Minutes, WNYC Community Advisory Board Meeting
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Society for Ethical Culture, New York
Present from Community Advisory Board (CAB): Tiffany Hall (Chair), Joyce Lannert (Vice Chair), Matt Bancroft (Vice Chair), Members: Dan Barnett, Michael Bauman, Renée Cherow-O’Leary, John De Witt, Elinor Fuchs, Alfred Friedland, Beth Knobel, Allison Meserve, Judith Moldover, Steve Rapkin.
From NYPR Board of Trustees (BoT): Ellen Polaner
From NYPR: Chris Bannon, Programming Director; Noreen O'Loughlin, Vice President, Integrated Marketing; Khim Davis, Manager, Community Engagement and Audience Development
Absent: Leslie Ehrlich, Shavonne Johnson*, Lisa Labrado*, Michelle K. Reed*, MJ Robinson, Ken Stewart*, David Tereshchuk*.
*Received notice of absence prior to the meeting
Meeting came to order at 7:05.
The CAB Chair, Ms.Tiffany Hall, introduced Chris Bannon, the programming director for WNYC and the four New Jersey stations acquired in June, 2011 by NY Public Radio. He was accompanied by Noreen O’Laughlin, NYPR’s Vice President for Integrated Marketing. Mr. Bannon started by talking about the acquisition of the four New Jersey public radio stations. The four stations are 88.1 WNJT-FM in Trenton, 88.5 WNJP-FM in Sussex, 89.3 WNJY-FM in Netcong, and 90.3 WNJO-FM in Toms River/Seaside Park.
He explained that these stations used to be part of a nine-station system, once vital and well funded, that found itself without funding over time. Eventually they had no reporters and little local programming. The state of NJ eventually decided to sell the radio stations and the tv stations, which were sold to WNET, which hopes to do public tv there in New Jersey. That may be hard. It’s expensive to do television. WHY, the public broadcaster in Philadelphia bought five radio stations in southern New Jersey, south of Trenton, hoping to consolidate and get more exposure to the southern NJ beach communities. These radio stations are essentially repeaters for WHYY, simply repeating WHYY’s programming.
Mr. Bannon continued to say that senior staff at NYPR realized there is a lot of news to be covered in NJ, and that the community has been affected by a drop in newspaper coverage. Less news about that region is a bad thing for the people of NJ and for the people of our region, he said. So NYPR started working on purchasing the available radio stations, and talking to local nonprofits like Rutgers with an educational or other nonprofit mission. After we bought the stations, we needed time to ask partners in NJ to help us build a long-term plan. Nancy Solomon was hired to run the NJ newsroom. She’s been on the air recently reporting on Ravi trial (the Rutgers web spying case), but Bannon said her main job is to make sure NYPR makes room for news from NJ and makes it part of our reporting cycle.
Bannon continued to say that NYPR is now trying to judge what we want to do with the new NJ stations, how much money we have to do it, and where we’re going. The first placement of resources was into Morning Edition (“ME”). That was pretty easy to decide, Bannon said. There was someone there as a NJ voice for ME but with just an AP wire with no help and no news production. We needed a ME host there who could also produce, who could be in NY to take advantage of the people we have there early in the morning to prepare. David Furst is not yet permanent staff, but he’s the host of Morning Edition on the New Jersey stations. He worked for WAMU in Washington, DC as a news producer and host for more than a decade, but moved to NJ about a decade ago and worked remotely from there. We needed someone who knew New Jersey—who knew how to pronounce “Parsippany” when it popped into the news. And David can report and operate board and cut tape. He’s the “Swiss army knife of hosts,” joked Bannnon.
Now the rest of the schedule is being developed, explained Bannon. He distributed the current schedule for the New Jersey stations, which can also be found on the station’s main Internet page, http://www.njpublicradio.org.
Most of what is here was on the New Jersey stations before we acquired them, said Bannon. And NYPR wants to keep the shows that people in NJ have come to expect. But we also have to be able to do live news when it breaks. So the solution was to bring The Brian Lehrer Show and The Leonard Lopate Show into the 10 am-2 pm schedule. Brian does a lot about New Jersey. Leonard also does a lot, and we can break into those shows if some breaking news happens.
