Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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.
Antoinette W. Roades
48. "An Open Note from the Charlottesville of the Southwest": A Letter from Joe Gross of the Austin American-Statesman, to Carol Wood
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,
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.
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
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
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.
Friday, July 9, 2010
My end of week email will be brief!
I am impressed and heartened by the seizure of new open process by listeners and volunteer air staff. The comments from the forum are heartfelt. The announcer's proposed renewal plan is strong and a show of commitment, a labor of love.
Please understand that the process has opened my mind, and heart.
My proposal is on the back shelf. I am looking forward to working with you on our new group proposal.
Well, a dearth of things to say has never stopped me opening my mouth, so here goes again. These come from several discussions I've had with other DJs. Those opinions that are unsound are mine, and those that are sound can be attributed to them.
Burr Beard's monomaniacal belief in "roots" programming as silver bullet for WTJU's financial success overlooks one crucial fact: there is no room in Charlottesville for another formatted radio station. Charlottesville already has over 30 radio stations serving her (source: here), and Charlottesville is the 230th-largest radio market in America, behind Elmira-Corning NY and behind Winchester Va (source: here).
Burr has had some success with his silver bullet, turning three community college radio stations into more popular media presences. He has been able to increase cumulative audiences, certainly. But he has never worked with a station like WTJU before. I can't speak to what the staffs at those stations were like when he got there, but I will dare say that they were not like ours. Our staff, to be short, know what it is doing with its programming. I believe that this is the first time Burr has dealt with DJs who know what they are doing, who care. I don't think he understands that. Certainly, he seemed taken aback, confused when we didn't just sign on to his cool new idea. He was confused that we might want more than one show to say goodbye to our audiences.
Of course, Burr was ready to go with his silver bullet from jump; he was ready to go with it on July 5th. He had not modified it one iota from the 5th to last weekend's secret meeting. He is not interested in changing it. That plan is the entirety of his professional identity; his career rests on presenting it as panacea. From his attempt to syndicate an Americana Top 20 (which can be found here) to his renaming of every station he can get his hands on to "Roots W___," everything depends on people buying in to him as a guru of Americana. So how can he modify his plan? It would be a repudiation of everything he claims to be worth as a hired hand.
A 30-year professional broadcaster, Beard managed stations since 1988, including WNCW-FM (which he founded) and currently WXLV-FM a full service Americana station in market #68. Beard was part of the beginning of Triple-A and Americana in the late 80's.
Anyway, as I was saying, he was ready to go on July 5th, and isn't interested in changing his philosophy. Anyone who could present alternatives has to go. And here is where his constant stream of offensive behavior starts to make sense. It would be easiest for him to have the vast majority of DJs quit; he only needs a handful of DJs to keep the station on the air, and he is also installing an automated DJ (ostensibly so that WTJU can broadcast from 3-6AM when no-one wants to be on air... uh-huh). The less DJs are around, the less hassle it is making sure everyone plays what he wants to play. So he has gone out of his way to disgust us. Pete Marshall walked, and Emmett Boaz walked over Burr's public derision of Pete. I've come close on a number of occasions. His disregard for the feelings and intellects of the DJs and the community they serve is staggering.
With this in mind, if you support WTJU, that means you are supporting the DJs. Have you been listening to a show for a while, but you've never called? Call the DJ. Tell them. And email Burr Beard at email@example.com. Tell him about that show, how often you listen to it, something you'll always remember about that show, something you did when that show was playing.
Burr is determined to drive the DJs away, so he can say, looks like they really were just whiny babies determined to have their way or nothing. That's not true at all. In this time when management is actively tearing them down, remind the DJs that you care. Burr's way doesn't work precisely because at this station, the DJs care. No amount of chart research or demographic idolatry can replace that.
PS: On last thing. It should be noted that the last station Burr managed, WXLV in Lehigh, PA, wasted very little time in repudiating his philosophy after he left:
...WXLV has embraced the “Free Form” model of radio, allowing on air talent comprised of both students and community volunteers, to play the music they enjoy and can educate the public about.
One wonders what they have to say about Burr Beard. I plan on finding out, personally. It's interesting to note that a couple of days ago, Burr Beard's own webpage, where I and many other people found out about his history, has been taken offline.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
40. "So get in some licks, and hold your head up, and soon you'll be drinking from that crystal cup."
Well, I told you there was something big coming down the pipe, and so there is. Here, for your perusal, is everything from the side of the management: Burr Beard's proposal for the new Roots WTJU, and his schedule ,which includes no classical programming at all. When I posted his schedule yesterday, I thought that it was a starting point, something that might be discussed. There is no room for discussion in his mind.
