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Fates Roundup, Aug. 5, 2014

Xploration Station will welcome two hosts when the new Saturday morning TV block of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming premieres on Fox-owned stations and syndication in September in most of the country. They are Joe Penna, a YouTube and social media phenom, and Emily Calandrelli, an MIT graduate and astronautics expert.

Debmar-Mercury has promoted Alexandra Jewett to executive VP of programming to work in conjunction with Lonnie Burstein, who holds the same position. Jewett served as CBS Television Distribution’s East Coast VP of programming and development from 2006 until she joined Debmar-Mercury in September 2010.

Crown Media Family Networks announced Aug. 5 that it has appointed Tara Meyer as VP, digital ad sales. Meyer, tasked with driving revenue throughout the company’s digital platforms, returns to Crown Media after nine years, most recently with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Based in New York City, Meyer will report to Ed Georger, executive VP of advertising sales and digital media.

The Center for Communication has named J. Max Robins as executive director, succeeding Catherine Williams after 14 years at the helm. Robins, who begins Sept. 1, had been a columnist at He previously served as VP and executive director of The Paley Center for Media and editor-in-chief of B&C, as well as a senior editor at TV Guide and editor and columnist at Variety.

NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo station KTMD has tapped Jerry Vazquez as VP of news. Formerly news director at KMID Midland, Vazquez has been executive producer at KTRK Houston for the last 13 years.

Synacor, the web portal developer and TV Everywhere specialist, has appointed Himesh Bhise as its new CEO. The cable industry veteran will be taking over for Ron Frankel, who has been in the role since April 2001. Bhise, who helped build growth businesses at Charter Communications and at AOL’s Mobile division, had been at Comcast Cable, leading new services and platform.

Kent Shocknek, a news anchor in Los Angeles for over three decades, is retiring at the end of the month, according to CBS. Shocknek, who has spent the last 13 years with KCBS-TV and co-owned KCAL, has co-anchored KCAL’s 8 and 10 p.m. newscasts since last November.

NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution has elevated Kathleen Polett and Kevin O’Donnell to the position of senior VP of syndication sales. Based in Chicago, Polett oversees the country’s central region’s syndication sales as well as new station group sales. O’Donnell, who will remain in charge of the southeast region out of Atlanta, will also have increased responsibilities for group sales.

James Brady, who was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan when he was shot in the head by would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr., died on Aug. 4 at age 73. After getting severely injured on March 30, 1981, Brady became a symbol and advocate for gun control. He received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton in 1996.

El Rey has upped Chad Blankenship to senior VP of marketing and communication and hired Katie Lanegran as VP of public relations. Blankenship, who joinred Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez’s network last year, previously served as VP of marketing. Lanegran spent nearly 15 years at SundanceTV before El Rey hired her Aug. 4.

Neil Klayman has been promoted to associate creative director of brand response ad agency Hawthorne Direct, announced CEO Jessica Hawthorne-Castro Aug. 4. New responsibilities for Klayman, who had been a senior copywriter, include presiding over the creative process and taking part in business pitches.

The Television Academy has extended its contract with outside general counsel Dixon Q. Dern, academy president and COO Maury McIntyre announced Aug. 4. The extension is for another year and goes through 2015.

HBO has elevated Tom Woodbury to the new role of president, global distribution, in which he will oversee all revenue operations. Woodbury has been with HBO since 1981, when he was hired as associate counsel, sales and marketing. More recently, Woodbury had been general counsel and executive VP of network business affairs, a responsibility he will continue in his new role.

The Federal Communications Bar Association has named Kerry Loughney as its new executive director, the association announced Aug. 4. Loughney, the director of member services the last eight years, will take over for Stan Zenor, who is retiring after 15 years in the role.

Judy McGrath, former MTV Networks chairman and CEO, has been named to’s board of directors. The online retailer will be looking for McGrath, who has served as president of the Sony Music-partnered Astronauts Wanted * No Experience Necessary, to help boost its Internet video offerings.

AOL has upped Nate Hayden to VP, originals and branded entertainment. Hayden, who previously served as creative director, will supervise the company’s original programming, taking over for Gabriel Lewis, the former head of AOL Originals. Also promoted by AOL was Naomi Yasuda to senior director of AOL Studios, where she will head production facilities in New York and Los Angeles.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has tapped Lane Michaelsen as group news director. The local news veteran resigned as WGCL Atlanta’s new director in July.

