Well, that was quick. Vermont PBS has reversed course in a New York minute, jettisoning Kristin Carlson as host of its new talk show, now retitled “Connect.” The pressure must have been intense, and not just from this corner, because the decision leaves VPBS in a tight spot. They’ve got a weekly interview program. They’ve aired one episode, and they’ve got one more in the can. And now they’ve dumped the host, and they don’t have a replacement lined up.
According to [VPBS CEO Holly] Groschner, the station is still trying to determine whether to replace Carlson with a single host or a rotating cast of hosts.
Hoo boy. They’ve got about a week to make up their minds. And no, they haven’t called me, ha ha.
The sad part about this is, Groschner still seems blind to the problems with the Carlson hire. VTDigger’s Jon Margolis:
Interviewed Thursday, she wouldn’t agree that it would have been a conflict of interest for Carlson to host the show, saying that, “the perception of conflict is often in the eye of the beholder.”
Oh, so it’s OUR fault for perceiving a conflict.
Here’s another Groschnerism, this time from Paul Heintz:
On Thursday, Groschner said that while viewer response to Carlson’s appointment was overwhelmingly positive, the debate over her dual roles had become a distraction.
I call bullshit. If the response was “overwhelmingly positive,” VPBS wouldn’t have been compelled to take such drastic action. Without a Plan B.
Carlson employed her own spintastic talents as she exited Stage Right: “I’m proud of the show that I did… I think it was a good outcome in the end.”
A public embarrassment. An ethical breach at an institution previously known for its probity. Groschner’s first big public decision ending in ignominious retreat. An urgent scramble to save a new program.
Yeah, that’s a “good outcome.”
The cord may have been cut, but it would still be instructive to know how the station decided to hire Carlson and whether any ethical questions were raised at the time. Perhaps the VPBS Board will take the time to quiz Groschner and others. It’s to be hoped that the process was less problematic than it appears to have been, and that Groschner has learned some lessons about conflicts of interest. VPBS is a shoestring operation facing cuts in its state appropriation; it can ill afford to alienate viewers and donors, or any more stains on its reputation.