At this moment, Carol Wood continues to say that we need an open mind, counsels that we must leave room for compromise. At this time, I don't know if we do, when it is clear that her man Beard will not budge.
Included also is the proposal agreed upon by the four departments at WTJU. I believe that we are fair and considerate. I believe the proposals show us willing to have open minds. I believe that our proposal speaks to management as equals. I believe that our proposal is just that: a proposal. I believe that our proposal is everything that their document is not.
Finally, included is a possible schedule tweak that would give us more easily navigated "striped" programming. It is tangible evidence that we are working towards a common solution.
This is not the end. There is the Town Hall meeting; there are online petitions; there is the official forum; there is Facebook; there are personal e-mails you can make. If it is, as I believe it is, the will of a community that WTJU remain programmed by the DJs; if it is, as I believe it is, the will of the community that we continue to play classical music programs like Gamut, like Dawn's Early Light, like the Sunday Opera Matinee; if it is indeed the will of the community as I believe it is that we remain as eclectic, as truly alternative, and as yours as ever... then management must know.
We must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The current DJs, the community, and WTJU alums from literally around the world have come together in an incredibly short time. I know that Burr Beard and his superiors were amazed by the immensity and the calm logic of the
response; certainly his erratic and insensitive behavior bears witness to that. Really the only thing we haven't had an answer for is management's refusal to listen.
Here then are the documents. I am also going to be providing a list of links and addresses. Remember that we must remain civil; it would be far too easy to let management paint us as whining children or obscenity-spewing cranks.
Burr Beard's Business Plan, handed out at meeting of 7/3/10
Burr Beard's Plan for Programming on "Roots WTJU"
The Announcers' Proposal - A Draft
A Possible Tweak, proposed by the Announcers, That Would Create a "Striped" Schedule
A New On-Line Petition to Be Sent to the BOV, Robt. Sweeney, Incoming President Teresa Sullivan and Outgoing President Casteen
The Free Forum for the Community to Talk to WTJU DJs (not the UVA one)
Keep WTJU Weird on Facebook
The University WTJU Feedback Forum
WTJU alumni can join the group WTJU Alums in Exile; it requires a Google account, but those are free.
Burr Beard: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Wood, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Marian Anderfuren, Director of Media Relations: email@example.com
Robert Sweeney, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Development: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember that there is a Town Hall meeting on Monday the 12th, at Zehmer Hall. It will be at 5:30. Come early; there isn't much parking, so try to carpool. We're working on some extra material for you. Know where Burr's coming from. Know where we're coming from. Make clear, concise points. Back them up with facts. Media will be there. Anything you say might make it onto television or into papers from as far away as Washington DC, so make sure that you would be proud to see what you've said. It is possible that we won't sway management, but if we can convince the undecided that WTJU is a cultural treasure that only occurs here in Charlottesville, that will mean a lot. And if we stay calm, cool and collected, it shouldn't be hard. Telling the truth is always easier than the alternative.
No matter what happens, this entire horrible affair has reminded me why I stayed in Charlottesville after I left the University. One reason is WTJU. The other reason is the people, the town.
Keep it broadcasting from the heart,
Monday, July 5, 2010
I have removed the rest of the post. I violated someone's trust in posting what I did yesterday. I have been making light recently of how heedless Mr. Beard has been in his actions, and of how insensitive he has been in pursuing his vision. I acted in much the same way. I apologize, from the bottom of my soul, for doing so. I hope to make amends, now and in the future.
In Burr's personal comments in his forwarded email from WNCW, he complimented the volunteers for their "passion and work". Just as important, I believe, is our "commitment": to the Mission Statement (our Book of Rules), to UVa, to our audience, and not the least to our love of music.
I take exception to many remarks made by his colleague in the space of a short few sentences. It's all very easy to make pithy assumptions about our motivations through what has been written in the press, but assuming that our primary concern is to "protect our own turf" so that we can "play whatever we like", is more than a little insulting.
I also doubt the opinion of those who spout impenetrable Arbitron lingo when they make value judgments about whether a show is "interesting" or not. That's up to the public that tunes in. Any paid ratings service that discounts listenership outside of the confines of Charlottesville and ignores the potential of live or archival streaming sounds like wasted money, to me.
