Terry Green Blogs About KUSP

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.

“Play it Forward” membership campaign success

Summer is typically a season where donations to KUSP slack off a bit. So before summer arrives, we manage that situation in a variety of ways, depending on how our various sources of revenue are doing from year to year. Long-time listeners might remember that the station used to do a fund-raising auction in late May and early June — which we had to discontinue when many of our sources of donated goods and services dried up at the start of the economic downturn. That meant the auction translated to a large investment in time, effort, and money, without much net revenue in return — not something you want when it comes to fund-raising.

As we looked at the budget this spring we decided the least-disruptive thing we could do to shore up the station’s finances was a short on-air membership drive, which we broadcast from May 28 through mid-day on May 31. I’m happy to say that in that time we received gifts from over 350 donors, totaling over $29,000. These totals were in line with our goals for the campaign; a little over goal in terms of the number of gifts, a little under (but only by a couple thousand dollars) in terms of dollars raised.

One of the nice things about the outcome is that we attracted a significant number of contributors who had not made a gift to KUSP before. If we’re able to keep these new contributors as financial supporters in future years, the value of the campaign to KUSP over the long term will far exceed the (very welcome) amount of money we will put in the bank this month as our donors follow through with the pledges they made last week.

Thank you to everyone who played a part in this success — our volunteers, our very hard-working staff, and everyone who made a gift!

Jarl Mohn named as new NPR President and CEO

This morning NPR announced that Jarl Mohn has been appointed as the network’s President and CEO, effective July 1.

Mohn’s media career has been rich and varied. He started as a radio DJ in the late 1960′s, with the air name of Lee Masters, and segued into management — joining MTV in 1986 as their General Manager. In the 1990′s he started the E! cable network and later became part of the leadership at John Malone’s Liberty Media, one of the most influential companies in the evolution of American media, especially the cable industry.

More recently he’s become an important part of the public media community in southern California as a volunteer leader and strategic philanthropist. He has served for 12 years as a board member of Southern California Public Radio/89.3 KPCC, and is currently their Board Chair. He also serves on the Board of Councilors of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

I don’t believe any previous NPR CEO has come from the ranks of station volunteer leadership… and I think that’s terrific news, as the manager of an NPR station that puts so much emphasis on volunteer participation. And the sometimes-byzantine nature of public radio governance, which has baffled many people who join our ranks partway through their career, should be no challenge for someone who was involved at Liberty Media — one of the most complicated corporate creatures in the history of the media business.

Finally, this marks the continued shift in public radio influence away from it’s historical axis in the northeast (from Boston to Washington) and towards California. Paul Haaga, Jr., who has served as NPR’s interim CEO since last fall, is also from southern California, and Howard Wollner, who chairs the NPR Foundation (the network’s fund-raising and philanthropic arm), lives in Sonoma County. California stations are among the most-listened-to and most innovative in the public radio system. And of course, NPR now originates part of Morning Edition and the weekend broadcasts of All Things Considered from the NPR West production center in Culver City.

I look forward to meeting Jarl and reporting my impressions of him to you.

KUSP Captures Two Murrow Awards

2014 Edward R. Murrow AwardsToday the Radio Television Digital News Association announced the regional winners of the 2014 Edward R. Murrow Awards. KUSP, I’m happy to say, has two wins this year!

kusp.org earned an award for best broadcast affiliated Web site. The Water Squeeze, our ongoing series explaining Monterey Bay area water planning, was recognized for continuing audio coverage of a major developing issue.

I’m very pleased the judges recognized what’s been achieved by the community volunteers and professional staff who collaborate on kusp.org –and we are grateful for the high-level peer recognition for The Water Squeeze, one of our many reporting initiatives at KUSP and one we’re especially proud of.

The awards highlight the steady growth of KUSP’s efforts to meet the information needs of the Monterey Bay area and keep up with how Monterey Bay area residents get their news.
“The Murrow Awards honor journalism at its finest,” said Mike Cavender, Executive Director of RTDNA. “Local newsrooms serve their communities 365 days a year, and we’re proud to recognize the great work they do.”

