Tuesday, October 5, 2010

50. Burr Beard Has Resigned from WTJU

A letter the WTJU-all listserv received an hour ago.

To all members of the WTJU community,

We write to let you know that Burr has resigned. His decision was a great disappointment to us and we tried hard to convince him to reconsider, but in the end the tug of family concerns, quite understandably, trumped everything.

We also write to assure you of several things. First, the station will continue to operate with Rob, Jane and Gayle as the management team while we consult with University administration about next steps, including the hiring of a replacement for Burr. During this time, Rob, Jane and Gayle will be responsible for all of the station's operations. We are looking into the hiring of temp employees to assist them with specific tasks. And with the help of engineer Alan Williams, WTJU will continue to meet its FCC obligations.

Second, the Jazz-tober fund-raising marathon will go on as scheduled Oct. 11-17. With Burr's departure, some details were left unresolved, but the jazz directors and staff are confident that, if everyone pulls together, it will be a success. So, if you have time to contribute, as a pitch partner or phone answerer, let Rob, Jane and Gayle know. More will be coming about this from the music directors.

Finally, we hope to see a continuation of the energy, events and important changes that started during Burr's tenure. A few of those include the launch of the new website; recruitment of many new student volunteers at fall activities fair; a back-to-school barbecue and station tours for Lambeth students that resulted in volunteer applications; a welcome-back concert for students at the Amphitheatre; and a host of sponsored and partnership events that have reenergized everyone who works at WTJU.

Thanks to all for your work on behalf of WTJU. We will keep you posted about developments as they happen.

Carol Wood & Marian Anderfuren

I have no idea what's going on with Burr's family; I certainly hope that no-one is in any danger and that things resolve for him.

Of course, this now leaves us in a similar spot to this summer. The Office of Public Affairs says they want to continue building on all the momentum we have accrued over the last couple of months; I believe them. Of course, I'm gonna trust in God but tie up my camel, but what are you gonna do?

Now is the time to stay closer than ever to WTJU. The Office of Public Affairs, to be blunt, is having a couple of months I wouldn't wish on anyone. First, there was the PR cockup around WTJU. Then, the real blow: the suicide of Kevin Morrissey and suspension of publication over at the VQR. There has also been a recent crime spree around Grounds, and the question of whether students were warned in time or not.

All of this should place the problems at WTJU in some perspective for us - no-one has died, and no-one is grieving. We should be thankful, and save a prayer or supportive thought for the Beards. But again, to be blunt, the very fact that no-one is in mortal peril at WTJU relegates us to OPA's back burner, which means they need our help more than ever. Without our help, WTJU is going to get half-assed to death, and not because Carol Wood, Marian Anderfuren and the OPA don't care, but because they simply don't have time to deal with us in the fashion we deserve.

Hopefully, looking for the next GM, we can have greater involvement by the DJ community and our alumni. We re-energized over the summer, and it was great to see. I know that I stepped back over the last couple of months; it's time to get back in. Hiring a GM who understands our very unique position (freeform programming by experts in a challenging market) and our not so unique challenges for the future (establishing a presence on the web and ensuring that WTJU can continue as musical and informational curators in what is rapidly becoming a post-live broadcast terrain) is going to be just as crucial as it was last time when we hired Burr Beard. This time, however, I truly believe that we are all on the same page: staff, volunteers, alumni, listeners, University... the entire community. This is exciting.

Stay tuned. I will bring you news as soon as I can. If you have information that I haven't posted yet which you think is relevant, please send it to me at smilin.tyler@gmail.com.

Oh, and the best way to make your presence known right now? The same way as always: with your wallets. The Jazz Marathon is coming up, starting Friday. Donate. And with your donation, send a message. Tell them that you want to be involved. Tell them that you have expectations for the next GM, and say what those expectations are. Carol Wood was discussing, at one point, a $2 per day donation (the two dollar bill is the Jefferson bill, natch). That's a $520 donation. Think about it. Wouldn't it be great to show OPA and the new president of UVA how important WTJU is to the community by having a record-breaking fundraiser? I know that Radio IQ is just wrapping up their fundraiser, and we share a great portion of our listenership. If you donated to them, I can understand that. They fill many needs WTJU doesn't. But if you could dig extra deep for us, I know a lot of people who would be really appreciative.

Alright. As the roadie said, let's carve this turkey.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

49. A Letter from Antoinette Roades to Carol Wood et al.

This letter was sent before the Town Hall meeting. Ms. Roades' credentials are, frankly, eye-popping; her opinions should be considered by everyone.