Tell Me More was on both stations and so Bannon said that was easy to decide to keep. Michelle Martin is a great interviewer. Science Friday is a great show, so that was easy to keep as well. The next major improvement would be to put a New Jersey host for All Things Considered, and I’d do that now if I had the money, Bannon explained. But in the long run, we’d like to do that and to put more reporters on the ground in New Jersey. There are talks about putting a non-profit newsroom somewhere in NJ, which we might share with WBGO (the public radio station in Newark that primarily airs jazz with some news) & WHYY. Then at night we have New Jersey Today, which is the audio portion of the show from public television. We might take more from them when they do more. We decided to keep on WBGO music during late nights, which they give us. We’re not competitors and they’re very generous to give us the programming for free. So that’s good for them and good for us. Weekends are very much the way they were. The NJ stations air Only a Game, which we don’t air at WNYC, but they do. The NJ stations also air Sound Opinions. We also have left room for specials in their schedule, like for Black History Month.
Mr. Bannon then took questions from the CAB members and general public present.
Questions: Mr. Alfred Friedland asked how station ID is done with the WBGO programming? Mr. Bannon said there are identifiers for the New Jersey stations, not for WBGO. Now they use automated IDs, but they’re not great. The ones in NJ identify all four stations in 10 seconds. We tried to make them artful.
Q: A member of the public asked where can classical music be heard in New Jersey?
Mr. Bannon answered that there’s a Temple University station near Philadelphia with classical music, but none in central NJ. The mountainous area makes broadcasting there difficult.
Q: Mr. John DeWitt asked about station licenses and power.
Mr. Bannon described the power of the new stations. He said NYPR would like to move the antenna in Seaside Park because it’s on an island and too much of signal is going out to sea.
Q: Dr. Renee Cherow-O’Leary asked about radio service in Newark.
Mr. Bannon said NYPR considers that part of WNYC’s listening area. The NJN signals don’t reach into Newark, just into the Newark suburbs. WBGO is there in Newark and they might be interested in doing more news work with us, as they do mostly music.
Q: A member of the public asked about acquiring WQXR and on receiving the stations on conventional radios.
WQXR is based in Newark, Mr. Bannon explained, but its signal doesn’t go as far west under NYPR as it did when it was commercial. It was a part of all this trading of stations that went on when we acquired WQXR. The WQXR signal strength and direction changed. It’s weaker now than it was. We have to turn down the WNYC AM signal in the evening due to an old agreement with the FCC, but with the FM signal it depends a lot on weather conditions.
Q: Mr. Matt Bancroft asked about the NJ stations’ online presence.
It’s just one page now, Mr. Bannon said, but I just saw mockups for better online coverage. We put the schedule and NJ stories there on the Web, but they’re building it up. And the stations are streamed now on that page, but we couldn’t get a good address for that. Best to find the streaming of the NJ stations now through the WNYC home page. But the new NJ site will actually have better architecture than our other sites.
Q: Mr. Bancroft also says there’s good news on WBGO in the mornings. Maybe there is some room for cooperation. Mr. Bannon said he would listen to it.
Q: Ms. Ellen Polaner asked who listens to AM 820. Some people described problems with the am signal. Mr. Bannon said moving the radio or getting an antenna can improve the AM signal.
Q: Ms. Hall asked about Internet signal quality.
Mr. Bannon explained that NYPR has another company that handles the Internet signal for us. And I’ve had problems with apps. When we get complaints we work with them to adjust the rates and signals to make sure the company that we work with doesn’t make problems that we don’t know about.
Q: Mr. DeWitt said he thinks the iphone app is great. But being blind he has trouble with the websites to try to get to listen to the station. The player is hard to find. He asked Mr. Bannon to make access on the home page for the sight-impaired easier to navigate.
Mr. Bannon said there’s a whole redesign of the WNYC main page coming. Every week, he meets the digital people working at the station, and their to do list is very, very long. But please be patient as some of the things are hard to fix. Mr. DeWitt explained how better labels could help. Mr. Bannon mentioned that he would follow up with the IT department regarding Mr. DeWitt’s concerns.
Q: How good is the streaming quality?
Not as good as broadcast. We raised it after WQXR launched to 128.
Q: If I have good reception, should I listen on FM radio or online for best quality?
It depends on the equipment. Both should be good.
Q: A viewer talked about not doing two music shows back to back from 10 pm to midnight with Soundcheck and New Sounds together. Mr. Bannon said the host, John Schaefer, has a large following, but said he understands the complaints of two music shows together.
Q: A listener asked if WQXR could do an hour of jazz?
They won’t do it…it’s too far from their core message, said Mr. Bannon. They did it because they had sponsors. We talk about doing Broadway music, which they also used to do when they had commercial sponsors. But now the message is classical music.
Q: How do you make decisions on programming?
