I saw it on the web site. Must be true.

I posted this yesterday on our web site.  Thought I’d share it here, too.

Dear Friends:

I just wanted to use this forum to speak to our loyal listeners and members as I prepare to end my time at NIPR. While it would be wonderful to make personal contact with each person that supports our organization, to thank you for your support and involvement, that just doesn’t seem to be practical.  I have shared with our staff, board, community advisory board and others with close connections to the station that I am planning to leave my position as GM here a bit later this fall, no later than December 1.

Changes are always challenging but NIPR has a magnificent staff (and volunteers) that will be just fine.  I’m quite certain that an accomplished, passionate professional will be found to sit in the GM chair and that the great plans that we’ve made will continue forward.  I’m feeling as if my contribution has been made and that someone else may very well be able to step in and move the cause forward from this point.

We have made some difficult decisions that I, along with our board, stand behind. I have also been so privileged to be part of adding some exceptional programming elements to our days. The board has formed a search committee and has started the important work of filling the position.

We are all grateful for those of you who have reached out to offer encouragement and support, and when needed, constructive criticism.

It has been a true privilege to serve in this organization.

Many thanks,

Joan

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This Sunday. In the Park. Jazz.

Events are not my favorite thing, from a business vantage point, but Sunday in the Park with Jazz is a whole different story.  Because there isn’t a business model, really.

It’s a day that’s not about making money, although we are so grateful to our generous corporate sponsors whose support means that we end up with black ink instead of red.  It’s a day that’s all about listening to awesome local live music in a truly remarkable downtown setting with no tickets, only open gates.  It’s about families with blankets and strollers and juice boxes and all kind of folks riding their bikes and senior jazz fans hearing their favorites (and new stuff) while they read the Sunday paper and everybody just kicking back on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s about a group of people who may not have a lot in common, but share a love of live performance and sunny Sunday afternoons and many who value public radio and like to be wherever we are.

We love it because it’s a great time for us to talk to our listeners and members and people who may not ever listen to us, but want to learn about what we have to offer. And it’s a chance for listeners to ask questions, about changes here, about future plans, about what’s down the road for NIPR.

The fun happens at Headwaters Park – West Side. Our great friends from Club Soda and Dawg’s Dogs will be back and for a few dollars you can buy a great late lunch or early supper – or both.  We’re going to have a “garage sale” of too-much-fun NIPR “prize closet”items as well as some extraordinary jazz vinyl donated by a friend of the station, with all proceeds benefitting NIPR.

But the most important piece, the music, is going to be over the top.  The Todd Harrold Band, Northeast Indiana Jazz Workshop, The Mark Van Cleave Orchestra, and Groove Caravan will all be playing during the afternoon and if you know anything about these groups, you know that there’s going to be BIG music.

It’s going to be a memorable afternoon and we hope you’ll join us.  If you need more info, give Lea a call at 452-1189.

See you there,

Joan

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Filed under Community, Good Times

On Andrew, PHIL, and what happens next.

Andrew Constantine is an easy interview, folks.  And informative. And fun.

Andrew, in case you’ve not been keeping up with culture, is the new music director at the PHIL and their 2010-2011 season begins tonight.

I’ve been watching PHIL opening nights for a lot of years and there is a wonderful excitement all around this one. They will be playing Barber’s Adagio, just like they did nine years ago, and for those of us that were there on that opening night, I’m guessing it will bring back the unbelievable feeling that we had being in that place, at that time, with that music.  But the rest of the program is spine tingling, too.  Get a ticket. Be there. (Oh, it starts at 6pm. If you show up at 8, well, it will be over.)

Phil Shaull and I talked with Andrew in the studio on Thursday and then excerpted pieces of that for broadcast in a couple of places. Including WBOI. Conversations about organizations like the PHIL and people like Andrew belong there, too.

We’ve been thinking a lot, and along with many of you, about where our area’s cultural updates and insights are going to find a home on public radio when WBNI is no longer broadcasting, whenever that might be, and we’re working on it.  It won’t be the same as when Janice had long conversations, every week, with the leaders of some organizations. That time slot and format just doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to give attention, and space, and heart to the arts organizations, large and small, that make such a difference in our lives week in and week out and play a vibrant part in the education, quality of life, and joy of this region.

Julia Meek and Phil have given voice to many expected and unexpected arts topics, events, leaders, and participants during Midday Matters ArtCentric and that’s going to continue in some form.  We’ve got Julia immersed in the planning of our new evening local music program and she may take a break from MM, but the arts coverage will continue.  And we are always looking for ways to tell our audience about what’s happening, what just happened, and what’s going to happen on the cultural scene.

As we look at our overall programming with an eye on budgeting, even as we anticipate some changes, please do know that honoring the community, especially the arts community, is always on our mind.

