Transom aids producers with Donor Fund gifts has awarded small radio production grants from its Donor Fund. The online watering hole and how-to site for radio producers provided grants of $1,000 each to six producers who will debut work on the site next year with help from Transom editors:

The Core, a series of podcasts launched by a group of teenagers working with Open Orchard Productions;
William Dahlberg, who will produce a story about an unsolved murder in his hometown of Newbury, Vt.;
Erin Davis, who will create a multimedia project about “adventure playgrounds”;
Andrew Forsthoefel, who will produce an hourlong documentary about his cross-country trip that began in October 2011;
Mary Helen Miller, who will complete a radio documentary about a mixed-race group of Tennesseans; and
Lauren Ober, who is working on a story about “a quest to find meaning in life after your life has been saved at the cost of someone else’s,” according to Transom. The Donor Fund is a pool of money created in 2011 from individual contributions of Transom readers. Grants of $500 to $1,000 were awarded to five producers last year, and their programs have been featured on Transom throughout 2012, according to Jay Allison, independent producer and Transom founder. This year’s grant recipients were selected from a pool of 40 applicants. This article was first published in Current, Dec.

Nightly Business Report cuts jobs, closes Chicago bureau

A new round of layoffs at Nightly Business Report, initiated last week, pared full-time staff to 22, down by half from two years ago. Cutbacks included shuttering the show’s Chicago bureau, where chief correspondent Diane Eastabrook has worked for the weeknight financial show since 1993. Also gone is Michele Molnar, a New York–based photography editor since 1996, and Johnnie Streets, longtime senior stocks producer at headquarters in Miami. In all, six positions were eliminated. “We had to do this streamlining on behalf of our investor,” Rick Ray, NBR chief exec, told Current.

Open Mobile Video Coalition to merge into National Association of Broadcasters

The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), the main advocacy group for the development of mobile digital television since 2007, is integrating into the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), effective Jan. 1, the organizations announced today. OMVC’s voluntary members include the Association of Public Television Stations, CPB and PBS, representing some 360 pubTV stations, and 36 commercial TV owners and operators with more than 500 stations. Former APTS President John Lawson was a founding board member of the coalition. The NAB is the main advocacy, innovation and education association for America’s broadcasters, working for radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs areas.

Nielsen to buy Arbitron in $1.6 billion deal

The landscape of the audience-ratings business began shifting with this morning’s announcement that Nielsen Holdings plans to buy Arbitron Inc. in a $1.62 billion all-cash deal. New York-based Nielsen will pay $48 per share under the sales agreement, a 26 percent premium from Maryland-based Arbitron’s closing price on Monday. The deal, announced Tuesday, is supported by the boards of both companies. Bloomberg News reports that the agreement will have to meet antitrust standards of the Federal Trade Commission before the sale can close. “I would expect to see some push back from local customers like local radio and TV operating groups,” Rich Tullo, an analyst at Albert Fried & Co.

Austin’s KUT to sign on with new all-music station Jan. 2

KUT in Austin, Texas, will launch its all-music station, KUTX 98.9 FM, Jan. 2 and adopt an all-news format on 90.7 FM, its flagship signal. The broadcaster’s purchase of the second frequency was approved in August by the University of Texas System Board of Regents. The new station will pick up music programming now airing on KUT and add new shows, including Jazz with Jay Trachtenberg, featuring jazz classics and new releases; What’s Next with Jeff McCord spinning mixes of new music from both emerging and established artists; and a three-hour freeform music mix on Sunday mornings hosted by Jody Denberg. It will also feature performances from KUT’s new studios.

Big oil, big changes spotlighted in Black Gold Boom

From roughnecks to singing cowboys and itinerant knife dealers, North Dakota’s oil boom has lured thousands to remote areas of the state to find their fortunes, and in the process became a fertile source of stories for an immersive yearlong multimedia reporting project.

Gilbert, new Marketplace managing editor, coming from Weekend Edition

Sarah Gilbert is leaving her post as senior editor of NPR’s Weekend Edition to become managing editor of Marketplace, American Public Media announced today. She will oversee coverage across the business and economic news show’s radio and web platforms, its newsroom in Los Angeles and its bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., London and Shanghai. “As soon as I met Sarah, I knew she had the sensibility and journalism chops to be a great partner for me at Marketplace,” said Deborah Clark, Marketplace executive producer, to whom Gilbert will report. “She’s quick, decisive and won’t be afraid to challenge all of us in our approach to news.”

Previous to NPR, Gilbert worked at the BBC in various roles including executive producer of BBC Americana, the BBC World Service’s weekly program on American politics and culture. She also served as deputy bureau chief of the BBC Americas Bureau in Washington, D.C., where she led 200 staffers in the D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Miami bureaus.

Full speed ahead for Public Media Platform

After two-plus years of planning and prototyping a shared hub providing easy access to digital content from across public media, partners in the Public Media Platform will begin building the new technical system next month.

Lakeshore Public Television president steps down

Thomas Carroll, president of Lakeshore Public Television in Merrillville, Ind., since 2002, resigned on Wednesday, according to The Times in Muncie, Ind. Board Chair Bonita Neff said the resignation came at the request of the board. The Chicagoland Radio and Media news site said Carroll had spent nearly two decades WPBS in Watertown, N.Y., as a news anchor and public affairs producer, production manager and director of sales and production. Carroll is also treasurer of the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations association. Neff and board member Cal Bellamy will oversee the station until a search for Carroll’s successor is complete.

