kotlowitz was exiting his role as managing editor at Harper’s Magazine. In 1971, he was named the station’s first vice president of programming and broadcasting.

Kotlowitz was instrumental in launching several PBS shows, among them the MacNeil-Lehrer Report, which he got the idea for after they hosted the Watergate hearings on PBS. They debuted nationally in 1975. More recently, the broadcast has been retitled PBS Newshour.

In 1981, while WNET struggled financially,  it was Kotlowitz’s idea to invest $500,000 in a British series. Brideshead Revisted would become one of television’s most successful shows in history, The New York Times writes. In 2000, the serial placed 10th on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programs. In 2000, Time magazine recognized Brideshead as one of the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time.

Kotlowitz, interviewed in April for WNET’s 50th anniversary, was still unsure why he joined WNET.

“I ask myself [that] over and over again, even at this late point in my life,” Kotlowitz said.

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WNET Launches Local News Website–MetroFocus

Beginning today, WNET New York Public Media, the parent company of Channel 13 and Channel 21/WLIW, goes live with local news website MetroFocus (www.thirteen.org/metrofocus). Billing itself as news, culture, and life in around New York, this marks the first phase of a mulitplatform initiative for MetroFocus.  

On the home page, visitors can examine top stories and a roundup of local news from other sources.  

In addition to timely news stories, the inaugural content on the MetroFocus website will feature reporting from the investigative journalism nonprofit City Limits about poverty in New York on the 15-year anniversary of welfare reform.

“If we want to stay relevant to the communities where we operate, we need to serve them better,” WNET president and CEO Neal Shapiro said. “That’s why we’re enhancing WNET’s legacy of top-quality national programming with our commitment to coverage of the local issues, tensions and challenges facing people in the tri-state region.”

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WNET Takes Over Programming of New Jersey Network

Last night, New Jersey Network ended its 40-year run of providing state news and information.

Due to budgetary concerns, NJN’s days were numbered. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced last month that WNET, the parent company of Channel 13 and Channel 21/WLIW would handle all programming and services under a five-year deal. The broadcast license continues to be maintained by the state.

“WNET is uniquely qualified to maintain and grow the network for New Jersey and its cititzens,” Christie said. “WNET brings a wealth of resources to the table, including an award-winnning education department that provides video and other materials to teachers; an innovative interactive department with a solid technology infrastructure and other back-office functions that will help NJN strive. I am confident that WNET will continue to provide the excellent local and national public television programming that New Jersey residents have relied on for more than 40 years.”

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Tavis Smiley Brings Late Night PBS Show to New York This Week

As part of his deal with WNET in December, Tavis Smiley will occasionally hit the road, and bring his eponymous show to New York. This is one of those weeks.

The collaboration includes the brand new Tisch WNET studios in Lincoln Center.

“Whenever I would come to New York before, we just had to rent out a studio,” Smiley tells FishbowlNY. “But now that WNET is my official public television partner and I have access to my own studios at Lincoln Center, it makes it a little easier to come here… to do shows.” 

Despite now having access to the studios, The Los Angeles-based Smiley is uncertain when he’ll return to New York, and how often.

“The studios are mine, whenever I want them,” Smiley admits. “It’s really just a matter of scheduling.”

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