To: Carol Wood, U.Va. Assistant Vice-President for Public Affairs
Marian Anderfuren, U.Va. Director of Media Relations
From: Antoinette W. Roades
Date: 9 July 2010
Re: Future of WTJU

Please accept this as a comment on the future of WTJU. As preface, I would note that I have some experience with both the issues and practical matters involved.


I have been listening to WTJU off and on for 50 years - on whenever I lived here in my hometown, off whenever I lived elsewhere. I began listening at 13. The station played a large part in building my enduring interest in both music and broadcasting. As a student at Barnard College, I joined WKCR FM at Columbia University. There, in 1967-68, I was part of a news staff -- along with future NPR anchor Robert Siegel and future ABC medical correspondent Peter Salgo -- honored by the Writers Guild of America for coverage of "Crisis at Columbia."

In the four decades since, my resume has included stints as an editorial assistant at Broadcasting Magazine/The Businessweekly of Radio and Television, assistant radio promotion director at WMAL/Evening Star Broadcasting, office manager and sometime producer for the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Washington News Bureau, administrative assistant and studio schedule manager for CBS Television's Washington Bureau, operations manager of CBS Television's Washington bureau for its five owned-and-operated stations across the country (a job I held during the hectic Watergate period), member of a team charged with developing a prototype for a daily local television news program at Northern Virginia Community College, press secretary of the 1976 Democratic National, member of the U.S. House of Representatives Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery, on-site anchor for live broadcasts of Richmond City Council meetings on WCVW (sister station of Richmond's WCVE Public Television), Charlottesville-Albemarle correspondent for WVTF Public Radio, and regular commentator on NPR's "Performance Today."

In addition, I have some familiarity with the University of Virginia. Besides growing up in its shadow and working summers in several of its departments, I have covered it regularly as a state correspondent for The Richmond News Leader and as local correspondent for WVTF, and also on occasion for such publications as Preservation News (of the National Trust for Historic Preservation). I have also written for U.Va. publications including Alumni News, Virginia Law School Report, Helix, and The Virginia Advocate (the bulletin of the project for the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution). And I have taught non-fiction writing in the English Department, the School of Continuing Education, and the Curry School's Young Writers Workshop.

So I take interest in WTJU not just as a local citizen, long time listener, and donor, but as someone who has had sufficient inside experience of both broadcasting and U.Va. to understand the station's assets and liabilities, the challenges it now faces, and the options that it may or may not have at this crossroads.


As has been revealed over the last few weeks of public conversation on this subject, U.Va. had ample opportunity at many points in the past to pursue a different course with its broadcast capability and its prominence both academically and geographically. In response, the University chose to let pass all such opportunity. That response allowed radio stations based at Virginia Tech, James Madison University, and in Richmond (where what became WCVE radio began as the station of Union Theological Seminary) to grow into dominant presences that today reach the majority of Virginia's population while also absorbing the lion's share of listener support in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding counties. That response further allowed aspects of U.Va.'s public face and prestige to be appropriated by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities via programs like "Backstory" and "With Good Reason."

So instead of growing and changing as it could have, WTJU became a function of the extraordinary amalgam of individuals that have given it the distinct character and distinctive relationship with the community that it has today. I love some of that distinct character. I dislike some of it, too. But I applaud all of the relationship with the community. And I am in awe of not just the continuity but of the consistent quality supplied to it by unpaid people with demanding day jobs and other weighty responsibilities.

Would block programming make for a better product? Probably. Would requiring every host to create a show at least once a week rather than less frequently help? No. It would serve only to run off most of the volunteers. Would dictated playlists be an improvement? Absolutely not. They would destroy a prime element of the station's value to its listeners.

Like it or not, through both general indifference and specific defaults over many years, U.Va. has ceded WTJU to volunteers who have never been indifferent and never defaulted. The University owns the frequency and the real estate. It does not own the voice or the identity. Can it legally pull the plug? Of course. Can it do that with moral impunity and/or without a public relations debacle? Not a chance. Could it continue WTJU staffed primarily with students? Given what I know of today's undergraduates, highly unlikely. Can it be abruptly converted into an entity that could compete head to head with WVTF, WMRA, and WCVE, not to mention WNRN and the wide array of commercial stations that saturate local air. Not unless the University is willing to invest millions of dollars to that end -- hardly likely when an overrun of a few thousand dollars is official excuse for the current crisis.