Jake Rice has joined media communications agency Starcom USA as VP, search director. From the Los Angeles office, Rice will take the helm on all accounts, with a focus on Disney, Del Monte, Big Heart Pets and Mattel. Rice previously ran’s SEO program.

BBC America has elevated Melissa Drucker to senior VP, television sales, the channel announced July 31. Drucker, who has been at BBC America since 2007, is a founding member of the U.S. integrated TV and digital ad sales team.

The join keynote address for MIPCOM’s Media Mastermind Keynote Series will be given by David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios, and Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group on Oct. 14 in Cannes, France. The pair’s discussion, under this year’s theme, “The Global Quest for Original Content,” will include CBS’ yearly programming strategy and the rise of event series programming.

Former quarterback Brady Quinn has made a roster — Fox Sports’ roster. The seven-year NFL vet and former Notre Dame signal caller will work as a game and studio analyst for Fox Sports, pairing with Tim Brando in the booth for college football games and Dick Stockton for the NFL.

Covington & Burling has hired Robyn Polashuk as a partner in its communications and media practice. Polashuk, who had been a partner at Greenberg Traurig LLP in Los Angeles, will focus on content distribution. Formerly at Lifetime and Disney, Polashuk has experience in content protection and digital rights management.

Tom Johnson, senior broadcast producer of ABC’s World News, is leaving to become an executive editor at Bloomberg Media, according to World News executive producer Michael Corn. Johnson is said to be launching a new cable and digital political venture at Bloomberg.

Robert Drew, the Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and father of cinéma vérité, died July 30 of natural causes at his home in Sharon, Conn. He was 90. A pioneer of direct cinema, Drew made two landmark films about President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s, Primary and Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment, both of which are part of the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as works of enduring importance to American culture.

Veteran producer Robert Halmi Sr., whose TV movies and miniseries won more than 100 Emmys, died July 30 of a brain aneurysm at his home in New York City. He was 90. A Hungarian freedom fighter twice sentenced to death, Halmi produced more than 200 TV productions, usually big-budget adaptations of classic stories and epics, such as The Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland.

All3Media AMerica has promoted six senior executives, including Aaron Saidman and Wally Parks. Saidman, previously head of development, will serve as executive VP, development and current programming, while Parks, who had been running production management, is the new executive VP, production, for the U.S. division of the U.K. unscripted production company.

Nominations are open for the D.C./Baltimore Chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications’ annual Touchstones of Leadership awards. Aug. 22 is the deadline for the awards, which go to women executives who have "made a difference and a positive contribution in the cable and telecommunications industry, through leadership, vision, and dedication."

Sara Just will be the new executive producer of PBS NewsHour and senior VP of noncommercial WETA Washington, as of Sept. 2. Just, who spent more than 25 years with ABC News, had been deputy Washington bureau chief for ABC News and senior Washington producer for Good Morning America. She will be taking over for Linda Winslow, the executive producer who is retiring after nearly a decade.

Valerie Blackburn has been named interim CEO of The Alliance for Women in Media (AWM). Blackburn had previously served as chair of the organization and is a long-time supporter. She will be in charge of day-to-day operations and assist the board’s strategic planning during the search for a new CEO.

Rainmaker Entertainment has promoted Tara Kemes to VP of culture & talent, announced Kim Dent Wilder, senior VP of production and operations on July 30. Kemes, previously the director of talent development, will lead the Vancouver animation studio’s recruitment endeavors in the new position.

Kira Karlstrom has been tapped as business development executive at Arsenal FX, the visual effects post production studio that specializes in high-end commercial finishing. Formerly a manager in the live events division of Marvel Entertainment, Karlstrom will be in charge of determining new business undertakings, acquiring new clients and strengthening the Arsenal FX brand.

John Bachman and Tenikka Smith-Hughes were named the new evening anchor team for Cox Media Group Jacksonville TV’s WAWS/WTEV’s Action News. Vice president and general manager Jim Zerwekh announced the news July 30. The pair will co-anchor CBS47 Action News at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m., Fox30 Action News at 10 and 10:30 p.m. and CBS47 Action News at 11 p.m.

Stereo D has extended Aaron Parry in his role as chief creative officer and executive VP. Parry will oversees the creative vision, worldwide production and technology development for the Burbank-based studio, Hollywood’s leading producer of 3D for feature films.