Blog about KUSP

KUSP’s Interim GM Shares an Update


Public Media Company (PMC) Report Update

By Lee Ferraro, KUSP’s Interim General Manager

First and foremost a great thank you to all the community leaders, volunteers, KUSP Board, KUSP Community Advisory Board and the Community Leadership Planning Group (CLPG) for taking on the very difficult and time consuming discussions about the future vision for maintaining KUSP as an indispensable community resource to serve the Monterey Bay region.

The community has spoken, it has been listened to and heard. The PMC report was a culmination of open, frank and inclusive dialogue together with excellent thought leaders in public radio. Your work and input is invaluable and deeply appreciated.

Now is beginning of a transition. As the PMC report stated the financial condition at KUSP is not optimal and we must find our financial footing quickly. Fortunately this is a time of member renewal at KUSP and a member campaign is being readied for broadcast – October 15 through Oct. 23rd. Volunteers are being sought and thoughtful on-air messages, indicating the upcoming change and member appeals are being written. A letter appeal to KUSP members is in the mail as I write. Conversations and proposals to area Foundations are ongoing. We’re hopeful of positive outcomes on all fund raising fronts.

The PMC report strongly recommends a professionally staffed music station with considerable volunteer involvement in all phases of the operation: programming, Board governance, administration and outreach. Designing and building this unique “architecture” is in process.

Much thought and consideration is given to the question “how do we best serve the audience in our coverage area with high quality, well supported public radio programming?”

A sample program schedule in the PMC report is just that, a sample. Painted with a broad brush, it’s an aggregate of several public radio music stations to give some flavor of the many possibilities for KUSP and our coverage area.

Our programming mission evolves daily in response to many exploratory conversations. It is driven by an eclectic music vision, arts and cultural affairs, local voices, community stories and predominantly locally hosted. Fortunately there is much existing talent at KUSP and in our region. We can do this and do this well.

KUSP is changing to serve and to serve we must survive. You’ll hear many familiar and favorite programs but you may also miss one or two as we make this transition. Some changes won’t be easy but we believe KUSP will serve and will survive.

More to come…

Kelly O’Brien: KUSP Listened, Now Needs You to Do Same

By Kelly O’Brien, President of the KUSP Board of Directors:

Support by community leaders, listeners, volunteers and the general public make this fact irrefutable: KUSP 88.9 FM is a highly valued public service for the greater Monterey Bay Area. It is also clear that programing changes are necessary in order for it to remain an independent community resource. Through in-depth discussions, we’ve learned that KUSP must change in order to create a new and dynamic community media outlet.

The board of directors has adopted the recommendation of its well-respected consultant, Public Media Co., which is that KUSP must end the redundancy of news/information programming with KAZU in order to best serve the region. We believe this decision sets the stage for the existence of two compelling and complementary public radio services that deliver greater choice and greater variety to current and prospective listeners.

This is a pragmatic decision that expands creatively the local media universe. The greater Monterey Bay Area can support two vibrant and complementary public radio stations. KAZU offers a strong service built upon an NPR-based news and information service. KUSP has provided a very similar NPR service to its listeners with a growing audience since it switched to a predominately NPR news/information service in 2008. But with limited local media resources, we’ve asked ourselves this critical question: Wouldn’t our communities be better served by distinctly local, creative and exciting content?

KUSP is introducing programming that centers around eclectic music and music discovery. Eclectic, noncommercial music stations are rooted in their local communities, local music scenes and local arts and culture. No two public radio music stations of this type sound the same. KUSP music programming will be broad, deep and diverse, a true reflection of the greater Monterey Bay Area. The image is local, friendly, informative and personality-driven. We believe this is something at which KUSP will again excel, while acknowledging that there will be a transition necessary to get us there.

The key to success with this format is local involvement through local program hosts who are active in the community and visible at local events; contributions by listeners and music lovers; and local sensibilities expressed from across the listening area. The format is highly “elastic” — while rooted in music, it will enable KUSP to continue to deliver a thoughtful mix of local information, arts and culture to its listeners. These types of public radio stations reflect the fastest growing public radio format around the country and attract, on average, younger-aged listeners.