Could the existing WTJU be made to pay its way while also holding an appropriate place in local ratings. Quite possibly, but not by August and not under threat of imminent death. Only incremental change effected over reasonable time by the sustained effort of committed parties -- current volunteers, U.Va. managers, community representatives, et al. -- can do that.

The swiftness with which this situation has been visited on all stakeholders and the dire terms in which it has been cast have inflicted damage as devastating and indiscriminant to WTJU's volunteers, listeners, and supporters as recent meteorological microbursts have inflicted on the local landscape. In both cases, clean up and recovery will take time. Meanwhile, however, there is an upside to this otherwise unseemly thrash. That is, awareness of the station has been raised radically. I have no doubt that thousands of people who never before tuned in have and will. I also have no doubt that many of those first timers will become contributors -- if, that is, there are future fund drives to which they can contribute.

WTJU's current financial shortfall is not a crisis. That U.Va. is treating it as one suggests strongly that minds have already been made up and that the station's fate is already sealed. I sincerely hope that is not the case and that U.Va. will prove it is not the case by giving the station's participants and supporters at very least a full year to clean up, recover, review, reconnoiter, perhaps reinforce, perhaps reinvent. That is the ethical course. It is also the efficient course. Most importantly, it is the course that would prove that U.Va. understands that it owns a unique entity that fills a small but valuable niche. And it would further prove that U.Va. respects the people who are WTJU as well as the diverse community that truly appreciates those people and the University for making them and their myriad talents available.

Please give WTJU time.

Thank you.

Antoinette W. Roades
Charlottesville VA

48. "An Open Note from the Charlottesville of the Southwest": A Letter from Joe Gross of the Austin American-Statesman, to Carol Wood

This letter was sent before the Town Hall meeting. I post it here because the points are valid and worth considering by all in this time of consensus-building.

My name is Joe Gross, COL '96.

At U.Va., I majored in English and lived at 2 East Lawn my fourth
year. I love the school more than I ever thought possible.

I am a reporter and critic with the Austin American-Statesman, the
daily newspaper in Austin, TX. I cover culture, both popular and not
so popular. These days, my brief is mostly books, movies, television
and a smattering of music. From 2002 to 2009, I covered the Austin
music scene full-time for the American-Statesman. I have written for
Spin, Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and more. I love the life I've
been able to make for myself and my family.

I owe most of that to the educational opportunity and contacts
afforded me at WTJU, where I was a DJ for most of my undergraduate
career (end of fall semester, 1992 to spring 1996) and the co-director
of the rock department for about a year.

I've never been entirely convinced that the University knows exactly
how singular, how important, WTJU is for the students who choose to
participate in it.

I want to repeat that: as it is formatted now, WTJU is as crucial to the
fabric of what creates a University of Virginia education as any
academic department or Jefferson's architecture or the honor code. The
musical education that WTJU provided across the spectrum of rock,
jazz, folk and classical was absolutely essential to my liberal arts
studies. The connections made there have been invaluable to me during
my career. I have no doubt there a a hundred DJs that can say the same

Replacing it with a format that the University has been told might
make it more “accessible” is a bit like saying you want to replace the
Rotunda with something that looks like Nassau Hall because looking
like Princeton might increase donations.

As for replacing the multi-genre format with a format that would make
it the “the Austin of the East,” well, as someone who lived in
Charlottesville as as student and has actually lived in Texas for 11
years, Austin for nine and has followed Austin music for the better
part of a decade, I submit that this is an misguided idea at best and
something less savory at worst.

Both are amazing places. In fact, I, a Virginia native was all set to
go to the University of Texas at Austin in 1992. I visited U.Va. with
a very poor attitude. I wasn't interested in what seemed like a
frattish, self-obsessed party school. I wanted something more

WTJU changed my mind (I happened to visit during a rock marathon – I
took a program home and read it until it fell apart). It was the first
place I went after my father dropped me off at my dorm and one of the
last places I left. It symbolized everything I thought a Jeffersonian
education should be – well-rounded, interdisciplinary, creative and
challenging. WTJU's programming opened door after door after door for
me and many others.

And I love Austin. Austin and Texas has a rich history of tweaking the
conventions of country and Western music from Bob Wills Western swing
through Willie Nelson's music to today. It's no wonder “Americana” or
“AAA” is a popular format in Austin – there are strong regional ties
to the music.

