Bucks County Herald

PBS 39 forms Reporter Corps to cover local news including Bucks

KATHRYN FINEGAN CLARK

PBS Channel 39, based in Bethlehem, will be shining a spotlight on local news in the sprawling Greater Lehigh Valley with a new initiative called Reporter Corps.

Tim Fallon, the channel’s CEO, said the program will bring a dozen new journalists into the region to cover local news. He announced details of the program at a press conference Thursday at the station, based in the SteelStacks complex.

“PBS39 is uniquely suited to handle this type of journalism, as we do not have the constraints of commercial news” Fallon said. “We have an opportunity to undertake a different kind of journalism, where we are looking beyond the story of the day with a mission to give citizens a deeper understanding of their community.”

Speaking at the press conference as the leading cheerleader for the Reporter Corps was U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15, who is stepping down from Congress this month, frustrated with the gridlock in Washington, D.C.

Dent, who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, received the Champion of Public Broadcasting Award from America’s Public Television Stations this year.

Dent spoke about the importance of a free press to democracy. He said, “Our democratic values are now under assault. That’s not where we should be. This democratic, capitalistic country depends on a free press and the rule of law.”

He pointed to the extensive coverage of news in the nation’s capital and said he sees a gap in local news. He said, “We need good substantive news. I like it when reporters have editorial oversight.” He decried false reports posted on the Internet, and said, “I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody sent me something over the Internet, insisting it’s true, when I know it’s completely false.”

Channel 39’s television signal currently reaches about 3.1 million people. Bucks and Montgomery counties are among the 10 counties in its Greater Lehigh Valley coverage area as are Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. The others are Schuylkill, Carbon, Monroe, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton.

Yoni Greenbaum, the channel’s chief content officer, said reporters will be embedded in 10 communities. The Reporter Corps will be run by Jim Deegan, managing editor, and Monica Evans, executive producer and host.

Deegan has held several positions at the Express-Times in Easton and is a former president of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. Evans, a seasoned news reporter, most recently worked for a television channel in Kansas City, Mo. They will oversee day-to-day operations for both digital assets and televised content.

Greenbaum said, “This newscast is not intended to cover weather, sports and traffic, the accident of the day. It is about the revival of community journalism, which has been eroding steadily over the last decade. We’ re telling the stories that nobody else is telling.”

Members of the Reporter Corps will work remotely, he said. Initially, they will focus on the PBS39 digital platform and eventually on a nightly televised newscast scheduled to launch in September.

The station’s investment in the Reporter Corps program is a result of the $82 million it received last year from the Spectrum Auction, the Federal Communication Commission’s sale of broadcast frequency rights.

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