The shift represents a return to KUSP roots as a much-loved, independent, noncommercial music source with a distinctly local voice. It also ushers in a new era wherein we can leverage an exciting new format under new leadership in a way that reinvigorates KUSP. Our goal is to increase the relevance and sustainability of KUSP with radio and new media programming that reflects the deep and rich creativity of our region.

The board also has made a leadership change, naming Lee Ferraro as interim general manager. Lee has a great track record of transforming local public radio stations into financially secure, professionally run and much-loved media destinations. He brings demonstrated success with a locally curated music format to KUSP, having spent 16 successful years at WYEP in Pittsburgh, which he developed from a small, overlooked public radio station into an indispensable cultural institution.

Independent, local radio creating and reflecting all that we love about the area we call home. The construction hammers are out and we’re busy building a new and exciting KUSP that we hope you, too, will find engaging. We hope it pulls you in as a listener and actively engaged supporter.

We hope you will join us. Listen, talk to us, contribute in all the ways that you can. Change is challenging but we think this new future for KUSP is exciting. We hope you will think so, too.

KUSP and the 2015 Monterey Jazz Festival

For many years, at this time of September fans of jazz on the radio have been able to look forward to live broadcasts from the Monterey Jazz Festival on KUSP. We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to bring you Monterey Jazz Festival concerts in 2015.

The reasons why are multi-layered. Financial considerations are important, though not the only reasons. But it’s a good place to start.

MJF is, by far, the most expensive program KUSP produces all year. In recent years, our annual budget for three days of music from Monterey has run between $15,000 and $18,000. That’s more than our share of the costs for a full year (260 programs) of Fresh Air, or Democracy Now, or any other daily program other than Morning Edition or All Things Considered. These funds cover our paid personnel working on the program (most KUSP MJF workers are volunteers, but supervisors are paid), reimbursements to the jazz festival for costs they incur on our behalf, union scale for the artists required by their contracts (while some performers donate their payments from KUSP back to the station, most are paid), food and housing costs for our production crew, rental equipment, Internet connectivity… the budget spreadsheet is pretty large, and our work begins in earnest four months before the first note of the opening concert.

For the past twenty years or more, the majority of KUSP’s costs of producing MJF were met with grants from large foundations that invest in the arts in the Monterey area; the rest came from sponsors and from KUSP members. The “lead gift” from the foundations, though, has been the critical element. We sought funding back in the spring as part of our usual cycle, before we had to make firm commitments with MJF, but funding was not forthcoming in time.

If you follow KUSP closely, you know that we were under a lot of financial duress this summer. Without a secure source for the majority of MJF funding, we had no financially responsible choice other than to suspend the MJF live broadcast for this year. Most of the other parts of our Monterey Jazz Festival partnership are going forward; they are program underwriters (you’ve been hearing their announcements on KUSP this month), they donated tickets to us that we gave away to our listeners, many of our jazz programs this week feature MJF artists, KUSP jazz hosts will serve as Masters of Ceremonies at MJF’s Garden Stage, and we’ve got an extended interview with MJF Artistic Director Tim Jackson coming up that you’ll be able to find soon at

Which brings me to the non-technical considerations. Our format for MJF, consisting of live-as-they-happen concerts from the main Jimmy Lyons Stage, has remained unchanged for well over thirty years. The world of jazz has changed in that time, and the world of radio has changed even more. For a few years now Tim and his MJF colleagues have indicated a strong desire to keep the KUSP working relationship but develop a different approach to bringing the festival experience to our listeners. My hope is that after this time-out in 2015, we will come back next September with a new format for KUSP at MJF that works financially, has the full support of the Monterey Jazz Festival management, and gives music fans a great listening experience.

KUSP Schedule Changes for Summer

On Monday June 29 KUSP will make some adjustments to our weekday broadcast schedule. These are the first changes that are consequences of our work to re-envision KUSP and adjust to the economic realities brought on by the end of our efforts to find partner stations with whom we could work to further our mission.

The back story behind our visioning process is on-line at – so there’s lots of related information to see over there. On this blog I’ll just review the programming changes you can expect.