But they are regional ties. They are what make Austin Austin. The
intellectual diversity present at WTJU is a product of the
University's public Ivy vibe, from the punk rock shows I used to go to
in Richmond to the indie rock that was present everywhere to the
bluegrass Virginia and D.C. is famous for to the jazz I grew to adore
and the classical I grew to appreciate. You guys have an educational
diamond in your hand that happens to have a layer of coal dust on it
and everyone seems to want to replace it with cubic zirconia.

It sounds like Mr. Burr has proposed a AAA format while also being a
AAA DJ himself. This is a bit like me saying we need to replace the
English department or the law school with a department entirely
devoted to something more profitable, say, mixed martial arts, and, by
the way, I have written the text book we will be using and I have a
mean right hook.

I'll be the first to admit that WTJU has never been all that good at
marketing itself and I'm wondering how much effort has been put into a
serious capital campaign for the station. I'm not talking about on-air
fundraising, I'm talking about serious money from big donors who have
an interest in keeping aesthetic diversity on terrestrial radio. I
suspect the answer is “none.”

(Though it's a little hard not to be cynical about this when the
University's capital campaign is hitting $3 billion and the total
budget for WTJU as it is now is less than $400,000. That's a very
small amount of money over which to sacrifice an institution as unique
as the Rotunda.)

I wonder how much effort has been put into keeping the format and
establishing a vigorous, working relationship with a local club or
venue, so the station can regularly sponsor shows and get its name out
there. I suspect the answer is “none.”

I wonder if the staff was ever told by someone from University
administration "Guys, you MUST raise more money. You MUST do it or the
station is changing for good?" I suspect the answer is "no."

You guys don't have a format problem. You have a marketing problem. We
seem to be in baby with bathwater territory here.

I'm not sure what to tell you about the issue of student
participation other than to say I was a full-time, undergraduate
student the entire time I was there. I wanted to be on the staff of
WTJU the way someone would want to be on a math team or on a
newspaper. And if anything, involvement with the local community is
crucial, raising the quality of the educational experience. Most of
one's life is spent outside of college. It's not a bad idea to get
used to working with people who aren't in it.
But you get the idea.

Thank you very much for your time. If you have any questions, do not
hesitate to call me or e-mail me. I have no doubt you will make the
right decision, one in keeping with the University's traditions of

Very truly yours,

Joe Gross

47. Brandon Collins on Working to Save WTJU

One of the unsung heroes of the effort to keep the soul of WTJU intact is Brandon Collins. He got in touch with me early, offering his knowledge of activism and organization. He has been a fount of great ideas from jump. If you've got a cause (and everyone should have at least one), this is a guy you want to talk to.

He got interviewed recently by the Examiner, and there's a video. Check it for nuts and bolts. Thanks, Brandon. Also, I owe you a pack of smokes. I ain't forgot.

46. Town Hall Meeting Wrap-Up

Words cannot express how grateful I am, how grateful I still am, two days after the Town Hall meeting.

Originally, the meeting was going to take place in a room for 80. I knew that wasn't going to be big enough, so just in case I packed up the trusty PA (the one that still worked after Tony chucked it down the stairs to remove some trustafarians from our practice space) and headed to Zehmer Hall. By the time I got there, they had already moved the meeting to a much much larger room. I imagined the organizers looking at each other and one saying, we're going to need a bigger boat.

When the meeting started, there were at least 160 people there, with more arriving every minute. Just looking around, I was awestruck.

Carol Wood opened the meeting with a brief breakdown of what we were doing. She reiterated: everything is on the table, and classical music was not going to be cut. General, and well-deserved, applause. Burr Beard got up and told us about our various downward trends, and seemed still to be a little... somewhere between defensive and petulant. He maintained that his plan was a good one. It was a good plan. Burr knows his stuff. There are a lot of stations for which Burr Beard's plan would have been just the thing. Just not for WTJU, not now.

One high point of the meeting came fairly early. A group of alumni represented by Marcia Doran (DJ name: Spot), Elizabeth Hull (That Girl) and Aaron Margosis (The Eclectic Baboon) got up and talked about the efforts their WTJU Alums in Exile group had made. In the brief time they had, they had been in touch with at least 70 WTJU alumnae (alumni? alumnusseses?). And they had, in that brief time, raised 20,000 dollars for the station, with the proviso that it would be given to the station only if "the soul of the station" were maintained. (I have since been told that the three people above raised 21,000 dollars, over 10 days, on the July Fourth holiday weekend. Suck that, Capital Campaign.)

