After leaving ABC, Rooney worked for Fox News, most recently as political
director. That job was set to expire last fall. So when her former WCVB
colleague Stoia asked if she wanted to host a new public-affairs show, Rooney
was intrigued. She liked New York, but her husband, Kirby Perkins, was still a
reporter at WCVB. She had rarely worked in front of the camera, but she was
willing to give it a try.
We're sitting in a small, windowless conference room at WGBH headquarters, in
Allston. She's trying to be cooperative, but she's clearly uncomfortable
talking about herself and her goals. "I hope that we can provide thoughtful
discussions about important issues," she offers.
Fans of the old Ten O'Clock News may not like Greater Boston
immediately -- or ever. The higher production standards and
less-than-monumental topics such as the Super Bowl will no doubt lead to
charges that WGBH is more interested in attracting large numbers of viewers
than in striking a high-minded tone.
But though there's surely something to be said for high-mindedness, a show
needs an audience to survive, even in public broadcasting. It's not a matter of
dumping the high-mindedness; it's a matter of communicating with people rather
than talking down to them. Chris Lydon learned that lesson in making the
transition from diffident TV newsman to dynamic radio talk host.
"If you completely ignore the conventions of television, you will fail," says
Steve Bass, WGBH's vice-president and general manager. "But if we swing all the
way over and adopt all the conventions of commercial television, then we will
equally be a failure."
It's a balancing act, and Rooney sounds like she understands that.
"Public broadcasting has a way to go," she says. "This is an attempt to appeal
to a broader audience." Adds Judy Stoia: "Public radio figured out how to make
the best use of the medium, and has been enormously innovative. On the
television side, locally, we should do so well."
Bob Ferrante's experience gives him an unusually broad perspective. An 11-year
veteran of WGBH, where he helped create The Ten O'Clock News, Ferrante
today is executive producer of NPR's Morning Edition. He's worked in
commercial television as well, including a stint at CBS. He gives WGBH credit
for putting together Greater Boston, and says the question of how to
serve the community is always a dilemma.
"I think in public broadcasting, no matter what you do, you'll be accused of
being unresponsive to the local community unless you directly respond to the
community that's complaining. So it's almost a no-win situation," Ferrante
"This is a very, very volatile time in broadcasting and in journalism, and I
think we're all trying to find our way."