The most significant change for many listeners will be the end of our broadcasts of Marketplace, produced by American Public Media, or APM. KUSP has been a Marketplace station since 2008. You’ve heard their coverage of business and the economy weekday afternoons and also as part of Morning Edition.

We are discontinuing Marketplace on KUSP in order to reduce programming costs; on a minute-by-minute basis it is one of the most expensive programs KUSP acquires. Over the summer, as we finalize our new vision for KUSP, we will save thousands of dollars by not broadcasting Marketplace and extending All Things Considered (which will now air from 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM).

The way public radio programs are priced for local stations by distributors such as NPR and APM is very complicated, and not consistent from one program to the next. Depending on what we find as we complete our visioning and planning, Marketplace might return to KUSP later on.

We are also making a change in our early morning schedule. Morning Edition from NPR News will start at 4:00 AM, instead of 3:00. At 3:00 we will bring you Outside Source, from the BBC World Service. Hosted by Ros Adkins, one of the BBC’s best known and most respected presenters, Outside Source is a live round-up of breaking world news and is a little different in style from the more traditional news presentation of World Update, which continues on KUSP and will precede Outside Source at 2:00 AM. If your day starts early, the combination of World Update, Outside Source, and Morning Edition will give you an unmatched range of perspectives on the news.

Let me close by noting two other recent changes to what you hear on KUSP. After ten years, Kelly O’Brien has retired her twice-weekly feature on transportation, energy, and sustainability – Life in the Fast Lane. Kelly is a small business owner, a community leader, and volunteers as President of KUSP’s Board of Directors. These other commitments – especially her volunteer leadership role at our station – have made it impossible for her to devote the time Life in the Fast Lane needs. We’re sorry to see the program go, but very happy she’s continuing as part of the station leadership as we work through our planning and transition. The archive of Life in the Fast Lane programs will continue to be available at

Also, we are bidding farewell to Dylan Music, whose voice is familiar to regular listeners to KUSP’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Dylan has been part of our announcing staff since 2011. He leaves KUSP to take over from David Wittrock as the regular host of Morning Edition on KAZU, and we wish Dylan well in this next phase of his public radio career. Wins Second Straight ‘Murrow Award’ for Best News Site


We are proud to announce that the Radio-Television-Digital News Association has honored as the best broadcast-related web site in our region and market size. This is the second consecutive year we’ve been so recognized, and I want to congratulate everyone at KUSP who contributed to this accomplishment — in particular, Steve Laufer, who is our director of digital content, and J.D. Hillard, who is our producer for news/talk/information programming.

The strength of public radio news in the Monterey Bay area was demonstrated in this year’s competition, which drew over 4,200 entries in all categories. In addition to our award, KAZU received four Murrow Awards in 2015 — for continuing coverage, feature reporting, news series, and sports reporting. Combined, KAZU and KUSP won the majority of small market radio Murrow Awards presented in the region, which includes California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific.

Regional winners (there are 13 U.S. regions and an International category) move on to national competition this summer.

Congratulations to our friends at KAZU and to the whole team!

Farewell, Johnny Simmons

johnny simmons

photo credit: Steve Laufer

On Friday March 27 Johnny Simmons will host his final broadcast of Morning Edition on KUSP, ending a 20-year run as the voice our listeners wake up to on weekday mornings. Johnny retires after 35 years on KUSP’s professional staff, longer than any employee in our history, and a record unlikely to be broken.

Johnny’s history with KUSP reaches back even further, to our public radio infancy in the 1970′s; he volunteered at this station in that era, when he also worked at some of the best-remembered radio stations in this part of California. Wallace Baine wrote a little bit about Johnny’s grand radio odyssey when he introduced the 2015 Gail Rich Award winners in the pages of the Santa Cruz Sentinel here. And J.D. Hillard’s interview with Johnny for is here.

Not many of us at KUSP are “radio lifers” — the population of the station has always consisted primarily of volunteers, meaning that as much as they love radio, most of the folks at the station have (or had, before retiring) real jobs concurrently with the time they spend with us. And for the most part, the people in our paid workforce came to public radio after establishing a career in another field; print journalism, museums, technology, construction and real estate… just for openers.