So, to investigate from whence these comments originated, I logged onto the WNCW website. A well-designed, welcoming homepage (though painfully inadequate with posted playlists). Three frequencies from which they broadcast (in NC's "Research Triangle", as well). An iPhone app.
A pared-down schedule, with big chunks of NPR (that much-loved "repetition"!), seven hours of bluegrass. An upcoming dedicated spot to showcase new music. "Eclectic" shows relegated to the weekend. Not a mention of "rock"... and no classical or jazz in the lineup. And, it takes a lot of digging to find out who actually runs the station.
Not a fair comparison.
A comment By Bill Tetzeli on the WTJU Chat and Help Forum reminded me of a declaration during the OPA/DJ meeting, how the proposed "changes" were "the last roll of the dice". I keep thinking about how many changes we could have initiated over the years with cooperation from the University. How many ideas were shot down because they supposedly wouldn't pass muster with UVa?
It took years to get the "go ahead" to launch a website (yet, we are not allowed to link to the supplemental show sites of announcers), even longer to find a way to toe the non-profit line with respect to streaming. Once up, it faced the same fate as our broadcasts: if you knew about it, already, fine. NO Promotion. Word-of-mouth only goes so far.
There are huge opportunities to widen our listenership, and our "product" is already here... that is, if more of our best DJs don't head for the exits. That exodus is an irreparable loss--show hosts who not only worked to present educational and entertaining shows, but brought in the very musicians who make the music they spin.
iPhone apps. iTunes links. Pandora. Satellite radio. Expanded signal range. Setting up individual archived streams on the website for each department (culled from our Tape Vault) so listeners can listen to their favorite genre, whenever they want, from wherever in the globe they are (Ralph Graves' idea). Investment in real promotion (which should be pursued ASAP, since WTJU is finally a topic of conversation in the media. This adversity is an opportunity, while the public might actually know who we are, now). The possibilities are only limited by our imagination... and the Glass Wall of what the University will allow.
Personally, I'd trade our palatial studios for the ratty orange carpet at Peabody Hall if it meant that WTJU would endure.
WRNR's Mike "We Will Bury You" Friend came from WTJU, it should be noted (and was an alternate on Reggae Vibrations, when I joined... an experience not to be taken lightly)... and when he left the station to start his own, he immediately went to work to widen his audience (with translators to points south), to promote, and solicit underwriters... though his "methods" look suspiciously at odds with "non-commercial" status. Still, you have to give the Devil his due: he took us on, on a shoestring, and was off-and-running, right out of the box... though his underwriting methods are extremely suspect, and the programming is ever more indistinguishable for any other "alternative" station.
If we homogenize our programming by trying to be another NPR affiliate or WNRN, He'll be laughing all the way to the bank.
Scott Shisler aka goldfinger
Friday, July 2, 2010
Another fine week of programming this week from Dawn's Early Light as I walked in though Danza Latina as I left for home after a hectic busy week. Haven't then been for all of us lately? Your passion and work for WTJU continues to amaze me! Thank you for all you do!
To encourage thought I am sending a nice email I received from a colleague from my old station WNCW in North Carolina. She came after I left, so I never had the pleasure of meeting K. C. [name changed by editor] until now by email...
I just read an article about all the controversy surrounding your proposed changes at WTJU. I had an overwhelming case of the "deja-vu's! It all sounded very similar to some of the stuff we went through at WNCW.
I'm writing to express my support for what you're doing. It seems the on-air staff is too concerned in defending what they think of as their own personal turf to consider that your efforts will actually make WTJU more inclusive, not less so. In my experience as Assistant PD and PD at WNCW, I found that even though the djs chafed at being "told what to play" (even though required rotation was only 5 songs per hour), when they were given free rein they actually narrowed their playlists to only songs that they personally liked. And as a result, their shows were less interesting in general and the station's overall sound was disjointed and seemed to lurch from one side of the musical landscape to another, depending who was on the air.
Mark Keefe was probably the strongest PD WNCW ever had, and he strictly enforced rotation and playlists. During his tenure, WNCW's cume grew (according to Arbitron) to about 120,000 per week and a typical fund drive brought in around $180,000 or more. In recent years, the playlist has been discarded and there is a laissez-faire approach to rotation with djs basically playing what they like. The last audience numbers I saw (about 2 years ago) were at just over 69,000 cume, and the last fund drive brought in $98,000. Of course, there are other factors at work, such as weaker economic conditions, but still I think the trend is clear.
Obviously, you know all this. I just wanted to give you a shout out and say keep the faith. I hope the college is with you, because in my experience that is key.