(dear readers for whom this post’s title makes no sense: go here)
In the past week I’ve experienced great pride and satisfaction as KUSP’s General Manager… and also great sadness, disappointment, and anxiety. It’s rare to have one’s work life whipsaw so much from one day to the next.
Some of the best news came at the start of the week, thanks to KUSP’s generous listeners. Our three-day special on-air pledge drive generated over $15,000 in additional financial support for KUSP. No less importantly, the vast majority of listeners who called in or made a gift on line let us give the money we would have used for their thank-you gift to one of our area’s food banks. As I’ve said before, the food banks are incredibly skilled at leveraging cash donations into meals for families in need. KUSP listener generosity last week translated into more than 8,000 additional meals that will be provided this winter. So, from all of us involved in this campaign, please accept my heartfelt thanks.
KUSP Reports will continue our coverage on the topic of food, hunger and generosity through the rest of December, and stories will be available to listen-on-demand at the KUSP Reports page on our web site.
Then, on Wednesday, I had the sad duty to inform three dedicated KUSP employees that they are being laid off, due to the station’s very difficult financial situation. Two of the people affected are upper-level managers (one in programming, the other in fund-raising), and the third is a key behind-the-scenes employee supporting our outreach, training, and production work — some of the most important things a volunteer-based station can do. We did everything as a station we could think of to forestall these cuts, but the trends in financial support we’ve seen so far in our current fiscal year (which started on July 1) give us no other viable options.
The departure of these great people, and the reduction of capacity to do good work in these key areas is all the more painful/frustrating/crazy-making because we’re beginning to see so many things at KUSP just about to come to fruition. Our audience appears to be increasing; I’ve mentioned the ramp-up of our station-produced news coverage; we are very close to finishing what I think is going to be a major enhancement of KUSP’s service to music listeners; there are no end of good ideas in discussion about ways we can be more effective partners for the many non-profits in the Monterey Bay area and beyond who do such great things in the arts, in public service, in education… it’s hard to know when to stop.
And yet, we can’t spend money we don’t have. Thus our cuts in staffing and other areas must go ahead.
A day or so after the layoffs were announced, I did experience a small piece of positive news. Thursday night 12/11 we put into service our new emergency generator for the Santa Cruz studio. In late 2007 and the first part of 2008 our listeners rallied during a special fund-raising campaign that matched a federal grant, enabling us to replace a backup power system that had not been reliable for years. I feel much more confident that in the months ahead we’ll be able to be there for you when you need us.
But at about the same time, the roller coaster dived again; first, word came from NPR that they too were being forced to cut vital staff positions — about 7% of their total workforce. NPR’s mid-day news magazine, “Day to Day,” was canceled, meaning a change in the KUSP schedule will be required by mid-March, when the show ends its run. Several of my friends, some of whom I’ve known since my very earliest days in public radio, will lose their jobs in these cutbacks, and I feel for them, much as I do for my friends and co-workers at KUSP who face the same thing.
In parallel with all that, the city of Santa Cruz moved to make deep cuts in several key public service programs, including their Natural History Museum and Surfing Museum. Talk of the Bay focused on this subject tonight. KUSP has strong links to these museums and their people, and their loss will be felt deeply and personally.
And the final blow came at the end of the week, when Shakespeare Santa Cruz confirmed its deep financial jeopardy. SSC’s 2009 season hinges on raising $300,000 by December 22. Details are linked here and here.
The loss of Shakespeare Santa Cruz would be devastating to the cultural life of our region. You can see the ways in which they are inviting the community to help by following this link.
We’ll try to stay on top of this story in the week ahead. And hope for better times for us all.