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Letter to NY Times Editor

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008
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Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President

February 19, 2008
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times

To the Editor:

In cherrypicking through the TV schedule to make his point, Charles McGrath misses the range and depth of Thirteen/WNET’s programming. From science and history to culture and public affairs, Thirteen has been at the forefront of creating and broadcasting some of PBS’s finest programs. We are still innovating and bringing additional relevance to public television’s tradition of intelligence, quality and integrity.

Mr. McGrath may not be aware that we’ve just premiered a new season of “Exposé,” the only series on American television devoted to investigative reporting. While cable and commercial newsmagazines have gone “crime all the time,” this series is a fresh take on the genre.

We’ve also just launched “Reel 13,” a weekly series that lets viewers submit and pick short films and that showcases quality independent feature films.

We’re about to launch “Sunday Arts,” a new series created in partnership with New York’s cultural institutions to celebrate the fine and performing arts – from established greats to undiscovered talents. And in a unique collaboration with ABC News, Thirteen is bringing the New York Philharmonic’s historic concert in North Korea to PBS.

In March, we’ll host the third annual Teaching and Learning Celebration, a one-of-a-kind professional development conference for educators. And with a grant from the Gates Foundation, we’ll be using the Celebration as a jumping-off point to produce a national PBS program examining critical issues in education. I think Mr. McGrath would be hard-pressed to name one other television outlet that is doing this kind of work.

What Thirteen/WNET offers its community – and all America – is unique, relevant, and, yes, necessary.


Neal Shapiro
President and CEO

Read more responses to the NY Times article.

  • Daniel

    I agree with your take on the network’s current position: it could do with some changes and newer programming, but there’s no reason to make superficial changes, such as firing Jim Lehrer (the most trustworthy and the only real journalist reading the news these days). McGrath’s suggestion that cable has taken over PBS’ role is ridiculous: I’ve watched the science documentaries on Discovery and National Geographic, and they’re sensationalism is cringe-worthy. Similarly, the cable news channels are doing little to promote national discourse or intelligent, reasoned discussion: it’s the news programmes on PBS and NPR that are.

    Incidentally (not that it matters), I’m a 21-year old university student. This is one member of the “key demo” that the commercial networks are not going to get!

    Keep up the great work, Mr. Shapiro! I love the changes to the Saturday film nights!

  • BenInBrooklyn

    Check out Ken Burns’ op-ed on proposed PBS funding cuts in the LA Times. It touches on similar themes, especially what would happen if we let only the “marketplace” dictate what was on television:

  • mickey appleman

    Sunday Arts is the single best program on television. Period.