There are no snap decisions, which is good and bad, said Mr. Bannon. We look at ratings as well to see how each half hour of the day is doing over a month and average for past 3 months. And then we do more analyses over 6 months and 12 or 18 months. We try to understand the overall trend. So if audience is going down, we ask where audience may be going or why trends may heading down. Ms. O’Loughlin added that the station does consumer surveys to ask more in depth what they like. And when we do fundraising and online response, we get feedback. We also look at consumption. Like Freakanomics Radio, which isn’t on often, but we see how many people download the podcast.
Q: Ms. Judith Moldover asked whether stations feel they need to air something to serve listeners if it doesn’t get good ratings. Mr. Bannon said yes. He gave the example of Andrea Bernstein, who has been working on this Transportation Nation project, grant funded. She wanted to do something on transportation and race, on the fight over integrating transportation systems. It took months and it won some awards. But didn’t get great ratings.
Q: Dr. Beth Knobel suggested someone from station leadership like Mr. Bannon or Laura Walker go on the air once every six months or so to talk about the station with listeners, like on Lopate or Lehrer, because our members have suggested they would like more transparency about station management. Mr. Bannon said that was a good idea. He also mentioned that there is generational shift going on—the audience and hosts aging, and it might be good to talk about that with audience.
Q: Why did NYPR buy the NJ stations?
It was the right thing to do, said Mr. Bannon. They’d probably be religious broadcasters right now if we hadn’t bought them. They weren’t very expensive and they don’t reach very many people. Sometimes there are only 17 people listening at a time on one of those frequencies. And there’s a service to be provided to the community there. It’s also a pipeline into us. Maybe we’ll get someone to fund some reporters in NJ, and that would make us stronger.
Q: So you want NJ listeners to listen locally?
Q: Could they have their own talk show?
Yes. We don’t want them to be a repeater. There’s a good relationship to be developed and a hunger for programming that no one else will do. It’s a long term project. Noreen O’Loughlin added that it’s another outlet for NYPR. She said 25 percent of NYPR audience is in NJ. Mr. Bannon gave example of questionable practices at Rowan University as a story that might not have been done by WNYC before but would receive a lot of coverage now because of the increased commitment to New Jersey.
Q: One listener asked about the structure between NPR and NYPR.
So Mr. Bannon explained the structure. NPR is the member organization for every station in the country. We pay them dues and they give us programming. They take some of our shows and sell them nationally. We act independently and make decisions about what to air. American Public Radio is also a content provider and very good at promoting their shows.
Q: Dr. Cherow-O’Leary asked about the Sounds of Young America.
It’s been renamed Bullseye. The host had turned 30 and so he realized the name had to be renamed. It’s the only show that addresses youth in a clear way.
Q: So where are the new shows for younger people?
Comedy is huge now for young listeners. Never Not Funny and others are booming in audio world. That show gets people to sit down and bare their souls. And it’s not just the usual publicity you get from people with a new project or film or book. Glynn Washington has another new show, Snap Judgment. And I think the show has gotten much better and he is a great guy with a big following, talking to an audience.
Mr. Bannon and Ms. O’Loughlin mentioned other projects under development for a younger audience. NPR is doing a pilot called Ask Me Another being taped at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Cabinet of Wonders is another. They’re also partnering with TED. Mr. Bannon said he thinks there’s a lot of thinking going on about this at NPR. There are a lot of creative people who want to do something different, so you should see more creative things from us. It’s harder to be creative when you have unknowns. It’s easier with people who are better known. There will be some podcasts coming soon that will be fun and that you should check out when it’s ready.
At 8 pm, Mr. Bannon and Ms. O’Loughlin departed, with thanks from the CAB for their participation.
Chair’s Report (Tiffany Hall)
Matt Bancroft and I had a conference call last week with Noreen O’Loughlin and Brenda Williams-Butts of the station about our plans and new structure for the CAB. Brenda also talked with the Board of Trustees about our restructuring. The next step is talking with Laura Walker, which Brenda is doing. I’ll let you know what we hear from Laura. But we seem to be going in the right direction in terms of getting the new CAB structure in place. We could definitely help use the Interface meetings to suggest usage for the new broadcasting space on NJ and elsewhere.
By-Laws Committee (Joyce Lannert)
Ms. Lannert reviewed the proposed changes to the CAB by-laws. She said the first task was to redraft the CAB mission statement. We had a conference call with Ivan Zimmerman, the station counsel, a few days ago to go over by-law changes. He suggested we keep the mission statement very, very general. Ms. Lannert read the edited version of the mission statement, which omits one paragraph of the draft presented.
We also realize we are missing procedures for appointment. He said that the mention of diversity in the mission statement would be sufficient to provide for a diverse board.
