Consultant Robert Paterson shares some thoughts about public radio’s New Realities forum, which takes place Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “For many who will attend, the issue is much more than the survival and health of public radio but the survival of the last large media space in America that can be trusted,” he writes.

Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media said yesterday it’s creating a new Center for Innovation in Journalism, which will further develop its Public Insight Journalism system. APM’s national programs are now starting to use PIJ after three years’ development at MPR. In a Nieman Foundation report (PDF) last year, Michael Skoler, the MPR news exec who will direct the new center, described the system that uses Internet and database technologies to gather a large pool of volunteer news sources. MPR raised $2.25 million for the project in its capital campaign and topped the new wing of its St. Paul headquarters with a meeting room designed for in-person gatherings of PIJ sources.

Mara Liasson, filling in this week as NPR’s Mixed Signals blogger, says she was “jolted” by a MasterCard ad — uh, underwriting credit — packaged with the web-only All Songs Considered.

WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, N.C., is aiming to expand its presence in nearby Greensboro, a move which could increase competition with WFDD-FM in Winston-Salem, reports the Triad Business Journal. Jay Banks, WFDD’s g.m., calls the prospect “frightening.”

Joel Achenbach, a sometime science writer for the Washington Post and National Geographic, is spring cleaning his old files. He ponders a file about Carl Sagan, the late astronomer and PBS star, plunders some good quotes and (this is not a surprise ending) decides to keep Sagan around.

Earlier this month, PBS apparently strapped webcams onto several cows and launched MooTube, a bovine blog and video site promoting WNET’s Texas Ranch House, set to debut May 1. “Ladies and gentleman, it is now official . . . the Internet is a wasteland,” wrote TV blogger Richard Keller.

PBS has tapped SES AMERICOM to provide the satellite network for the PBS Next Generation Interconnection System, the network announced Monday. The current public TV interconnection system uses SES AMERICOM satellites as well. The NGIS, which will move the system from traditional program stream broadcasting to digital, non-real-time program file delivery, is scheduled to go into service later this year.

CPB has issued a Request for Proposals for a study that will analyze coverage and interference issues related to HD Radio. “CPB is concerned with the disenfranchisement of listeners due to the loss of services public radio currently provides to them and the underperformance or lack of HD service (i.e., technical availability) when the conversion of public radio stations to HD is complete,” the RFP says.

National pubcasting orgs launched a website earlier this month designed to generate grassroots support as the system tries to stave off proposed federal funding cuts, reports the New York Times. In its first week, the website,, generated “a couple thousand” e-mail messages to Congress from 39 states, said Mike Riksen, NPR’s v.p. for government relations.

Todd Mundt reviews Gather and Public Action, two public radio web services that aim to bring listeners together and solicit content from them. One comment: “In talking to some people in pubradio about Gather I’ve consistently heard two things: it doesn’t feel like public radio; and a lot of the stuff that users submit isn’t that good.” (Coverage in Current, April 2006 and September 2005.)

Koahnic Broadcast Corp. in Anchorage, Alaska, has received CPB funding to handle program distribution for public radio’s Native stations (press release, PDF). Native American Public Telecommunications in Lincoln, Neb., has until now served as the primary distributor of Native programming.

Trustees of Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas, have unanimously approved selling the college’s noncommercial FM station to the Educational Media Foundation for $2.46 million, reports the Longview News-Journal. The other top bidder, NPR affiliate Red River Radio in Shreveport, La., could only offer less than half of the religious broadcaster’s winning bid. Kilgore’s president says the university wanted to pursue “the greater dollar value.” (Kilgore College press release.)

Broadcast Electronics will provide program-associated data for XPoNential Radio, the Triple A-formatted stream that NPR offers for digital multicasting, reports Radio World. Information about artists and song titles will be disseminated via Internet.

The Public Radio Slave blogs from an undisclosed station about wacky complaints and requests from listeners, such as, “Hi, I won’t be able to listen to Fresh Air tonight because of a school play one of my kids is in. I was wondering if you could tape it for me?”

Christopher O’Riley, host of public radio’s From the Top, recently released Home to Oblivion, an album of Elliott Smith tunes reworked for solo piano. O’Riley’s previous two recordings gave a similar treatment to Radiohead.

Longtime public radio producer and program creator Jim Russell is leaving American Public Media and setting up shop independently as “The Program Doctor.”

Several noncommercial broadcasters, including Philadelphia’s WHYY and WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, Ky., received 2006 New Voices grants from the University of Maryland’s J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.

Daniel Ash, Chicago Public Radio’s v.p. of communications, talks with Chicagoist about the broadcaster’s upcoming format changes. “Our aim is to develop a service that is highly localized and a reflection of the Chicago area, which would include music,” Ash says. Chicagoist, a local blog, was critical of the changes, as was this opinionator in the Chicago Tribune. But Trib blogger Steve Johnson offered words of praise.

Chicago Public Radio has angered local musicians with its decision to drop all music from its stations in favor of news and talk programming, reports the Chicago Tribune. “It’s a major blow — it’s kind of criminal,” says jazz musician Ken Vandermark.

Paths to pubradio stardom: drifting, struggling and on a beeline

Lisa A. Phillips has just started appearing in bookstores to promote her newly published Public Radio Behind the Voices (CDS Books, 334 pages), which profiles 43 national program hosts and other stars. To be ready in case she’s interviewed, Phillips has virtually memorized her book. Quick! Who had accountants for fathers? She ticks them off: Ira Glass, Michael Feldman and Bob Edwards.