The Water Squeeze
KUSP News entered 2013 aware that what happened that year in water planning would affect the region for decades. Indeed, it was the year the Monterey Peninsula seems to have settled on a plan for replacing the Carmel River as its principal source of supply. Decades of planning for a desalination plant in Santa Cruz came to a halt. Meanwhile, techniques for getting the most use out of finite supplies of water have been steadily improving, and hundreds of innovators in groups like the Central Coast Greywater Alliance are bringing new ideas to water re-use. Our ongoing Water Squeeze series provides a valuable resource for understanding these issues.

This was our first major reporting initiative that incorporated ideas from American Public Media’s Public Insight Network. Using PIN techniques, KUSP reporters determined our reporting could be of the most use to our audience if we provided a way to understand how water is currently supplied along with details about what planners were considering and what different approaches might entail.

J.D. Hillard, Wes Sims, Hannah Weikel, Melissae Fellet, Danielle Venton, and Bonnie Jean Primbsch have all done great work in creating our coverage of The Water Squeeze and I’m really happy they can enjoy this recognition.

kusp.org
Every day kusp.org offers up current news from NPR along with Monterey Bay area reporting by our reporters and the highest quality conversation and interview shows on the radio in the region. A visitor can choose between a story on the latest events in the Ukraine, an in-depth look at the decisions affecting our water supply, discussions on health with Ask Dr. Dawn or hours of classical, jazz and other music. In an environment in which audiences keep adjusting to improve their access to media, kusp.org has kept up in a way that compares to large-market TV and radio station sites. Our Director of New Media and kusp.org, Steve Laufer, has been leading this team since 2002 and I’m absolutely thrilled to see Steve get credit at this level for what he and his colleagues have accomplished.

About the Murrow Awards
RTDNA says 2014 was among the most competitive year in the group’s history, with over 4,000 news organizations competing for 661 awards. Large-market and small-market stations compete separately for the Murrow Awards. 88.9 KUSP shares the company of Pasadena-based KPCC in the Website category and KQED San Francisco in the continuing coverage category.

The annual Murrow awards honor news organizations for outstanding achievements in electronic journalism. According to RTDNA, recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Murrow established as a standard for radio and television journalism as well as the electronic media that have followed. KUSP was considered among news organizations working in television, radio or digital media in the smaller markets of California, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam. Winners of regional awards will compete for nationwide awards which will be announced in June.

Congressional Budget Theater

By a narrow margin the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution this week that, among countless other provisions, called for elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting. All but twelve Republican House members voting on the resolution voted “yes”; all Democratic members who cast a vote voted “no.”

Is this a significant development for listeners and viewers of public radio and TV stations? I kind of doubt it.

As this post from NPR’s “It’s All Politics” blog explains, the House resolution has even less effect on the appropriations process than usual, since an earlier resolution approved by both the House and Senate set overall spending levels for the upcoming fiscal year.

The national advocacy organization for public broadcasting listeners and viewers, Protect My Public Media, asked its advocates to reach out to Congress and oppose funding cuts; by their account, over 25,000 people e-mailed their representatives in response. You can see more about the Protect My Public Media effort at this link.

The decisions that actually matter will come up later this spring, as the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work through the bills that actually determine what money goes where, within the overall spending limits I mentioned earlier. Last year, for the first time in my recent memory, public broadcasting funding was not front-and-center in the federal budget debate. With 2014 being an election year and control of the Senate very much open to question, the one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget that goes to public radio and TV may yet again turn into a political football.

Covering the passing of Nelson Mandela

The events that followed the death of Nelson Mandela on December 5 posed a significant coverage challenge for news organizations worldwide. For the first time since we became a partner station of the BBC in 2009, KUSP depended more on the BBC World Service than on NPR to bring you a major story.

The announcement of Mandela’s passing by South African President Jacob Zuma happened during our daily live broadcast of BBC Newshour. We stayed with BBC’s live coverage through the rest of the early afternoon, added special programs over the next several days, and brought listeners extended live coverage of the memorial celebration in Johannesburg on December 10 and Mandela’s funeral service in Qunu on December 14-15, pre-empting our regular overnight schedule.