In contrast, radio broadcasting and Johnny are inseparable. And looking back at the 38 years I’ve been hanging around one radio station or another, I’ve known no one I’d rather wake up to on the clock radio, or say hello to after coming through the studio door to start my work day, than Johnny.

Though the regular morning shift draws to a close tomorrow, I really hope our airwaves haven’t seen the last of Johnny Simmons.

Next Monday, Alex Burke moves in to the Morning Edition host chair, and I hope you’ll join me in wishing her a long and productive tenure in the role!

Some changes are coming to Morning Edition on November 17

On Monday, November 17, KUSP and all the other NPR stations in America will debut a slightly different version of Morning Edition.

In radio jargon, a “clock” is the hourly pattern of newscasts, feature stories, traffic and weather, and other things you hear. The clock makes it possible for stations to mix local news with the national broadcast in line with the needs of their community and the resources of the station. Every station does it a little differently.

The pattern for the different segments of Morning Edition supplied to us by NPR has not changed in decades (the show just celebrated its 35th birthday; the first broadcast was on November 5, 1979). While we have added and changed our own Morning Edition content steadily since the program came to KUSP in 1984, the NPR elements have not adapted with the times.

Last year NPR started a research project with a sample group of listeners nationwide to see how best to update the format of the show. Much negotiation with stations and other public radio producers ensued. On Monday you’ll hear the results of that work.

The most important finding was that listeners are, generally speaking, involved in a pretty massive multi-tasking effort while they listen to Morning Edition. People also have less time to take in the day’s news than was probably true 35 years ago.

On this side of the radio transmitter, local stations like KUSP have more capacity to cover the news in their area than they used to, and there are many regional and statewide news partnerships (such as The California Report and Capital Public Radio News) able to furnish top-quality coverage to compliment NPR’s strength at the national and international level.

For those reasons, the new clock provides more frequent newscasts – from the NPR newsroom in Washington and from our newsroom in Santa Cruz. The KUSP newscasts will include reporting from this area and the state coverage from Capital Public Radio News in Sacramento. The longer, more in-depth reporting from NPR that is the signature sound of public radio news stays – there’s no intention of dropping down to the 20-second story length that is typical for commercial all-news radio. This will be true for our longer stories about California news as well; you’ll hear those on The California Report at about ten minutes before six and ten minutes before eight, as you do now, and in stories by KUSP reporters at various times outside our short newscasts.

The times for some KUSP-produced features will change – for now, not very much, but if you have your alarm clock set to go off exactly when we start a feature like Life In the Fast Lane with Kelly O’Brien or our community commentary, First Person Singular, you might need to adjust those settings a little.

The changes to the clock, as I said, are prompted by gaining a deeper understanding of what public radio listeners want to hear in the early morning. In the next few months that information will inform more changes to how KUSP presents the news… but we’re taking this in stages, as opposed to changing everything all at once.

There will be less obvious changes to the clock for the other news programs NPR provides to KUSP – All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.

The changes to these programs have come with a lot of thought, and while any change at all can throw a person out of a long-established routine, in the long run we hope they will enable us to give you the news in a way that fits the life we lead a little better. If you have any thoughts about the new news lineup on KUSP, please share them with me.

Tom Magliozzi and Car Talk’s future on KUSP

Tom Magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk.
Photo credit: Richard Howard

We just aired the second broadcast of Ray Magliozzi’s tribute to his brother Tom, who passed away on November 3 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Next weekend we will bring you the first broadcast of “The Best of Car Talk,” which will be a lot like the program our listeners have been enjoying for the past couple of years (since the brothers semi-retired and stopped adding new listener calls to the 25 year archive they had on hand).

Car Talk arrived on KUSP’s airwaves in the spring of 1988, and has been one of our most-listened-to programs ever since. There’s been no drop-off in listening that we can measure, or in support from our membership, since the switch to calls from the archives. Having said that, we recognize (as do the producers of Car Talk and NPR’s management) that we’re entering different territory now, and I hope you’ll share with me how you feel about “The Best of Car Talk” after listening to a few shows.

