Monthly Archives: April 2010

No, that isn’t how it was supposed to sound.

Everybody makes mistakes.  Not everybody broadcasts them.  We do.

If you were listening this morning to Morning Edition, you heard a larger than life mistake, the airing of an unedited report that was mistakenly put into the rotation to be played (while the nicely edited version floated around somewhere else).

We’d feel badly about that (and worried) no matter what the segment was, but we’re particularly dismayed because it was our movie review, done weekly by the Cinema Center’s Catherine Lee.  That segment is one of our local treasures and one of the things that makes Morning Edition on Fridays such special listening. Catherine is an exquisite reviewer and we’re so proud to have her reviewing for you through us.

Not so proud of ourselves this morning.  No excuses, just apologies.

I don’t think it will happen again.  Something else, no doubt, but not this.

Hope your Friday night is a good one.



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Wanted: a big parking spot.

Can I just say that we are off-the-chart enthusiastic about StoryCorps?  The community meeting last night was great – thanks to all who came and all who wanted to – and then today our staff spent a couple of hours with Jenna Weiss-Berman, our StoryCorps site coordinator, and now we are really excited.  It is a wonderful opportunity for us – public radio – to host something that will benefit individuals, families, the community, and . . . posterity!

Tomorrow Jenna and I are going scouting for the perfect place for the StoryCorps Airstream mobile recording unit to “live” while StoryCorps is in Fort Wayne, July 6 – August 1. 

Here’s what we’re looking for:  Someplace welcoming to the entire community, someplace accessible and with some parking, a place that has restrooms available during the recording hours, which includes Saturday and Sunday, a place that perhaps has some iconic meaning in the community, a visible place so that people know StoryCorps is here.  There are a couple technical requirements, like access to some serious electrical hook-ups (let me know if you want the particulars), but it’s all pretty simple.

And they know some places are more of a security risk than others and seem OK with that.  They want to be close to the people whose stories they want to record. And to be honest, they kind of figure that people with resources will travel to wherever the unit is — they are more concerned with being accessible to people without resources.

They’ve parked the Airstream in lots of places, like library plazas, public parks, court-house lawns, cultural centers, schools, all kinds of places and we’ve got a pretty good list.But I keep thinking we might be missing someplace wonderful that I really should show Jenna.

Got any ideas?

Oh, the other thing they really look for is an enthusiastic partner.  They want to park the unit on the property of an organization that is truly excited about having them there.

Love to hear from you,



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Working together – the CAB

Last  night our Community Advisory Board met at the studios and it’s always an enjoyable and enlightening evening.  The CAB is different from the governing Board of Trustees, because, well, the CAB doesn’t govern.  They “advocate and advise”.

Public radio stations are required by Congress to have advisory boards made up of community members (uh huh – Community Advisory Board!) to provide a strong connection to the community.  They are, in a way, a watchdog for the station, providing feedback as to what they hear themselves, and what they hear in the community. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting requirements state that  “The advisory board is intended to provide the public the opportunity to be heard on station programming, community service and impact on the community of major policy decisions. All stations are encouraged to establish whatever mechanisms will be most effective, under local circumstances, to accomplish this congressionally established goal.”

Ours is an open, outgoing group with really unique ideas about public radio,and  in particular, our station and what it can bring to the community.  They are passionate and I get energized when we meet.  Ideas just flow very freely.  They aren’t afraid to criticize and it’s easy for me to hear critical comments from them because they care so much about what we do.

Citizen Wayne, the citizen journalism project that’s really taking shape, was born out of a CAB discussion and last night’s meeting ended with some new, exciting ideas to help us connect better to the community and gain listeners and supporters.  I love those kind of meetings and I’m so appreciative of the fact that these community members are so willing to brainstorm, problem solve, and put themselves out there for us. For all of us.

CAB also, at least to me, serves as a kind of quality control.  This is the group that makes comments about things that we can improve — because they listen a lot.  They know when we’ve had more than a couple outdated promos running, or when it seems like we’re clipping off parts of some program at exactly the same spot.  They listen when their friends, family, and neighbors talk about favorite programs and they bring it to the table.

The CAB meets once a quarter and we’ve always got room for individuals who can represent the community in our discussions.  If you’re interested in serving in this official, but casual capacity, let me know.

Thanks for listening,


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All on a Friday night.

I didn’t leave the office until about 7pm tonight and just before going out the door I walked down the hall, all the way from one end to the other and thought about all the parts that make up what we do every day. There was still plenty going on. The “On Air” lights were on outside two studios.

In the WBOI studio, Bill Forsythe was kicking off his Nightflight Jazz program.  Bill’s fairly new to the station, as volunteer jazz hosts go, and I like his style.  It’s a real commitment, doing a weekly program in the evening, and I’m impressed with how much our hosts care about the art form.  Our jazz audience, like that in so many regions, is diminishing so who knows what the future will bring.  But on this particular Friday night, there are good sounds coming from that studio out to the universe.  Internet streaming, with all its challenges (playlists, logs, music rights . . .), does let our programs go everywhere someone has an internet connection and that makes it bigger than the air it travels through.

