Robinson to leave WFMT, INN elects new board chair, and more comings and goings in public media

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Steve Robinson, longtime general manager of Chicago classical station WFMT, will step down from his position Sept. 30, the station announced Monday.

“The opportunities I’ve had at WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network were beyond my wildest expectations and I can say without reservation that my 16 years here were the highlight of my nearly 50-year career,” Robinson told Current in an email.



“I made the decision to retire from WFMT with great reluctance but did so in order to pursue a number of ideas and projects that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time,” he added. “It’s been a great ride and I’m indebted to the great staff at WFMT and the Network for the passion, commitment, brilliance and dedication they bring to work every day.”

Robinson has led the station and WFMT Radio Network since 2000. He created programs such as Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin. Shows highlighting local, visiting and younger musicians were also developed during his time at the station. In 2015, the station launched the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

Robinson also created partnerships in China to share classical radio broadcasts between the countries.

“It is with great regret that we bid farewell to an indispensable member of our WFMT family,” said Dan Schmidt, president and c.e.o. of WFMT and WTTW, in a press release. “It is difficult to imagine the station without [Robinson’s] unflagging energy, endless creativity, and deep knowledge of classical music and radio operations. He will be greatly missed, and I know I speak for all of us when I wish him success in his future endeavors.”

Robinson’s long career in public radio includes jobs at WBUR, WGBH and WCRB in Boston;  KPFA in Berkeley, Calif.; Vermont Public Radio; WBGO in Newark, N.J.; and Nebraska Public Radio. — Tyler Falk

The Institute for Nonprofit News has elected Laura Frank as board chair.



Frank is president and general manager of news at Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver. She founded I-News, the nonprofit investigative news organization that merged with Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting in 2013.

She succeeds Brant Houston, who has chaired the INN Board since the organization’s founding in 2009. He was elected secretary. Houston is Knight Chair of Investigative Reporting at the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Reg Chua was re-elected treasurer. Chua is executive editor, editorial operations, data and innovation at Thomson Reuters.

INN, founded as the the Investigative News Network, has grown from 27 nonprofit news organizations to nearly 120. Current is an INN member.


Rebecca Sheir


Rebecca Sheir, formerly host of Metro Connection on WAMU in Washington, D.C., is now hosting a new limited-run Slate podcast, Placemakers. It tells stories of urban innovators and problems they’re trying to solve. Sheir has also delivered newscasts for NPR and reported for KTOO in Juneau, Alaska.

KSFR-FM, public radio in Santa Fe, N.M., has hired Ellen Berkovitch as news director. She replaces Zelie Pollon, who will travel and work outside the U.S. Berkovitch has worked at the station as a freelance producer and guest host for several years. Earlier in her career, she was a stringer in Paris and Milan for WWD, editor of Home Furnishings Daily and creator of the arts and culture podcast Adobe Airstream.

Betsy O’Donovan, editor and digital strategist at the Association of Independents in Radio, is leaving to become general manager at the Daily Tar Heel, the independent student newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2012 Donovan was a Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism at Harvard University.


Jim Hill has resigned as editor and digital media manager at KUNC-FM in Greeley, Colo. “It’s been a great five-year run,” he tweeted.




Rhode Island Public Radio has hired Ann Alquist as chief progress officer, a new position. Alquist will oversee growth of broadcast and digital services as well as community events. She has worked as a journalist, fundraiser, manager and advocate in public broadcasting, including as news director of KFAI Community Radio in Minneapolis, membership director at Alaska Public Media in Anchorage and chief content officer and interim co-executive director of KDHX Community Media in St. Louis. Alquist also spent three years as director of radio engagement at the National Center for Media Engagement at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.



Journalism professor Ray Ekness takes over Aug. 22 as director of the Broadcast Media Center, home to public KUFM Radio and KUFM-TV at the University of Montana, Missoula. Ekness is former chair of the Department of Radio–Television at the university. He worked on-air at KUFM as a student in 1982. His professional career includes work as a producer and newscast director at commercial TV stations in Montana and Idaho. Ekness succeeds William Marcus, who retired after a 40-year career. Linda Talbott, the center’s associate director for communication and development, served as interim director for more than a year.

Special events

Maryland Public Television in Owings Mills has hired Stephanie Ryan as coordinator of special events. She will manage the station’s raffle and online auctions and support other events and fundraising initiatives. Ryan spent the past six years with the City of Rockville (Md.) as a member of its special events team and a camp and teen program staffer.

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