Director Robert Altman is bringing his trademark improvisational style to the Prairie Home Companion-inspired film, Time reports. “When I go home at night, I know we’ve got something, but I don’t know what,” Altman says. “It’s going to be a very weird movie.”

NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin questions whether Jonah Goldberg, a conservative commentator, was a suitable fill-in for Daniel Schorr on a recent Weekend Edition Saturday.

Here it is: public radio’s new mega-directory of podcasts, at NPR’s site. It should soon appear on other station and network sites.

“Journalism can teach you a lot about narrative and detail to carry a story. But a novel has to take on its own life,” says Scott Simon as he discusses his new novel, Pretty Birds.

Listeners have been complaining that NPR is airing a glut of stories about religion, and Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says the network should consider keeping track of the airtime devoted to the subject.

WLVT-TV in Bethlehem, Pa., is still looking to expand into radio, reports the Express-Times. An earlier effort to merge with nearby WDIY-FM failed last November.

Mary Anne Alhadeff, chief executive of Maine Public Broadcasting for three years, has been hired as the next president of KERA in Dallas.

Seattle’s KEXP-FM reportedly plans to start broadcasting to cell phones and handheld organizers later this month, according to FMQB. (Via Technology360.)

Staff and fans of Cincinnati’s WVXU-FM are mourning the station’s switch to an all-news format under its new owner, WGUC-FM. “This is like a family member passing away,” an employee tells the Cincinnati Enquirer. (More coverage in the Cincinnati Post.)

CPB is looking for an African-American market-research company to help develop public radio programming for black audiences. Proposals are due Sept. 13.

Garrison Keillor has quietly begun Literary Friendships, a series of recorded conversations in which American writers discuss their friendships with one another. Guests have included Robert Bly, Michael Chabon and Sandra Cisneros.

Chicago’s WTTW and CPB will join PBS in leading pubTV’s Ready to Learn grant projects. For the first year, they received a total of $23.2 million from the Department of Education, CPB said yesterday. The joint Literacy 360 project of CPB and PBS got $15.8 million for programming and outreach, aiming to measurably improve the reading of kids from low-income families. WTTW got $4 million to co-produce a children’s series, Word World. Grant-seekers scrambled after the department announced that the funding would be split among grantees and not entrusted entirely to PBS.

After fining broadcasters $8 million for indecency in 2004, the FCC has slacked off in recent months, but Mediaweek reporter Todd Shields told On the Media that the regulators are just gearing up to attack again [mp3 audio file]. New Chairman Kevin Martin recently hired an indecency advisor, Penny Nance, a Christian activist for kid-safe media.

Penn State’s pubTV and radio stations in Happy Valley dedicate their new building Sept. 8 and the TV station adopts the radio station’s call letters in October, moving from WPSX to WPSU. The combo shares a 96,000-square-foot building at the Innovation campus with the university’s continuing education, online World Campus and other outreach activities.

Public radio “just isn’t set up for innovation and it isn’t set up to cultivate new ideas and it isn’t set up to cultivate the next generation of things. And it seems like a waste to me,” says Ira Glass to the CJR Daily.

WUKY-FM in Lexington, Ky., restored Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac to the air Friday, shortly after canceling the segment because of concerns about “decency.” The station’s manager “may now have discovered that playing it safe is the most unsafe thing an educational station manager can do,” say two commentators with ties to Kentucky ETV.

Public Radio International will furnish Duke University with digital versions of some of its shows for use in classes, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Democracy Now host Amy Goodman and her brother, David, have asked that the New York Times and a late reporter, William L. Laurence, be stripped of a Pulitzer Prize. They charge that Laurence delivered biased reporting on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while on the U.S. military’s payroll.

Radio researcher Mark Ramsey warns against overusing digital radio for the creation of new formats: “Just because we can thin-slice a format into skinnier niches doesn’t mean we should.”

Marketplace will increase reporting on global sustainability and the economy with a $2.1 million grant from the Tides Foundation. The money will also support coverage on other American Public Media programs.