The light was also on outside the Production Studio, a little studio where we do off air work, nuts and bolts kind of things like underwriting spots, editing news stories, laying down music beds, that sort of stuff.  Tonight our membership manager (and journalist), David Hunter, and Andy Welfle, managing director of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective and member of our Community Advisory Board (and journalist) are recording stories with other citizen journalists as we continue to work on Citizen Wayne, an idea in development that we think is going to be awesome when it’s ready for prime time.  People from throughout the community are submitting story ideas, writing the stories and then recording them and we hope to have a pilot program ready before too long.  Think This American Life . . .  OK, not exactly, but the idea is the same.  There are stories and we can all tell them.

During the day today, before the night shift came on, we dealt with transmitter difficulties, hosted a Midday Matters about baseball and music, wrote grants, analyzed more of the pledge drive, dissected pieces of the web site, wrote sponsorship proposals and looked at menus for the wine tasting, tried to come up with a few more location possibilities for the StoryCorps mobile unit, thanked people for gifts (thank you!) and responded to complaints.

All that matters tremendously. Nothing would go out from those studios if all that activity wasn’t happening to support it.

But in the end, as I walked through the hall on the programming and production end of the building, I had to think, watching Bill stack up his carefully selected CDs and Dave and Andy inviting members of our community to record those stories, all those supporting activities, which include, by the way, almost everything I do on a daily basis, are just that – supporting activities.

What matters most is what happens when the “On Air” lights come on.  What  happens there is what matters to you and it’s what matters to us.

Thanks for helping us make it happen.


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StoryCorps update

Wow – time flies when you’re having fun – or something like that.   A week from tomorrow is our first official StoryCorps meeting.  Jenna Weiss-Berman, our coordinator, will be with us to outline how the project will work, help with the final selection for the StoryCorps mobile recording booth (it’s an Airstream) site, and talk with community leaders, like you, about how your organization, the people you serve, your friends, neighbors, and family, can participate in this unbelievable opportunity.

The Community Meeting will be Wednesday, April 28 at 7:00 pm at the Library and we want to fill the meeting room with people who can act as ambassadors for this effort.  Social service agencies, all of our places of worship, neighborhood groups, schools, arts organizations, health care providers, all have part in getting the word out about StoryCorps.

We’re hoping that when the Airstream pulls out of Fort Wayne at the end of the July visit, it will carry with it stories from every demographic, every neighborhood, every ethnic background, every spiritual framework, every . . .well, every everything.  We want the stories that reside in the Library of Congress from northeast Indiana to be truly representative of the fabric of this area and for everyone, especially those who are traditionally underserved and often invisible, to be represented in our collection.

To make that happen will take all of us, reaching out to our own corner of the world to encourage people to participate.

We’d be pleased to have you join us at the Community Meeting on Wednesday.  Please just let us know you’re coming by contacting Lea at or me,  Spread the word. Bring a friend. RSVP.

Anyone can make an appointment to participate in a StoryCorps interview.  Reservations will begin on June 24th and continue through July 9th. Interviews will begin July 9 and run through August 1. You can make a reservation online, or call the reservation line at 800-850-4406 (it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), after June 24.  And you can get all the answers to FAQs here.

It’s going to be great. Thanks for helping.


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Corporate what?

Sometimes you just have to start over, it seems to me.  That’s what we’re doing with the part of our organization that works with corporate partners who support public radio in our area.  We build giving relationships with individuals through pledge drives, written communication, personal interactions – pretty traditional “development” work that mirrors what a lot of not for profits do and while we’re always trying to do that smarter and better and with more of an eye to what donor/investors are looking for in a relationship, we understand that fairly well.

But our work with community businesses has always followed a “media sales” model, where we have been asking companies, large and small, to make a media buy, to purchase underwriting on our stations. Corporate support is a huge part of our budget each year, accounting for almost 40% of our total operating funds.  It’s no secret that it’s been getting more and more difficult to find corporate support in this challenging economy and the sales pitch for public radio has become increasingly difficult.  Our corporate support line was down by about 30% in our fiscal year 2009.  So, we’ve had some thinking to do.

And it makes sense to me that we would look at corporate entities in the same way we look at individuals – as people who care about the community, who want to invest in quality of life causes, who have limited resources and want to know that what they invest in makes a difference, who are discerning and careful and want good information as they make decisions.  People who want to be fully engaged in causes they choose (and it is always a choice) to support.

