Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tin can and string. . .

I’m sitting at my desk, at noon, skipping lunch and listening to Midday Matters.  It’s Friday and I never quite know what’s going to turn up on ArtCentric Friday.  It’s Julia Meek and Phil Shaull — so anything could happen.  Today it’s Stephen Parker, who writes a great blog Around Fort Wayne, talking about how he got started and about the discipline and art that goes into maintaining a good blog.  I’ll listen carefully!  We’re also celebrating the 99th Annual International Women’s Day with guest Carol Butler.  Our community is truly chocked full of interesting people who are so willing to share.  The studio is full this noon and that is exciting and energetic.  Love it.

Yesterday, Midday Matters was “on location” at the Home & Garden Show with Ricky Kemery.  What a good time. And we had a calller from Korea, seriously. 

But what I was really proud of yesterday was that we pulled together a remote live broadcast technically.  While commercial radio stations do this all the time (ALL the time!), it’s brand new for us and we’re not really equipped for remote broadcasts.  And right now, resources are limited here, to say the least, so the programming and news department just doesn’t have the option of coming into my office and saying, “We’ve got a great idea that will serve our audience well and we’d need to buy about $5000 worth of equipment to make it happen.” 

Well, they could do that, but I’d have to say – no matter how good the idea is – “Um, no.”

So instead they said, “We’ve got a great idea that will serve our audience well (and oh, by the way, will be lots of fun for us) and we’ll figure out how to make it work.”

Phil Shaull and Ricky Kemery: Midday Matters

That happens here every day.  Smart people figuring out how to do what they think should be done with what we already have.

It wasn’t quite a tin can and a string – in fact it was pretty darn impressive – but it wasn’t what most radio people would think you should have to do something new and different.  But Kevin Kreigh, Ed Didier, and Phil Shaull are not most people and I can’t begin to say how happy and proud I am that they are on the NE Indiana pub radio team.
I look forward to the time when things won’t be quite so tight and creative ideas won’t require quite so much tin foil and chewing gum to pull off.

Go, team.

Joan

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Report Cards.

Earlier this week I received a box in the mail, addressed directly to me, with “Confidential” stamped on it.  As soon as I saw the return address I knew what it was.  The official copies of our 2009 audit.  Our fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30,  so our audit comes at the very end of the calendar year, with the results coming in January/February.

It’s like getting a report card.  You know, you weren’t ever really surprised by what was on it, but to see it there, in black and white, and know you have to show it to other people (like your parents) was kind of unnerving, if it wasn’t all good.

We had a very good audit experience that affirmed many of the positive changes that we’ve made, and gave us a good report on our processes and procedures, but the bottom line is kind of ugly this year.  And I feel a bit like I got a bad report card.

Operationally, we actually did better this year than last, but we had to make some big adjustments on paper to account for an unfavorable appraisal of the frequency that we purchased in 2007. And we had to admit that some people who owed us money aren’t really going to pay us and write those accounts off.  Ouch.  Big ouch.

Anyone really reading the financials carefully would see some very good things and would understand that those were “paper” adjustments, not real cash transactions.  But just looking at the bottom line, you’d have to say, “Hmmm.”  If you read all the way through to the notes at the end, you’d see that we’re working hard to keep things moving in an upward direction.  If you read all the way through . . .

Just like that pesky report card, this gets shown to people who matter.  Major funders, grant makers, individuals who ask for it.  I sent several copies out in the mail today to people who require them on an ongoing basis and I seriously wanted to add a note that said, “Promise you’ll read this carefully, compare it to last year (not just the bottom line), and read the notes at the end.  Promise?”

I really very proud of the accomplishments of this organization over the last year.  We’ve played fairly well with the hand we were dealt, so to speak, and kept expenses unbelievably low. I’m ridiculously optimistic about what’s ahead for us.  So spending much time worrying over last year’s report card seems like an unproductive use of energy. So I’m not going to.

But I do sort of feel like I got a frowny face sticker or a “you can do better” written in red.

Onward and upward,

Joan

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StoryCorps is coming to NE Indiana!

This is such great news!  StoryCorps will be spending a month in Fort Wayne, during July, to record all the stories that have made us who and what we are in this region.