Section two says that there should be a six year lifetime service limit, and that should be clarified in the by-laws to reflect the original intent. Fred Friedland read an email that he had sent to the By-Laws committee saying that the station attorney should not have a role in determining our policy—it should be decided by the CAB and ratified by the BOT. Ms. Lannert said that the six-year limit was the intent of the BOT, and that they will not approve more than two terms. They want to see the CAB recharging itself and new members brought in. Mr. Friedland again said that Ivan Zimmerman should not speak for the BOT…they should speak for themselves. Discussion centered on making the language clear that one cannot serve more than two terms or six years total.
Ms. Lannert made a motion to drop the word consecutive from this part of the bylaws, to make sure CAB members can serve no more than two terms total. The question was seconded by multiple members. The vote 11 in favor, 1 against, no abstentions.
Ms. Lannert continued to describe proposed changes to the By-Laws. In Article II, the station counsel suggested minor change to reflect “good faith efforts” to assure the composition of the CAB will reflect the needs of the communities served.
Section II on resignations also needs revision, to clarify how we define when we would consider members to have dropped out by failure to attend meetings. Current rules say members are considered to have resigned if they miss two meetings in succession, or attend less than 75 percent of meetings in a year without being excused by the chair for good cause. Consensus was that 75 percent should remain the standard, given that the chair is given the power to excuse people who miss a meeting with a valid excuse.
On officers, Ms. Lannert said we need to amend the by-laws to allow for one or more vice chairs, as that is not addressed by current by-laws. Also she said we need to discuss whether there should be a secretary position. Ms. Hall said the co vice-chairs have worked extremely well this year, and CAB members agreed. And there seemed to be consensus was that a secretary position would be a useful addition.
On Article IV, Ms. Lannert said we will need to add the election procedures when they are approved.
On meetings, she said we currently have a minimum of 6 required per year, and there was consensus that that was a good minimum.
Also there is new language that has been inserted into the draft bylaws by Ivan Zimmerman about open meetings and advance publicity, requiring an announcement of purpose and expected length of a closed meeting.
Q: One listener raised concerns about the language in the by-laws about publicizing the CAB meetings. Matt Bancroft suggested language like that meetings will be “publicized by all reasonable means” to ensure maximum publicity for CAB meetings.
Section 5 is on Ad Hoc meetings and Ms. Lannert said the committee determined that 72 hours is probably not enough notice for setting up a meeting, so we will take that out of the new by-laws.
Also on quorum, the committee suggested that it be one more than half of the membership. It is a 40 percent requirement for quorum now, and consensus was that we leave that language, especially since some people come late and we want meets to start on time by requiring a quorum of less than half.
Ms. Lannert said it’s also unclear in the current by-laws how phone participation should work. It doesn’t make sense that if you’re on the phone it does not count towards quorum. Plus it’s not clear how many telephone meetings we should allowed to attend by telephone. Perhaps we will add that telephone attendance should be cleared by the chair. And there should be a limit on how many meetings a year can be attended by phone. Consensus is that two should be the limit on meetings that CAB members can call into per year, and that such telephone attendance should count toward quorum.
Lastly, we discussed the process for amendments to the bylaws, which can currently only be made by the BoT. The By-Laws Committee has suggested that the CAB be able to draft amendments to the bylaws in consultation with the corporate counsel and then have the amendments go to the BoT for approval. The role of the counsel was discussed, and he/she would participate only to check the law for legality, not to filter the content of potential amendments to the bylaws.
Ms. Lannert said will send a clean copy of the whole proposed bylaws shortly so that we can vote on it next month, with an idea of getting it approved by the BoTs at their June meeting.
Future actions (Ms. Hall)
Before the next meeting, we also need to approve the proposed election procedures.
Matt Bancroft suggested we start the nomination process for new members, as the new procedures propose to do each March. There was consensus that that would be a good idea. Mr. Bancroft said he will get that started via email.
In terms of working on the “Interface” meetings, Ms. Hall said the Research Committee can start working on that as soon as we hear back from Laura Walker about our new structure. If she approves of this idea, then Dr. Cherow-O’Leary, who heads the Research Committee, said the Research Committee will survey everyone on the CAB for ideas for topics. There are several new members who are now on the Research Committee, who should be brought into the research process.
Ms. Hall will let the CAB know when Laura Walker responds to our restructuring proposal. CAB members are asked again send any comments on the election process to Matt Bancroft.
The meeting adjourned at 9:05 pm.
Minutes prepared by Beth Knobel.