Gonna just go ahead and type that again, because I enjoy typing it: seventy alums. Three weeks. Twenty thousand dollars.

Shortly after, Adam Silverman delivered what was either a low-level conceptual prank or an unasked-for attempt to scare management. He was roundly booed, and I kind of wanted to punch him in the face for his lame attempt to freak people out or whatever, but his stunt did have one positive outcome. Carol Wood said that WTJU was not for sale. This public declaration calmed a few vague fears some had had about 91.1's frequency being sold to religious concerns.

Then people started to get up to speak. If you still needed evidence of the passion and eloquence of the community in defense of free-form programming, the whole meeting was filmed and can be seen here. The video quality is blurry and the sound isn't great (lot of non-DJs not used to talking into mics), but there's sixteen youtubes of testimonial, all of it wonderful. I think someone is looking to transcribe it. Eventually, audio of the whole meeting will be put up on the WTJU site.

The whole thing went off far far better than any one of us could have planned. The support we have gotten throughout this entire ordeal has been phenomenal. That's good... because now comes the hard part.

It is always easier to set up and rally support in opposition to something or someone. It is a clear case of us versus them, and language and actions follow accordingly. Now, management has said, in public: we would like to be part of the dialogue you have started. Now, their plan has been shelved, and the plan that the volunteers have worked out should be seen as a foundation for what is to come. Now we start building consensus, and now we start implementing the changes we have proposed. And that is going to be the hardest part.

We need you more than ever. Eventually you're going to get tired of reading that, eventually I'm going to get tired of writing that, and eventually I won't have to write it any more. We need your financial support, we need your manpower, we need your vision. We aren't going to be able to implement any of the measures that will help the station without the support of the community. Get up, get involved, get into it as the poet laureate said.

We're having a rally at Random Row Books (corner of Main and MacIntyre) this Friday from 5 until 9. There will be bands, speakers, and more bonhomie than you can shake a stick at. I would love to see you there. Bring signs, dress breezy and be ready to (gaw do I hate this usage) network with each other.

You guys... y'all saved our butts. Thanks. I know we can keep the momentum going. With the continued energy pouring in from all of y'all, we'll be able to get through anything.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

45. A Retraction; More than a Reprieve, Less Than a Victory

My post last night, written at 12:30 in the morning and under the influence of a great show by Pantherburn, was symptomatic of what Alan Greenspan would call "irrational exuberance." I mis-read some very important documents. This post, bolstered by conversations with other volunteers and concerned members of the community, will better reflect what is actually happening.

Burr Beard's plan is, in fact, off the table. But the Volunteers' Plan has not replaced it. It will be presented at the meeting along with other suggestions. In short, everything is now open to negotiation. Burr has asked to join the volunteers in creating a new plan. Nothing is going to happen immediately, and (this is key) all final decisions will still be presented by Burr Beard, Carol Wood, and Marian Anderfuren to the Board of Visitors.

This is still excellent news. Lengthening the process will allow for closer scrutiny, from the students, from the volunteers, from the administration, and from the community. Given more time, and more input from everyone, the Volunteers' Plan (or whatever plan is created) can only get better. And given more time, Burr Beard and the OPA can really see what WTJU is. They have already seen how much the community cares when the station is in a crisis. Now they can see how much y'all care about us all the time.

Something to consider, again: WTJU is not a democracy. Very few radio stations are. But the folks who have the power have seen what happens when they act rashly, and with insufficient information.

With all this in mind, then, in italics and big old type:

We still need you at the Town Hall meeting Monday the 12th at 5:00 PM. We need you more than ever.

This is more than a reprieve, but less than a "victory." It's a lot closer to the latter than the former. This is a chance for everybody to become much more involved than even before. See you tomorrow night.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

44. The Volunteers' Plan Has Been Accepted; Burr Beard's Plan is Off the Table

In short: it looks like WTJU will remain free-form. The Office of Public Affairs and Burr Beard have agreed to shelve their plan, and the plan written by the volunteers, which can be found here, has been accepted. Mr. Beard has asked to join us and come in to the open process.

I am overjoyed. I will present more news as I can.

This is not over, however. We have a long road ahead of us. We need all of you to stay with us, to keep fighting with us to make WTJU as good as we all want it to be. We are coming out of a troubled sleep, and a nightmare woke us up. Now is the time to take stock and then start working.

But for the moment... my God. I am so happy. And I am so proud to be a member of WTJU.