If you listen to Morning Edition on WBOI on Friday mornings, you know something about StoryCorps, those short segments that consist of one person interviewing another – not professional interviewers, but friends, family members, acquaintances, teachers, students, everyday people with their own stories to tell.

These stories come from StoryCorps’ trips around the country, inviting all of us to add our own.  Some of those stories are aired on NPR, many are aired on the local affiliate (that’s us!) and all of them, every single one, get archived at the Library of Congress so that years from now we will be part of a “bottom-up” history of life as it was lived in this century.   StoryCorps has as its mission “to instruct and inspire Americans to record one another’s stories in sound.”

It’s so great to have things to be enthused about and I am wildly excited about bringing this remarkable program to our community.  We are proud, here at NIPR, to be hosting StoryCorps.

And there’s a role for everyone in making this successful.  Our first order of business is to arrange a community meeting that will include all sorts of folks who can help us get the word out about this project.  Even though StoryCorps is heard on our station, we want a much broader scope than our listeners (although we certainly want all of you) and we need help to effectively invite every demographic in our communities to participate.  In the month that the MobileBooth is in Fort Wayne, we would expect to record close to 150 forty-min. interviews.  We want those interviews to represent the totality of our population and present a true record of who we are.

So, please let me know of individuals or organizations that we simply must have at our April 28 community meeting so we can include them on our invitation list.  You can just post a comment here – that might help others think of people we’re missing – or send me an email at jbrown@nipr.fm.

And think about that special person that you would like to interview during the StoryCorps visit.  You’ll be able to reserve your interview time online and I’ll let you know when that’s available, shortly after the April meeting.

 You can learn more about the StoryCorps project at their web site www.storycorps.org

Or you can ask me.  And then I would just go on and on in person as opposed to just going on and on in writing.

Here’s to our stories,

Joan

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Changing our mind about the wine!

I am so excited – people who know me know it doesn’t take much, but I really am.

After a lot of deliberation, we had decided that we wouldn’t produce our annual wine tasting event this spring. Bottom line – we just weren’t making enough money, with venue costs, to justify the huge amounts of time and energy going into the event.  There are so many good things about that event – we’d been doing it for more than twenty years; it had some very loyal fans; we had a the logistics down to a science.  But in the end, we just weren’t coming out on top. And we didn’t feel like it was really connecting us to people very well.  Guests would leave the event loving the wine, but not really know that they had been supporting public radio by attending. We want our events to grow relationships.

So we cancelled it last Monday.  And on  Tuesday, we brought it back!

I love it when things work out in a surprising, promising way. 

Our great friends at Arts United had been thinking about an event to wrap up their fund-raising efforts in late spring/early summer and as Jim Sparrow, the AU Executive Director, and I talked about our event and their needs, it just seemed like a really good idea to partner on the Wine Tasting and bring it back (although nobody but us really knew it was gone) in an updated, revitalized form.  So we’re going to be partners and there will be a Wine Tasting!

Mark your calendars – Saturday, June 19, at the Arts United Center.  More intriguing details to come.  We do know a few things that you can definitely expect: fabulous wine to sip and love, great food,  marvelous music to set the tone, and a silent auction of exciting wine-related items. (We’re hoping to have some favorites from last year on the auction list again –  The Trustees’ Choice selection of great wines from our Board and those sexy red swirly wine glasses from Mexico. If you missed out last year, you’ve got another chance!).  Dan and Krista Stockman, such great friends of the station, and the authors of the Journal-Gazette’s Uncorked column will share their expertise throughout the evening.

New venue, new partners, new ideas, new excitement!

And an opportunity to help financially strengthen your public radio station and Arts United and their partner organizations.  It’s a big win.

It’ll be great.

Joan

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What’s happening to Pipe Dreams?

For the record and those of you who may not know, Pipe Dreams is a weekly program of organ music (pipe dreams – get it?)  It plays on our classical station, WBNI, and has a small, but loyal group of fans.  And it’s going away.  These are hard things to do.  When we look at the numbers and see that maybe on a good day, a couple hundred people are listening to a particular program, and that program is one we pay for, it’s a really good business decision to let it go.