Talking with the dynamic leaders of our cultural community, like Andrew Constantine, Charles Shephard, Ketu Oladuwa, Liz Monnier, Karen Gibbons Brown, Dorothy Kittaka (ok. I should not have started naming people – there are hundreds) . . .  and on forever, should be part of our “public” work.  Just going on record as saying that, so you know that we at NIPR value those relationships as an organization and want to be a good home for the messages and the missions of all arts work in our region.

Tonight, I’m not going to worry about budgets or programming or what comes next. I’m going to experience “The Love for Three Oranges” again, all of it.  And I hear, from reliable sources, that it is just pretty challenging to play.  Watchin’ you work, musicians!

Did I mention Gil Shaham?  Uh-huh.

Have a great week-end.

Joan

Oh, and Masterworks concerts, like tonight’s, will continue to be broadcast on WBNI, the second Thursday evening following the concert.

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Filed under Changes, Community, Partners, Programming

No Holiday for those guys.

If you were listening to 89.1 yesterday you might have heard some interesting things. What’s up, you might have said to yourself.  Who’s making the radio today?

Some starts and stops.  Underwriting credits read all together instead of nicely spaced throughout Morning Edition. Some late newscasts and a weather report in an odd moment.

Here’s what happened.  The computer in the broadcast studio crashed. Big time. And everything, absolutely everything except the live broadcaster’s voice, is run by that computer. And yesterday, being a holiday, even the broadcaster was set to run by that computer.  And . . .  it crashed.

The fact that we heard anything at all, except maybe the infamous jazz music that comes on when we have silence for more than a minute, is due to remarkable work by Ed Didier, our engineer, and Kevin Kreigh, our program director. I admit that when they tell me what they did, it means very little to me, but they kept things running.

What it really means is that nobody took the easy way out.  Nobody said “It’s a holiday. Labor Day, on top of that. Let’s bag it and come back tomorrow and fix it.” It’s an example of what goes on here, day in and day out, with a small staff that knows their stuff.

You’d have missed it, right, if they hadn’t kept it going?  If Morning Edition hadn’t shared news, info, and arts and culture with you? If there had been no Diane Rehm?  If it had only been music, even fantastic music, you would have felt like something was missing?

That’s the message we’d like to get across as we approach our fall efforts to raise the resources needed to keep the station running every day.  It isn’t just technical glitches and break downs that can trip us up, but lack of resources can do the same.  In fact, when we’re running short of resources we have more technical problems because it’s harder to keep things tip-top when we’re “cash choked” (thank you,  Steve Linsenmayer). The whole “circle of (radio) life” thing.

We miss it when it’s gone for even a bit, this public radio programming.  And it’s great that each of us can help make certain that when you punch that preset (you do have us preset, don’t you?) you’re going to hear just what you’re eager to hear.

So big thanks, NIPR staff extraordinaire.  And thanks to you, for funding the bubblegum and tin foil, and the real parts, too.

Thanks,

Joan

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Filed under screw-ups, Technology

The morality of a budget.

I spent some time working for a social justice organization that launched a campaign with the slogan “A budget is a moral document.” We were involved in lots of memorable activities, but that phrase had a significant influence on me then and continues to be top of mind anytime I’m struggling with dollars, personally or at the station.  What we do with our money says a great deal about what we truly value.

It’s budget time at NIPR. Our fiscal year ends September 30 and we begin again on October 1 and it’s a good idea to begin with an approved budget.  Budgets are always challenging for nonprofits – if we’re passionate about the mission there’s always so much more we want to be doing for the people we serve and, of course, that takes funding. I happen to be of the optimistic type so I look at a hard-working staff and dedicated supporters and think we can fund more. That’s when a good board comes in handy, just to say “Really?”.  And then we go back and look at it all again.

We have some added challenges when trying to improve and expand how we serve and do that within a reasonable budget because we’re servicing a large debt as well.  So we budget for paying good staff,  for our national programming from NPR and others, for keeping the equipment functioning so we aren’t just playing good radio inside our building, for maintaining our studios, and for all the expenses every business has . . .  and then we budget for paying off the purchase of 94.1. Right now the service on that debt each month is about equal to one of the two payrolls we make each month. It’s a budget line on the cash budget that I certainly wish wasn’t there.

When I think about the moral issues of the NIPR budget – providing the service we say we provide, making sure people get paid (and paid fairly), keeping up our obligations for benefits, paying for things we buy in a timely manner, stewarding contributions with integrity – servicing debt certainly has a moral obligation to it. Figuring out how to do all that well within the constraints of the income we can expect isn’t easy.  We’re dealing with cuts in funding from the state and from our federal support, still-cautious corporate support (although we are seeing improvement, thanks to faithful corporate partners and great staffing), and of course, the increase in cost of just about everything.

Last week was a week of sharpening the budgeting pencil and I’ve struggled with what every not for profit manager battles.  Getting a realistic, balanced budget by decreasing expenses always means something suffers.  For almost all of us, after this long economic nightmare, all the fluff was gone long ago.  We’re operating lean and mean and sometimes ugly just to keep doing what we do, so to look at more cuts on the spending side means somebody loses. Let me be really clear that as passionate as I am about what we do at NIPR, we’re not the food bank,  or a free clinic, or services to the handicapped or homeless or ill or endangered.  I get that and I get that cutting a program on public radio doesn’t have the same devastating impact.  (I do get tired and cranky, rarely delusional.) But cutting expenses does impact the product we deliver.