KUSP’s mission is to inform, engage and entertain our community. Car Talk, in its unique way, has always done all three of those things. I hope you can help us gauge whether that will still be true as the show moves forward without Tom.

Jeb Henley, KUSP programmer in the 1970′s, passes away

A few days ago we received news of the passing of one of KUSP’s founding fathers. Jeb Henley was one of the first people to assume a leadership role for KUSP programming shortly after the station went on the air in 1972. He left KUSP in 1976, but in that relatively brief time established a programming foundation that distinguished us from many community radio stations at the time – and enabled us to succeed while many of our peers floundered.

Jeb Henley

Jeb Henley; photo courtesy Don Mussell

Public radio stations started by community organizations frequently struggle with the tension between “quality” and “creativity,” or “consistency” and “individuality.” Community-owned stations typically wrestle with this more intensely than stations owned by local or state government, or by colleges and universities.

From the outset KUSP wanted to offer as many community members as possible access to the airwaves. In the lore of the station, Jeb was about the first KUSP person to make the point that the radio we created had to have high enough quality standards to be appealing to listeners – otherwise, we would never have very many regular listeners, and thus lack the level of community support we needed in order to survive.

Comments I’ve seen from long-time KUSP people suggest that Jeb’s standards sometimes chafed on the volunteers, but were worthwhile in retrospect. Lance Linares, who was a program host at the time and moved into KUSP management after Jeb moved on from the station, said this: “I have to say that KUSP would have never existed without Jeb. And like it or not, he maintained an aesthetic (rigid though it might have been) that was essential in attracting all of us, and opening a helluva lot of ears.”

For his work building KUSP’s programming foundation, Jeb was recognized as one of the station’s first Lifetime Members many years ago. I’m sorry that his time with all of us has come to an end. We have no information as yet about any kind of memorial event, but we will share anything we learn in the future.

Area Man Achieves Amazing Feat: Friends Describe Hero as “Regular Guy”

Dale Owen photoThis Onion-esque headline refers to the legacy KUSP’s Dale Owen leaves the Monterey Bay area and the world. This weekend we and Community Foundation Santa Cruz County are taking note of Dale’s foresight and community spirit — qualities we hope we and Dale can inspire others to embrace.

Dale was among the most influential personalities in the entire history of KUSP. I noted just a few of his accomplishments in a post to this blog at the time of his passing, which was about a year ago.

Soon after we learned how deeply committed Dale was to fostering positive change in the world. Community Foundation CEO Lance Linares (another major figure in KUSP’s history, and a good friend of Dale for decades) writes in his own blog today of how Dale managed his personal finances with characteristic foresight — including making an estate plan that supports and advances the causes he cared about.

I can’t tell you how honored and humbled I am that KUSP was one of five nonprofit organizations that are beneficiaries of Dale’s planned giving. Two of his five causes focus their work in the place Dale called home for the last thirty-plus years of his life; three do work with worldwide impact. That local-to-global perspective is also so characteristic of Dale.

In recent years, public media has benefited to a greater and greater extent from estate planning by our supporters. The most visible, and probably most consequential, was the gift from the estate of Joan Kroc that among other good works established the Kroc Fellowship at NPR — and, importantly, seeded a significant endowment at her local NPR station, KPBS in San Diego.

But planned gifts of all sizes have had meaningful impact. At KUSP, we’ve received several bequests in my time with the station. Most have provided general operating support for the station, as Dale’s will, but other gifts have supported specific things we do. One planned gift met the costs of bringing our audience one year of the donor’s favorite program on our station. Another was designated for the tools our news reporters use to gather audio in the field.

The Community Foundation is a great resource for people in Santa Cruz County and vicinity to learn more about estate planning in general, and how you can take steps today to make good things happen in the years to come. At our station we also benefit from the great work being done at neighboring community foundations, including the Community Foundation for Monterey County, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the East Bay Community Foundation. Just about anywhere you are in the U.S. there is a community foundation that enhances and focuses local philanthropy in their area.

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has a pretty good slogan: “For Good. For Ever.” It applies pretty well to Dale Owen’s legacy too.