So we’re abandoning the old “sales” idea in favor of a corporate engagement model, one that says to a business, “Tell us what matters to you and let’s see how that might dovetail into our work.” Maybe what matters to them is getting their new name out.  Maybe they want to be seen as a more community-minded business.  Maybe they want to connect with a certain group of people.  Maybe the business owner wouldn’t listen to anything but NPR and wants to make sure others have the same opportunity (these are the fun ones.).

And what we offer can look really different, too. Sometimes that may be a straight on-air schedule of underwriting.  Maybe it will include an event sponsorship where a corporation can be present and make themselves personally known as a supporter of this particular kind of community information we provide.  Maybe it’s in the form of technology and equipment donations that further our work.  Or providing a corps of volunteers to help with events and drives.  Maybe it’s stepping up their corporate match for employees who pledge to NIPR and then publicizing that within the company.  Or, providing free or discounted services like printing or lawn care – things that we would otherwise need to pay for.  We’re looking to think in a whole different way that would allow any business or organization, ANY business, to find a way to partner with public radio, make contact with our loyal, committed audience, and know that they are contributing to an educated, thoughtful population.

We’ve created a new position to help us navigate this exciting mind shift — we’re calling it “corporate engagement manager” – engaging corporations, businesses, organization, of all sizes, shapes, and missions in this important work of public radio.  There’s still, certainly, an important sales aspect to it, but we’re going to focus on finding someone who really gets the philanthropic part of investing in public radio.  It’s the best of all worlds, really, underwriting on the air, the ability to support a community resource, opportunity to connect with an audience that really loves this station and wants it to do well, and yep, a sense of doing something really, really good.  We’re looking for someone who is as excited about representing public radio out in the community as the programming and production staff is about making public radio.  It’s an important addition to our team.

The job description can be found here.  Let me know if you’ve got somebody in mind who will just blow our socks off!



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The fine print.

This is what you’ll hear, beginning next Monday, on Classic 94.1, 88.7, and 91.3.  Maybe not a lot of people who frequent this blog listen to those stations, but I don’t want to make blanket generalizations.  It’s a legal requirement and it will read like this:

“On April 8, 2010, an application was filed with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington DC seeking consent to the assignment of the license of Station WCKZ, Frequency 91.3, from Northeast Indiana Public Radio, Inc., to Star Educational Media Network, Inc.  The officers and directors of Northeast Indiana Public Radio, Inc. are Clifford Clarke, Adam Cox, Drew Dunlavy, Justin Forbes, Elizabeth Frederick, MaryAnn Halsey, Jeri Kornegay, Greg Marcus, William McKinney, Judy Mockenhaupt, Don Mockler, Suzon Motz, Aaron Myers, Greg Pollander, Susanne Moorman Rowe, Krista Stockman, Don Walther, and Joan Brown.  Officers and directors of Star Educational Media Network, Inc. are Jeff Berggren, Tom Ayres, Roy Irick, Ann McPherren, Richard Cummins, Don Buettner, Melissa Montana, Dave Maki, and Paul Shoemaker.  A copy of the application and related material is on file for public inspection at the NIPR studios, 3204 Clairmont Court, Fort Wayne, Indiana.”

What’s it mean?  Pending FCC approval, we’re selling the 91.3, the Orlando frequency that carries classical music, and the translator 88.7 that carries the same thing, to a local broadcasting group.  Takes a while for things to become final, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, a couple months, probably, you’ll hear somebody else’s programming on those frequencies.  These are fairly small foot print frequencies that serve a small part of our listening audience, but they do serve an audience, so some folks are going to be unhappy.

This sale is part of an overall financial strategy that we shared with the public more than a year ago, a strategy that involves putting the frequencies that currently carry classical programming up for sale in an effort to manage a huge debt load created when 94.1 was purchased.

94.1 remains for sale and at this point, will continue to carry classical programming.  94.1 was purchased in 2007 with the noble goal of strengthening the broadcasting of classical music, increasing the footprint of WBNI, and serving more of the community with a valued art form.  It doesn’t do much good, in my opinion, to spend much time questioning that decision, but lots of factors in the time between then and now have made paying for that station impossible.  So last year in January we embarked on a journey to live within our means and that meant divesting ourselves of these stations. The audience for classical music, at least via radio, continues to dwindle while the audience for news and information, as delivered by public radio, grows, so we’re betting on the favorite as we try to make certain there is a local public radio station in northeast Indiana down the road.

This first step, selling the small frequencies is going to help us manage the larger issue – dealing with our debt.

This staff and this board, and I, hate conflict as much as the next group, and when we make decisions that we know are going to disappoint – and anger – people we value, we do that with great care and sleepless nights and no small amount of wishing there were other options.

No doubt when this legal announcement begins to air, my phone will begin to ring.  That’s what I’m here for.  Here’s my direct line — 918-1099, and my email, .  If you’ve got questions, give me a call.

Trying to be see-through,



Filed under Changes, Programming