Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in WBEZ-FM Category

WFMT-FM (98.7) and WBEZ-FM (91.5), two Chicago radio stations that take in a significant part of their respective operating budgets from listener contributions, have both met or exceeded their fund raising goals in just-completed pledge drives.

Fine arts station WFMT set a goal of $525,000 for its recently-completed 10-day winter pledge drive, and it reached that goal on the 10th day with some 8 1/2 hours to spare before the drive was set to end.

During an eight-day pledge drive that ended Mar. 10, public radio station WBEZ secured 9,198 donations that generated revenue of $1.12 million, well above the $1 million set for the drive. The successful pledge drives at both stations suggest the public appears to be in more of a giving mood as the economy starts to turn around.

Still, WFMT used all kinds of inducements to get listeners to pledge funds. Among other things the station experimented with a "$50,000 by mid-day" strategy. The station promised to break from fund raising for the rest of one day if it could raise $50,000 by 1 p.m., which it did. And the audience for WFMT's "The Midnight Special" once again proved especially generous. They contributed five percent of the station's total fund raising goal in just four hours.

At WBEZ, 44 percent of the donors during the just-completed drive were new members to the station, a number that is typically closer to 20 to 30 percent. The monies raised at WBEZ represent about 5.6 percent of the station's total operating budget.

Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM (91.5) has opened its fourth community bureau at 2913 W. Devon Avenue in the Rogers Park neighborhood under the direction of newly-named north side bureau reporter Odette Yousef. With the addition of the Rogers Park bureau, WBEZ will now operate four community bureaus in Chicago and northwest Indiana. Yousef, 28, has devoted her professional career to public radio. She joins WBEZ following three years as a general assignment reporter at WABE-FM (90.1) in Atlanta. Focusing on health, education and city government, Yousef produced both daily spots and feature length stories and reported an award-winning series on systemic flaws in the Fulton County 911 Communications Center. WBEZ established the first of its community bureaus in Homboldt Park in 2007, and has sense added Englewood; Chesterton, Ind., and now Rogers Park.

Chicago public radio WBEZ-FM (91.5) is at the center of a new Corporation for Public Broadcasting initiative called the Upper Midwest Local Journalism Center. WBEZ, in collaboration with Michigan Radio (WUOM-FM (91.7) in Ann Arbor and Detroit, WFUM-FM (91.1) in Flint, and WVGR-FM (104.1) in Grand Rapids) and Cleveland's Ideastream (WCPN-FM (90.3) and WVIZ-TV) will focus on covering the economic transformation of the upper midwest and the challenges and opportunities facing the industrial heartland.

Under the editorial direction of WBEZ, the three partnering entities will create multi-media content and report their work via radio, television, digital and community programs. The three partnering organizations will hire three reporters, a senior editor and a senior producer. The project's editor and one reporter will be based in Chicago.

The Upper Midwest Local Journalism Center is one of seven such centers being formed around the country through a two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and financial contributions from the participating broadcast outlets.

Altogether, some $10.5 million is earmarked for the venture's first two years, after which time the hope is the project will become self-sustaining. "Our work showcasing the Great Lakes will continue the station's long-standing commitment to regional coverage and collaboration," said WBEZ managing editor Sally Eisele.

A group of Chicago journalists are joining forces to form the Chicago News Cooperative, a venture designed to provide Chicago-centric news and commentary on the Web, in print and over the airwaves. James O'Shea, a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, is the CNC's launch editor.

The cooperative already has plans to provide content for two clients -- the New York Times and Chicago public television outlet WTTW-Channel 11. Starting Nov. 20, the CNC team will produce two pages of news and commentary for Friday and Sunday editions of the New York Times distributed in the Chicago area. Along with O'Shea, former Trib managing editor James Warren has signed on with the CNC to write a regular column for the cooperative's pages in the New York Times. In addition, CNC will provide content for WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" program, though details of that arrangement have not been fully worked out yet. CNC also is developing a Web site called Chicago Scoop that will go live in early 2010.

CNC said it is in talks with other potential partners, including public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5). During its start-up phase, the Chicago News Cooperative will be housed in space at WTTW. The start-up news gathering venture will seek input from an advisory board chaired by Peter Osnos, founder of Public Affairs Book. Other advisory board members include Dan Schmidt, president and CEO of WTTW; Newton Minow, senior emeritus partner at Sidley & Austin; Martin Koldyke, former chairman of WTTW; Anne Marie Lipinski, former editor of the Trib, and Michael Davies, president and CEO of Alphazeta Interactive.

Funding for the launch of the CNC is coming from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The CNC is seeking additional funding from individuals, foundations and eventually membership in the cooperative.

Robert Feder will be back in business come early November. The former Sun-Times columnist, who for nearly 30 years wrote a column for this newspaper about the television and radio business, is joining Vocalo.org, an arm of Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5). Feder took a buyout from the Sun-Times a year ago and said he would take 12 months to mull his next career move.

Feder will post a daily column on the Vocalo Web site, which launched in 2007. The Vocalo.org site, according to Feder, was designed to be an interactive public square where people can share ideas and opinions. User-generated audio content also is broadcast via WBEW-FM (89.5), another component of the Vocalo operation. Feder said he will "redefine" his old broadcast beat in his daily postings and report on print, the Internet and "whatever else comes along." Online readers of his new column also will be able to offer instant feedback to create what Feder said he hopes will be a "lively, ongoing dialogue about media issues."

Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5) is adding two new programs to its lineup, effective Sept. 21: "Here & Now," a national daily news and arts magazine; and "Marketplace Monday," a weekly extension of "Marketplace," which focuses on personal finance issues. Additionally, WBEZ plans to move "Marketplace Morning Report," a daily 10-minute business news brief, to 8:50 a.m. weekdays to bolster the station's business and economic coverage. "Here & Now," hosted by Robin Young, will air weekdays at 1 p.m. "Marketplace Money" will air on Sundays at 2 p.m. "As is the case with our other programming, both shows bring depth and context to daily events, but do so with a style that's credible, conversational and creative," said Steve Edwards, WBEZ acting program director.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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