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CPB probes StoryCorps “multimedia conglomerate” charges

The office of Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ombudsman Joel Kaplan has released some details of its investigation of StoryCorps, prompted by the complaints of blogger Sylvia Kronstadt. StoryCorps is heard on NPR’s Morning Edition and seen on PBS stations. The CPB has given the show 23 grants worth more than $15 million since 2003.

In a nutshell, Kronstadt says StoryCorps “is becoming a multimedia conglomerate. It is nonprofit in name only.” At the heart of Kronstadt’s complaint is the StoryCorps consent release form, which she insists “has been deliberately misrepresented to tens of thousands of people, who had no idea that they were signing over the copyright to their story and photo to StoryCorps, ‘permanently and irrevocably,’ permitting the ‘nonprofit’ to use their ‘sacred’ interactions countless ways. It has already turned people—many of them dead—into amusing cartoons, as well as books and DVDs.” Kronstadt doesn’t like some of the graphics that Storycorps creates of Storycorps interviewees.

Reading Kaplan’s update, titled “Stalking StoryCorps,” I don’t get the impression that he is very impressed with Kronstadt’s charges. He quotes StoryCorps founder David Isay‘s response:

“The writer has been posting wildly inaccurate statements about StoryCorps all over the internet in recent weeks, as well as contacting our partner organizations, staff and who knows who else. We’ve been around for 10 years. We’ve done 50,000 interviews. We’ve never had an issue or a question about the release form before.”

The CPB Ombudsman post concludes as so:

“Finally, Mr. Isay responded to specific allegations made by Ms. Kronstadt:

In terms of the animation special that aired on PBS last month, Ms. Kronstadt said it cost taxpayers a million to produce, Mr. Isay said the CPB funding for that special was $325,000.

Ms. Kronstadt said that Mr. Isay has an expense account of more than $1 million. Mr. Isay said he does not have an expense account.

She also said that StoryCorps charges a $25 fee to record an interview. Mr. Isay responds by saying that ‘We don’t charge any fee to record an interview. We do ask for a voluntary donation at the end of the session.’

Finally, Ms. Kronstadt objects to StoryCorps charging participants for a transcript of their interview.

Mr. Isay said, ‘We provide each participant with a free CD copy of their interview. If participants request a transcript, we recommend an independent transcription service that we have found to be professional and reasonably priced.'”


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