KPBS releases behind-the-scenes transcripts

Gloria Penner unleashed

KPBS, the public broadcasting operation owned and operated by San Diego State University, financed in large part by state taxpayers, has released more of the documents requested by City Attorney Mike Aguirre under the state's Public Records Act. Among them is a list of the station's top 20 underwriters in 2006. At the top is National University, followed by utilities giant Sempra Energy; Mission Federal Credit Union; Qualcomm; Union Bank of California; Lloyd Pest Control; Lexus; Cox Communications; Zoological Society of San Diego; UCSD; Mercedes-Benz; Coles Carpets; American Money Management; the Bob Baker Auto Group; the Union-Tribune; Perry Scientific; Front Porch; Irving Hughes Group; KCET-Fast Five; and Innovative Employee Solutions.

The KPBS files unearthed by Aguirre also pull back the curtain a bit on how station staffers and local pundits view the political landscape. On August 29, Gloria Penner, host of Editors Roundtable, e-mailed staff with "more ideas for our noon meeting," including "So what's with sex scandals and Republican legislators? David Vitter, Mark Foley, Bob Allen, and now Larry Craig. Plus all the other scandals -- Cunningham, Jack Abramoff and so forth." Another Penner-suggested topic: "$20,000 Quick Shipper bonuses to convince new and prior Army recruits to ship out for training within 30 days. Some recruiters believe the extended tours of duty and the age limit raised to 42 are helping to fill the ranks, but some local Army recruiting commands see their numbers short of the early goal. Some recruits could tally bonuses up to $40,000 with enlistments of 4 years or more. So -- are we becoming an army of mercenaries?"

The documents suggest that not everyone on the panel shares Penner's liberal outlook. In an August 29 e-mail, Tim McClain, who works for San Diego Metropolitan, a pro-business downtown monthly partly owned by wealthy lawyer John Davies (a close friend of ex-GOP governor Pete Wilson and chairman of that controversial "citizens" committee expected to recommend ways to strengthen the hand of Republican mayor Jerry Sanders), wrote, "For fun we can ask if anyone will run against the city attorney, who now is facing having his litigation expenses laundry spelled out in a union-funded report." In a June 14 e-mail, U-T editorial writer Chris Reed also was critical of Aguirre. "Aguirre is right that the mayor has totally mishandled this. But he goes beyond that to flatly say the mayor is corrupt, which I think is a crazy and destructive thing to do unless you have hard proof."

The talk was not all politics. Discussing with her producer the possibility of substituting Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. for panel regular and U-T editorialist Bob Kittle, Penner wrote in a July 2 e-mail: "Ruben Navarrette said that he believes Bob is gone all week to his beach in house Cayuca (sp?). So I hope it's OK with you that I asked Ruben, if Bob is really not going to be here, to be on the show. I think he'd love to talk about the presidential candidates, although I think he would be willing to talk about just about anything."

For his part, Kittle wrote on April 25, "Good time for a discussion on the war funding bill. I'm writing an editorial on the subject for tomorrow. This is always a red meat issue for left-leaning KPBS listeners. Bis Freitag." On February 14, producer Hank Crook e-mailed Kittle about last-minute details of an upcoming program, concluding, "Hopefully this will be the final solution for the show." Replied Kittle: "Das geht fur mir. This works for me. My only worry is about your calling this show 'the final solution.' Now that I'm studying German, I get nervous hearing such terminology. Bis morgan. (Until tomorrow.)"

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