The expense KUSP incurs to be a BBC partner station is considerable — when you figure it in terms of cost per hour of air time, it’s on a par with the other news services we utilize (such as NPR News, Marketplace, and Democracy Now). But by 2009 we had come to believe that there would be times when BBC affiliation would be critical to giving you the quality of news coverage, and the global perspective, that you expect from public radio.

And despite the fact that some of the most compelling radio happened late at night California time, we are inclined to believe that these ten days in December 2013 have been one of those times.

And in answer to numerous questions we’ve received — KUSP does not have the right to time-shift, archive or rebroadcast live BBC special programming, such as the Mandela memorial celebration or the funeral service. Some of the special programming we aired is accessible from BBC News online.

How public radio could serve you better

When I started this blog about six years ago, public radio stations were awakening to the challenges involved in evolving from having just one outlet for what we create — FM radio — to functioning in a diverse and complicated media world that is largely built on the Internet.

Back then, one of the strategies KUSP felt was worth exploring was to find a way to collaborate with other nearby public broadcasters. Our main focus at the time was trying to find a way to partner with KAZU, the Monterey Bay area’s other NPR member station. In early 2008, after about a year and a half of serious discussions, Cal State Monterey Bay (KAZU’s owner) ended that conversation, but both parties gathered a lot of information in the process. For KUSP, we used what we learned to make some significant decisions about what we program and how we operate, and our audience and donor support has grown steadily since that time.

2008 was also the year we started one of our most important station-to-station collaborations — becoming partners with KALW in San Francisco on production of our daily call-in/interview program, Your Call, which airs weekdays at 10:00 AM.

Fast forward to the present, and the urgency of finding a better way to provide public radio in the U.S. is greater and more widespread. Earlier this month I attended a national meeting of public radio executives focused on collaboration. We looked at the issue in two different dimensions — station-to-station collaborations (as we tried to do with KAZU, and have been doing with KALW) and station-to-network collaborations.

In a sense, some of the most important services public radio provides are the product of long-standing collaborations. NPR itself can be thought of as a big collaboration or a big co-op; it is governed by the 268 organizations that own NPR member stations (including KUSP). The stations vote to elect NPR’s Board of Directors and contribute most of its financial support through dues and fees for the programming we use.

There are a lot of ideas in circulation about how to improve the station-network relationship (not just at NPR, but at the other major distribution organizations too, such as Public Radio International and American Public Media). But more of the innovation is happening now at the station-to-station level.

KUSP hopes to encourage a renewed focus on collaboration with the stations that are our neighbors — in the San Francisco Bay area and in the rest of Central California. We realize that great opportunities exist if we can improve our collective efficiency and free up more resources for local and regional programming… and improving the ways we get that content to you, whether it’s on FM radio or through all the other ways our audience consumes media (desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, and on and on).

Here are some of the interesting angles we’ve seen recently in terms of collaboration at the local and regional level:

    St. Louis Public Radio, operated by the St. Louis campus of the University of Missouri, is merging with the St. Louis Beacon, an innovative online-only news organization. This blog post describes what they’re hoping to accomplish together.

    In Kentucky, six of the state’s seven public radio stations are involved in a study of how they can align their efforts. Kentucky has a history of powerful station-to-station partnerships going back twenty years.

    The Kentucky stations are being advised by a national non-profit, Public Radio Capital, that has been involved with many different station collaboration projects. Two Public Radio Capital executives summarize the challenges and some of the strategic solutions they see in this article.

    Like the Monterey Bay area, Buffalo, New York had two NPR news stations competing with each other, neither having enough capacity to really do a great job. This article describes how they pulled the stations together and diversified the formats, giving listeners higher quality and more choice.

We hope our renewed focus on finding collaborative solutions in this part of California will bear some fruit in the months ahead. As we make progress, I’ll let you know what we’re up to in this blog.