So the alternative is to improve the revenue side. And that’s when our moral document of a budget becomes a budget decision for our listeners, supporters, and corporate and community partners.  I was encouraged this week when we sent out a plea to our closest partners – our current and past board members – asking for some additional support as we move into the final few weeks of this fiscal year.  Thanks, all of you. And I know that to operate responsibly next year, we’re going to be doing a lot of asking.

As we move into full-blown planning for our fall pledge drive (October 16 – 24, I know you’ve been waiting to put it on your calendar. C’mon, it’s fun!), one of the things we are most hoping is that we can do our best job yet as we talk about the mission and our service to the community.  We will need to be awesome at encouraging those who listen but don’t give to step up this year. It’s a huge part of the answer.

So as I continue to put numbers on the lines (and delete and try it again) to produce a solid, realistic, service-providing budget, we’ll be asking listeners to look at their budgets and see if there isn’t a line dedicated to investing in the programming they rely on.  Seems like a kind of moral obligation to me. And it is, when all is said and done, revised and revamped, the only way we get to keep doing what we do.

Thanks for listening and supporting,

Joan

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Live in the studio.

Midday Matters ArtCentric Friday has been on a summer roll of live music and today is no different.  Local legends Bob Craven and Fred Rothert are tuning up in the Harriet Parrish Performance Studio and it’s exciting.

There’s just a special kind of energy flowing when musicians perform live during a program. It’s what radio used to always be and I love it that we have space, technology, and willing hands and minds to make it happen on a fairly regular basis here. (Chief Engineer Ed Didier and Al Mozena, you’re the best!)

Bob Craven, Julia Meek, Fred Rothert

I’m really enamored with the idea – Julia’s idea, really – of having a regular evening program that features this kind of music, performed live for our listeners.  A great combination, perhaps, of incredible music heroes such as Bob and Fred, and new music, artists just coming on the scene, finding their way and blessing us with the sounds as they journey.

So much we’d like to do here.  Your input is always welcome.

Even the tuning up sounds good –

Joan

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Filed under Good Times, Programming

Underwritements.

Carrie Boylan, who joined us just a couple of months ago as our Corporate Engagement Manager has coined a new word to describe the “spots” you hear on our stations that give credit to our corporate programming sponsors.  “Underwritements.”   I like it.

We’re a federally funded (less than 10% of our budget, but it’s there and we’re grateful for it) not for profit, noncommercial public radio station and that comes with a bit of baggage when it comes to our corporate partners and what we can say on the air. You’ve noticed that our corporate spots sound very different from the advertising you might hear on commercial stations. (No “Saturday, SATURDAY, SATURDAY!! here).  Community-minded businesses “get” that partnering with NIPR is different from just “buying air time.”

The regulations around the corporate presence on our station are based on the assumption that corporate support is just that – corporations make a contribution to public radio and the “spots” serve as acknowledgement of that support.  No calls to action (that’s why many spots end with something like “more information at yourname.com rather than “Stop in today and buy something”) and why the spots are short (most thirty words or less) and why you don’t hear comparative terms (nobody’s the biggest, fastest, smartest, nicest, brightest, bestest).

Those spots are designed to do one important thing – let the community of listeners know that this particular company has found public radio to be a significant community resource with a worthwhile audience and they are choosing to support it.  The spots remind all of us that the programming we hear isn’t free and that corporations and organizations are teaming up with every individual member who contributes to make certain this resource keeps broadcasting.

Every decision to underwrite on NIPR contains an element of philanthropy, of community investment and all of us who enjoy what we hear would do a good service by thanking underwriters when we have the opportunity.

But signing up, and paying the bill, for “underwritements” on NIPR has some big upside for companies, so while partnering with us will always have an element of charitable investment, there’s solid business strategy as well.

We have a remarkable audience that rewards companies who support public radio.  You are loyal, committed, invested in the community, and you want to be a patron of others who feel the same.  You are the people many “advertisers” want to connect with and you pay attention. You don’t need blaring music or someone yelling at you to understand what it means for a company to stand behind programming you value.  You are engaged in this work and when we invite corporations and organizations in our region to support us, through underwriting, event sponsorship, or our new business membership program, we are inviting them into the same relationship, full engagement with the work.  And as a reward, we let you, listeners with a least a bit of money to spend now and then, know about their investment.

Each of us can play a part, along with Carrie, in strengthening our corporate “engagement” by simply letting the organizations you hear mentioned on the air know that you appreciate their partnership. We know how important it is to them every time an NIPR listeners says “Hey, I heard your spot on NIPR.  Thanks for doing that!”  It matters – to them and to us.

Thanks,

Joan

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Filed under Community, Financial fun, Partners