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."

The title of this post is from the Silver Jews' song, "Advice to the Graduate." David Berman wrote it. He was a DJ at WTJU.

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.

E-mail addresses

Burr Beard: bb3vx@eservices.virginia.edu
Carol Wood, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs: csw8a@virginia.edu / cwood@virginia.edu
Marian Anderfuren, Director of Media Relations: manderfuren@virginia.edu
Robert Sweeney, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Development: rds2j@virginia.edu

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,


  1. I've read through all of these documents and everything else on this site, in the on-line tabloids, and both forums.

    Who besides Burr, Wood, et al. think their proposed change to Americana/Roots is a good strategy? Really.

    Are they claiming a "Silent Majority"? Or are they just so much smarter than everyone else that's been active in this discussion? Or is it just a wager on "hunches" and the sort of talk of successes at Burr's past stations (nevermind that WNCW is in free fall according to his own forwarded email)?

    I think the hunch that "blue collar" folks (huh?) are going to flock to the "NEW WTJU" and leave behind 3WV or WCYK is laughable.

    But by then TJU will be lost. And that's not funny at all.


    P.S. Thanks to whoever mentioned KFAI Radio. That's a great model for many things (community, diversity, web-presence and delivery). I'm impressed.

  2. How is it possible to make a rash decision of going Americana on observations and because of "national survey of 3000 radio listeners." 3000 people? That's 0.0001% of the United States. Hardly significant in any statistical circle. That's just ugly.

  3. I searched online - the TroyResearch quotes are taken out of context with the obvious intent to exaggerate the likelihood of success.

    I'm also very curious about why WXLV moved from an Americana/Roots format to free-form after Burr left.

  4. Nice job on the Announcer's Proposal -- looks very professional. By contrast, Mr. Beard's memo sounds like so much ranting.

    As a regular internet listener, I encourage you to make more efforts to tap into that audience. WTJU isn't just about C'vile anymore; it is C'ville's gift to the world.

    Thanks for all you are doing.

    Michael D. Mabry (Law 1991).

  5. M. Mabry:

    Your comments on the official forum were constructive and pitch perfect.

    I like the announcers' proposal too. I encourage them to develop the business side of this a bit more. One avenue to explore is TJU's role in alumni engagement (as it's now called), i.e., engage people as students and then maintain that connection after they graduate, for the mutual benefit of TJU and UVa.

    Figure out the business end. Create an endowment with the Alumni Association and transfer the allowable share of interest to cover what the CPB, underwriting, and student fees doesn't.

  6. No, No, No, No, No, No, No, NO!


  7. After reading Burr Beard's "business plan" I was stuck by two things. First, it seems he picked Americana because it is a format that he knows and likes; and second, in no way will this plan significantly increase student involvement.

    I've worked in commercial and noncommercial radio, including a station owned by a college. While I wish any new manager well, I do not see this as a viable plan for the goals established by the university. I don’t think any station in the market will yield their audience share, especially AAA WCNR. In an era of slowly declining over the air listening, it is difficult to create new radio listeners, meaning you will need to steal a lot of listeners from other stations to reach the goal of 20,000 cume listeners. That’s a tall order. In addition, with so many other stations in the market, a roots WTJU is unlikely to become the first choice station for most listeners. That first choice status is critical for successful on-air fundraising. And because the plan has been developed without the input of current staff, its implementation will be difficult. This is not the way you go about implementing change at a volunteer or student run station. It makes me wonder how change was implemented at WXLV, WNCW, WDIY, and any other station Burr has managed. In commercial radio we force change down people's throats all the time because we pay our workers and can tell them what to do. That approach isn't useful in noncommercial radio.

    If the university is serious about student involvement, they need a better plan than this one. 18-24 year olds are not a huge part of the Americana demos. The music won't attract them and the chance to "work" at a "real" public station will only draw in a few. To get them involved in meaningful numbers, the students will need to have a hand in running things. The DJ plan has better ideas than the GM’s for increasing student involvement and is worth a look for ideas.

    Any programmer would agree that as long as WTJU has a patchwork format of too many genres, audience gains will be limited. Two or three core genres would be better. But even a freeform station can draw listeners if it markets the heck out of the station. As long as you are thinking about building and serving an audience, a less freeform approach will probably increase audience as much as a fulltime roots format would. And everyone needs to keep the audience goals realistic. Without a large marketing budget, is WTJU really going to have as many listeners as WCNR? It would if it reaches Burr’s year 2 goal of 20,000, but I just don’t see it.

    Hopefully, the university is sincere is saying they want compromise and will encourage Burr to do so. So far, however, they seem to be backing their man and letting him do whatever he sees as best. I pray cooler heads will prevail because for this situation to work out as a win-win for all, a realistic volunteer and university supported plan needs to be developed.

  8. Burr's proposal, page 3, says "The service and new WTJU bran..." Sans the d, all the more Americana.

    Apropos the notion that a counterproposal should reference some guiding document at UVA, I looked online and found


    This may turn out to be what we should reference, but it is from '86 and I suspect there is something better. I couldn't find it quickly, called alderman, and spoke to someone at the reference desk who took my name and email address and will be getting back to me about this.

  9. I wrote Burr in a commiserating tone, and in doing so had some thoughts that run a little counter to my emotional initial response to all this. My agreement with just about everything about station direction stated in posts here hasn't changed a whit, but I think it might help if we each put ourselves in BB's shoes for a minute. I could as easily get REALLY caustic about inanities like "appealing to blue collar tastes", but I've elected to put a lid on that.

    Now, must read the counterproposal. My letter to BB is below.

    Hello Burr,

    I’m a WTJU alum and I’ve been reading a little about the kettle in which you find yourself as you attempt to move the station forward.

    I’ve read your proposal, which I think has some merit in many regards. I can’t claim to have any real expertise regarding many aspects of radio station management, nor do I have a lot of insight into the specific relationship between the station and UVA. I did when I was very active at WTJU in the 70s, but that was then…

    The one aspect of your proposal with which I disagree is probably your root principle- converting the programming to Americana. As a native Virginian I understand the appeal of the genre, but I don’t see WTJU as a suitable vehicle for such a narrow slice of the world’s music. I don’t think WTJU is broken, it just needs some renovation, and throwing out its great strength – diversified programming – seems so very, very wrong. Tweak it, band it, and make it professional, but please don’t water down the intellectually challenging nature of the station. I like a world where Steve Earle and Hep Imp live in harmony. So much for my opinion.

    I don’t impugn any ill will on your part, and I don’t see your advancement of a genre that you yourself clearly favor as improper, though I think it is wrong for the station. I think you are in a difficult position, helming a transition without any way to know what a strong community might rise up to comment on the direction you’ve selected. But I do think you have made a serious tactical error in starting out in secret – you will never be able to win back some of the people offended by that. I don’t count myself among them, and am heartened that it looks like you are opening up the process now.

    In my position at WCU, I find my greatest challenge is keeping some sort of process respected and followed, at least approximately. One can never be sure one has identified all of one’s constituents. You have my sympathies in that light.

    It is certainly going to be interesting to see how this develops. I’ll be in Charlottesville in August and if you’re amenable would like to drop by the station.

    Hal Dean, AIA, LEED
    Major Capital Projects Manager
    Facilities Design and Construction
    West Chester University