Aguirre to review KPBS documents
Union Tribune (2007-09-12) David Hasemyer
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By David Hasemyer
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 12, 2007
City Attorney Michael Aguirre
wants to know the story behind KPBS' decision to cancel its public affairs TV show “Full Focus.” He also wants to know how the public broadcast station selects participants for its “Editors Roundtable” talk show, which is carried on radio and TV.
Aguirre sent letters last month asking for records related to the “Full Focus” cancellation after he saw news stories about the show's demise and was contacted by a constituent upset that it was gone.
The person apparently had made a donation to the station specifically to support “Full Focus,” said Deputy City Attorney Steven Lastomirsky.
Aguirre responded by directing Lastomirsky to submit three requests for records under the California Public Records Act, a formal process by which anyone may request information from a public agency. Two requests went to KPBS station manager Douglas Myrland and one to Stephen Weber, president of San Diego State University, which operates KPBS.
The station has complied, though KPBS spokeswoman Nancy Worlie said she can't fathom what Aguirre thinks he'll find. When “Full Focus” was canceled, it was being watched by less than 1 percent of the TV households in KPBS' viewing area.
Online: To see the public records requests filed by the City Attorney's Office go to uniontrib.com/more/kpbs
“There's not much in the documents, but whatever Aguirre does with this only Aguirre knows,” Worlie said. “We are flattered he wants to spend his time looking into us.”
She said the hundreds of e-mails, memos and other records are pretty humdrum.
“I doubt there is anything juicy,” Worlie said.
The city attorney declined to discuss the requests, saying he has not had time to review the documents.
Aguirre spokeswoman Maria Velasquez said the inquiry should not be misinterpreted in a way that suggests any wrongdoing.
“It has to be stressed this is just a request for information,” Velasquez said.
The station axed “Full Focus” and radio show “A Way With Words” and fired 12 employees last month, citing a need to better allocate its financial resources.
“Full Focus” began as a monthly newsmagazine in April 2000 and evolved into a daily show where local journalists and newsmakers talked about events in the headlines. “A Way With Words,” a language call-in show, was launched in 1998.
In addition to seeking documents related to “Full Focus,” Aguirre also requested documentation of the station's 20 largest donors for the past two years.
Lastomirsky said the request was not unusual, especially because a member of the public had approached the City Attorney's Office with concerns. Asking for information about the cancellation based on financial matters and the donors' list falls within the city attorney's watchdog role, Lastomirsky said.
Aguirre's interest in “Editors Roundtable,” where panelists often needle the city attorney, was not something Lastomirsky wanted to discuss, however.
“I'm not prepared to get into any of the details,” he said.