But it’s not that we don’t think about the fact that each program is an important part of somebody’s day, their routine, their way of appreciating music and the world around them, and when we change things up – and I know it can seem arbitrary and sudden – we upset people.

The fact is that when we announced a year ago that we needed to offer our classical frequencies for sale, I thought it would be a done deal by now and we budgeted accordingly.  So now, even though we have some activity and continue to work diligently to make a sale a reality, we are still operating the classical stations.  Good news for our listeners who enjoy that programming, but challenging for us from a budgeting standpoint.  We still have the capital commitment of those stations and the operational expenses pushing on a budget that has some other challenges, as well.

So we’re discontinuing many of the classical programs that we pay to air and replacing them with our own programming, with music from our really astounding classical library.  It will sound a bit different and no doubt we’ll miss the uniqueness of some of those programs and their hosts, but the music will continue on 94.1, until we can conclude a sale.  And then it will continue as a digital signal on 89.1.

Change.  Not always easy, not always what we’d really like to see happening.  But at least for us, in this instance, absolutely inevitable.

And for those of you who have been enriched by Pipe Dreams and Symphony Cast, and the small number of other programs that we’ll be easing out of over the next couple months, please know that those decisions were made knowing that it would disappoint you and taking that very seriously, but also knowing that we aren’t in a place that offers many choices.

Thanks for understanding or at least trying to.

Joan

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Here’s what a JazzFest looks like . . .

Dan Stockman, Board member Krista Stockman, Julie Cox, Board member Adam Cox - JazzFest regulars!

 . . . people having fun. Steve Linsenmayer, a great photographer, journalist, development professional, and friend of public radio shared his talents and sent some great pictures.  More to come, but here’s a taste.

Rob Dixon, playing with the Todd Harrold Band, brought down the house.

The not-completely-final report is that we made money, which is always good!  Perhaps not as much as we would have liked, but it certainly isn’t because of lack of effort or cooperation.  Our bands always give us excellent rates, allow us to use their music on the sample CD (it is incredible), and work so hard to give our guests such a good night.  Thanks to all of you!

We sold more tickets and had higher attendance than last year – what an interesting, diverse, enthusiastic crowd!  I love that about this event – a full house of old friends, new friends, people we’re meeting for the first time, and everybody so crazy about the music.  Lots of folks took advantage of the discount price on advance tickets and we had a great student attendance as well.

The challenging part this year was securing corporate sponsorships and that’s always where an event can really bring in some great support.  It’s a tough year for many of our business friends, so we understand the difficulty.  We’re especially grateful for those who were able to sponsor.

And if you were there and thought it was well run — the credit goes to an awesome staff led by our event planner, Lea, and a whole group of truly committed volunteers who offer to help, work so hard, and then thank us for letting them come.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Can’t wait to do it again next year. (OK, maybe we can wait a little bit.)  Thanks, everyone.

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Nobody’s bored at the board meeting.

I looked around this evening during our board meeting and had the fleeting thought, “It’s amazing that these people show up month after month.”  We have heavy issues to deal with and no easy answers and while we have good news from time to time ($300,000 grant, thank you), right now NIPR’s board has a lot to puzzle through.

I’m there because this matters to me, a lot, and because I get paid to do this job.  These people – these community members from large corporations and small companies, community volunteers with years of nonprofit experience and young professionals in their first board positions- come because they are passionate, really passionate about public radio and its place in this region.  They can’t imagine living someplace where Morning Edition couldn’t be heard or where they didn’t experience “driveway moments”.  They’ve come to count on something different, deeper, wider – not that they always agree with what they hear, but they want to keep hearing it, and they want their friends, colleagues, neighbors, kids, well, everybody, to hear it, too.

And so, they show up to provide “governance”, leadership, direction, and oversight of our organization.  I noticed that during the almost two hour meeting tonight almost every member spoke several times.   Everybody had something to contribute and felt free to do so.  This board functions differently than any one I’ve ever worked with when it comes to participation.  I like it.  It’s lively and intelligent and works toward conclusion.  Not perfect, but always moving. 

We’re working to add some new, equally passionate people to this group to help us move through the next chapter in our organizational story.  Thinkers, imagineers, workers, strategists, givers, listeners.  Somebody come to mind that we might be missing?  I’d love to hear about it.

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