Monday, October 03, 2011

From NPR News in Washington, I'm Cookie Monster

Good Pickup by Network to Nab the Big Bird, er, Cheese at Sesame Workshop

The NPR board of directors showed it was adept at swimming against the tide when it scooped up Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell to lead the network.

Knell is cut from the mold of former ABC News prexy David Westin, a lawyer without news experience, but who, as one NPR board member said could "gain the respect of journalists."

We'll see about that, but Knell could be a propitious choice at a perilous time for NPR, what with the Republican sharks on Capitol Hill smelling blood where NPR's funding still resides safely in the federal budget.

As someone well-schooled in non-profit broadcasting, Knell necessarily blends the pragmatism and often tight-fisted fiscal management that such a job requires, while having a deft hand schmoozing deep-pocketed foundations and left-leaning trust-fund babies for checks with many zeros tacked on for good measure.

Having been at Sesame Workshop for two decades, Knell knows that the product must be the last thing sacrificed when times are tough. Sure, there aren't nearly as many original "Sesame Street" episodes produced as in years past (just 26 a year, compared to north of 100 in the show's early days). And its unholy alliance with the PBS Kids Sprout channel, laden with inapproprite commercials (Gerbers insurance for children, anyone?) is regrettable if potentially lucrative.

But overall, Sesame Workshop remains a solid, laudable enterprise whose good intentions are usually matched by its output. That NPR can say the same should make at least one aspect of Knell's job easier.

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