Veteran Colorado pubcaster Wick Rowland to retire in March 2013

Wick Rowland, president of Colorado Public Television for more than a decade, announced today that he will retire at the end of March 2013. He’ll continue as president and c.e.o. emeritus through September, during the leadership transition. “I have deep passion for public media,” he said in a statement, “and it’s been a pleasure to be able to work with this talented staff and dedicated board to foster and build the special CPT12 brand of independent public service television.” Rowland has been president and c.e.o. of KBDI since 1999. He previously served on the KBDI Board of Directors and was its chair from 1992-98.

APHC’s Keillor says he thinks about retirement ‘a lot’

A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor mentioned the “R” word — retirement — this week on Charlie Rose. “I think retirement is a beautiful thing and I think about it a lot,” Keillor said. “But then I think how lucky I am to have this show and it’s two hours every Saturday. Nobody tells me what I have to do and I work with these wonderful people. and I have all of these listeners and when I walk down the street and people recognize me, they smile, and that’s really all you need in a world.”

KQED’s Quest expands with $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant

KQED in San Francisco has received $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a two-year collaborative national multimedia science reporting initiative, Quest Beyond Local, with five public broadcasting partners, building on the popularity of Quest, its Emmy award-winning science and environment series that grew into science-reporting hub for several stations last year. Quest Beyond Local partners will create content on the theme of “Science of Sustainability” on television, radio and online, with educational assets and community outreach. Work will commence in January, with new content ready for broadcast in fall 2013. Participating are NET, Lincoln, Neb.; UNC-TV, Research Triangle Park, N.C.; KCTS, Seattle; WVIZ ideastream, Cleveland; and, in Wisconsin, Educational Communications Board (ECB), Instructional Communications Systems (ICS), Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television. “Quest began more than six years ago as an experiment in multimedia science journalism and education designed to deliver content and foster engagement using a range of media from television to smart phones,” said John Boland, KQED president, in today’s announcement.

NPR adds two journalists to new race, ethnicity and culture unit

NPR has added two journalists to its six-person race, ethnicity and culture unit backed by CPB and preparing for launch in the spring. The network hired Gene Demby, a Huffington Post editor and founder of the blog PostBourgie, as blogger and correspondent; and Shereen Marisol Meraji, a Marketplace reporter and former NPR producer, as a reporter. Demby started PostBourgie in 2007 and continues to contribute to the group blog, which covers race, class, gender, politics and other subjects. In 2009 the blog won a Black Weblog Award for best news/politics website. Demby also worked for the New York Times for six years as a writer and news assistant. In 2011 he joined the Huffington Post, where he managed the Black Voices channel through its launch; he also reported for the channel and served as its senior politics editor for much of this year.

New Orleans nonprofit newsroom, The Lens, receives tax-exempt status after 26-month wait

The Lens, a Murrow Award-winning nonprofit news organization in New Orleans, has finally received its 501(c)3 designation from the Internal Revenue Service. Its official nonprofit status now opens more funding opportunities and streamlines individual donations, it said in an announcement. As many as a dozen journalism startups, most of them run largely by volunteers and accepting no advertising, have had their requests to be recognized as tax-exempt organizations delayed for many months and, in some cases, years (Current, May 14).

WNYC personalities perform Beck’s “Saint Dude”

In a new video, hosts at New York’s WNYC and others bring to life “Saint Dude.” The song is one of the compositions from Song Reader, a new collection of sheet music released by the musician Beck. Rather than release his own recording of the tunes, Beck suggests that you play the songs on your own. WNYC’s band includes On the Media host Brooke Gladstone on vocals, Soundcheck host John Schaefer on guitar, and Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen playing a glockenspiel with a Sharpie.

Online database tracks NFL head injuries for Frontline/ESPN reporting project

Frontline, the PBS investigative news program, and ESPN’s Outside the Lines today launched the Concussion Watch website, a public database of the confirmed head injuries reported by the NFL this season. Through the site, users may track the injuries by week, team, opponent and position. Football fans may report hits they feel could cause concussions on an online tip form, or submit via Twitter using the hashtag #ConcussionWatch. The site was originally developed as a database tool for the yearlong reporting project by the joint Frontline and ESPN news team. “We realized there was a lack of information publicly available about player head injuries in the NFL,” said Frontline producer Tom Jennings in the announcement.

Basic memberships: More trouble than they’re worth?

Basic memberships offered during pledge drives and in direct-mail appeals are a time-tested enticement for converting pubcasting viewers and listeners into contributors, but station-based development staff are perplexed about how to set the rate for this donation level. Some pubcasters are weighing whether to stop offering basic memberships altogether. A survey conducted this fall by Plymouth, Mass.–based direct-marketing consultant DMW Direct found that most stations charge below $50 for a basic membership, and few have adjusted the rate within the last five years. The basic median rate among the 41 public TV and radio stations that participated in the survey is $40, but 16 stations reported to DMW that they charge less. These rates are far below average gift amounts for public stations.

Nightly Business Report lays off staff, closes Chicago bureau

Nightly Business Report has laid off at least seven staffers and closed its Chicago bureau, Chicago media critic Robert Feder is reporting. “These are all broadcast professionals,” Tom Hudson, the show’s managing editor and co-anchor, told Feder. “They possess the unique ability to cut through economic jargon and dense statistics to uncover stories with meaning and impact. I consider it an honor to call them colleagues.”

The past several years have been tumultuous for NBR. Longtime owner WBPT-TV in Miami sold the program to a controversial educational video salesman, Mykalai Kontilai, in 2010.