Friday, July 2, 2010

35. Letter from Burr Beard: 'Encouraging Open Minds'

Dear Volunteers,

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...

Hey, Burr.

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.

K. C.


  1. The following is a letter that I sent to Burr and all of the volunteer announcers, in response to the smarmy outrage printed above:

    Dear Burr,

    Physician, heal thyself.

    1. In a classic case of Freudian projection, you are attributing to the volunteers of WTJU precisely the attitude you have demonstrated since your arrival.

    *We* are not the ones with closed minds.

    *We* are not the ones who refuse to entertain a variety of remedies for the good of the station (as *we* love it).

    *We* are not the ones hell bent on carrying out a single-minded plan, conceived in ignorance and dedicated to the proposition that WTJU should become a "cool" and homogenized propaganda *arm* of the University, rather than the intelligent, educational, and eclectic fully-formed *body* it is.

    As Lincoln so eloquently stated, as he was attempting to preserve his beloved nation,

    "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."

    2. As Sandy G. so aptly noted, it is thoroughly inappropriate to forward this personal e-mail to the whole WTJU list.

    3. As Aer so poetically indicated, your self-deconstruction is remarkable and complete in its self-congratulation and disingenuity.

    4. In the future, please compose and proofread your missives more carefully, preferably in a recognizable language (i.e., English, French, Russian) with recognizable grammar. If your e-mail is indicative of the way WTJU is to present itself to the world, I am sad.

    Your humble and obedient servant,

    Andrew Damian Pratt

  2. This is absolutely fucking ridiculous.
    James McNew
    WTJU 1988-90

  3. After the news broke about Burr's midsummer _putsch_ and news stories mentioned his background, I listed for a few days on-and-off to WNCW.

    It's not terrible, but just bad. Most of the programming is three-hour shows of "music mix." That works for playlists because any song on the list will fit in any program. It's not a wild exaggeration to say that I heard things like, "that wraps up our spoonful of blues. Spoons reminds me of eating, and eating of BBQ, and BBQ reminds me of Texas. So here's a new cut from the Austin-based Americana upstart [...]"

    I wouldn't listen to it again.

    My dial is set to WTJU as it has been for twenty or more years. I was a townie, then a student, then out in the working world far away (and dependent on the streaming audio), and then back to Ch'ville. I mark the hours of the day and the days of the week by what's playing on TJU. That means can't-miss shows like RVibes (especially), Tropicale, Sunset Road, Biscuits, Danza Latina, Prof. Bebop and Sunshine Daydream -- but also regularly opera on Sunday (and Frau Benzinger's morning show if I can).

    No playlist is going to work with my line-up.

    No station with one dominant genre station is going to capture me. I'll probably quit FM radio.

    It's not an understatement to say that one of the reasons I moved back to Charlottesville was TJU.

    I'm no volunteer DJ. I'm just a listener and donor.

    I'm completely appalled by the way Burr and company have handled this situation, and not at all encouraged by their actions since the "reset" (with the ignored official forum and now the sneaky meeting to try to co-opt some DJs).