Lakeshore to unplug nightly news program
BY CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondent January 15, 2014 9:09PM
Jodi Juhl with Lakeshore Public Television hosts a program presented by the Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana group (LARRI) commemorating the third anniversary of the 2008 Northwest Indiana floods held at Wicker Park in Highland, Ind., Tuesday, September 13, 2011. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 17, 2014 8:37AM
MERRILLVILLE — Lakeshore News Tonight will air its last nightly newscast Jan. 31 with the organization opting instead for a future in-depth weekly news program beginning in early March.
James Muhammad, president and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media, on Wednesday said staff was informed Tuesday of the decision to change the way it delivers news. He said the union was made aware of Lakeshore’s intent to change formatting at the onset of the decision-making process.
“We will be going to a weekly format with more in-depth coverage, what and why things are happening,” he said.
Muhammad said the change was predicated by the need to find a way to deliver the content Lakeshore viewers have come to expect in a more efficient manner and to manage costs in what has been a financially trying time for the organization. Lakeshore Public Media spends a little under $500,000 a year on the five-night-a-week news programming. That amount, he said, is unsustainable in a public media environment.
“We are trying to do something where quality meets the current financial state of the organization,” he said.
Muhammad said he spent Wednesday in meetings with Indianapolis Public Broadcasting discussing partnership opportunities between the two entities to create efficiencies and increase programming opportunities.
Lakeshore Public Media offers a wide variety of news programming in various formats including radio, podcasts and web streaming. He described the emerging avenues for delivering content as opportunities for Lakeshore.
Muhammad said as the changes move forward viewers and listeners can expect to see more of a crossover of talent including television personalities on the radio and radio personalities on television.
“All of this will be a part of the entire news effort we will have at Lakeshore Public Media,” Muhammad said.
News anchor Jodi Juhl was not able to return from a leave of absence in December and reporter Reneta DuBose left the station Dec. 31 for a position in Georgia. News director Jerry Howard is no longer with the station, Muhammad said. Remaining staff and their duties will be reorganized. Some of those changes will include reduced hours.
Several staffers who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they fear retribution say morale at Lakeshore is low. They also said Howard was fired.
“I intend to continue to encourage our folks and let them know the value we place on them personally and professionally,” Muhammad said.
He lauded the staff’s coverage of the recent weather state of emergency and said that type of coverage will continue. However, it is more suited to the organization’s radio and web sources for instant coverage.
“Very, very few public television stations have nightly news programs. We were very fortunate to be able to bring the news to the public in that form for so long. We plan to continue our efforts with a new very fresh approach,” Muhammad said.
He said it will take time to build and construct the weekly news program and expects to have it complete in early March. The new formatting will give Lakeshore the opportunity to do more special coverage and forums in the communities it serves.
“We intend to remain a strong force in the community,” Muhammad said.