CAB Minutes: November 2006

7 pm, Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The New York Society for Ethical Culture


Sallie Gouverneur (Chair), Judy Hellman, Inge Reist, Shawn Williams, Gary Schulze, Jenn Batterton, Edward S. Sawchuk, Fred Friedland, KC Sahl, Dave Hall, David Rahni, Alex Senchak, Gina Fuentes Walker, David Weinstock

Apologies: Emily Gertz, Gideon Pollach, Ken Stewart

Absent: Elizabeth Nam, Basya Weissman, Mary O'Hara, Nicholas Arture

Alan Weiler (WNYC Trustee); Brenda Williams, Tara Maldonado

Meg Frost, Lewis Coulborn, Daniel Goode, Leonora Morrison, John Haggerty, William M. Singer

Minutes from the October 11, 2006 Meeting:
Minutes were not read aloud but distributed for review by individuals. The Chair asked that clarifications/corrections be submitted by November 22

Public Comment:
Ms. Gouverneur (Chair) greeted that members of the public and invited comments to begin and advised that the public would have an additional comment period at the end of the meeting. She noted the change in the on-air announcements about the CAB meetings and was pleased to report new faces from the public in the audience.

Daniel Goode (Public) remarked that the building security should be better informed as to the location in the building of the CAB meetings. Mr. Goode read from an November 12, 2006 Washington Post article by Mark Fisher about a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts on public radio. It criticizes public radio for abandoning its cultural mission. Fisher writes, "There appears to be a tendency for public stations to discourage music programming in favor of news, talk broadcast, as a way to draw larger audiences. " Mr. Goode found the article relevant because he too has noticed the Station's commitment to music programming going down each year. He further discussed his performance on WNYC when he was a graduate student and that this was a public service no longer available to musicians.

Ms. Gouverneur noted that the Board has discussed this issue at length over the past several years. The Station's president Laura Walker spoke at a CAB meeting last year in response to the concerns of the CAB and the public over the past several years. Ms. Walker brought one of the producers involved with this issue who explained that the Station was trying to bring music in to all levels of programming. The Station does in fact broadcast 24 hour classical music programming on HD radio, also available online.

John Haggerty (Public), a Station contributor, was puzzled about the pitch for contributing, saying that the pitch for the buyback campaign is so bland that it doesn't make a difference. He complained about a promo the Station had recently run regarding participation by asking "What is that? You had a whole bunch of promos saying 'participate, send us an email.' For what? Nothing has come of it and I haven't gotten an email back. And what is it all about?" Brenda Williams (Station) responded that the Station was looking for people for a focus group -- the Station had been short on time. "We did get some people to respond to us. We took those names and turned them over to the people who were handling the research and they made the phone calls. Now did they get to everyone? I'm not sure. We only needed a certain amount of people to participate."

Business before the CAB:
Board Attendance: Sallie Gouverneur (Chair) raised the issue of CAB member attendance. The bylaws require attendance and provide that if you are absent for two (2) consecutive meetings without prior notification or excuse, that this could be a basis for Board removal. She noted that there is a distinction between those who can't come who advise of the reason prior to the meeting, and those who can't come and don't advise anyone on the Board.

A lively discussion about the need to be present at CAB meetings and possible alternatives ensued. David Rahni (CAB) explained he has to drive about 70 miles to attend and that perhaps at some point the Board might consider having a virtual/complimentary type of forum/chat room/IM to address issues and then follow up in the meeting. Ms. Gouverneur noted the point, suggested that as we develop subcommittees maybe one should investigate this question. Mr. Schulze asked if there was a bylaw to address those members who live far away and come to meetings when they need or want to. Ms. Gouverneur stated that "the CAB had a limited number of public meetings a year and further that the nature of the Board's mission was to try to represent everybody in the Station's listening area. It was never the mission's nature to become a member and come only when it's convenient." Alex Senchak (CAB) raised the issue of a conference call for those who can't attend but still want to participate, "perhaps not give listeners all the rights that present board members have but at least they can hear what's going on and comment. Just don't want to lose good members with other commitments but who still want to be actively involved." Judy Hellman (CAB) noted that the bylaws do mention that can be done. David Weinstock stated that the counter argument is that there are people who do want to be here. "And when I interview I always ask, 'Are you going to be able to come to the meetings?'" Dave Hall responded that the commitment when we sign up is to be physically present at as many meetings as possible. David Weisntock concluded by noting "we all want to be flexible. "If there were people who can't attend and we can set up a system, I think everyone would be open to that."


Research on other Public Radio Community Advisory Boards:
David Weinstock reported that a survey form would be submitted for review and would contain questions in categories such as: What is your listening audience like? What's your interaction with them at meetings? How big are your meetings? How many people usually come? Where are they held? How many employees are on your board? Soliciting ideas for what other stations do to involve the listening public. Emily Gertz and David Weinstock will be working through the month of December to get together a full questionnaire. Inge Reist clarified that these are only going to be CABs that are non-university stations "because I don't think they have CAB's. And then I think there are other terms for some stations like San Francisco. "They're a different kind of entity, I don't think they have a CAB.

On-Air New Announcements for CAB Meetings:
Judy Hellman asked the members of the public if they were aware that the announcement aired on WNYC over the past couple of weeks announcing tonight's meeting was in fact a new announcement. She then asked for any particular comments on the announcement. A public member stated "They're usually more cut and dried. This seemed like you were looking for a little more." Further discussions were held with comments such as "It was different but I would have come regardless," "I know I heard it but I don't remember thinking anything of it. I responded to web announcement" and "I was just thrilled it was in my neighborhood."

Relocation Status:
In response to an audience question, construction for the new Station location should begin in January with a move-in target of July, 2007. CAB meetings will most likely be held in the new public space at the new location on Varick Street.

The next topic on the agenda was promoting the “Celebration of the WNYC new space.” Sallie reminded the group that Laura Walker had encouraged anyone on the Board to share ideas about how to celebrate the space with the station.

Future Themed Meetings:
Ms. Gouverneur stated there had been a number of suggestions about announcement of the CAB meeting with a particular theme. And members who attended last time were able to identify topics they thought were important enough to try and narrow down so that we could make a proposal to the Station to see if we could go ahead with a focused meeting that was not an outreach meeting. We might encourage attendance with themed meetings with a particular focus. She stated we have a total of about eleven (11) potential themes. Three major ones include: housing issues, local news including environment, health and medicine; and, talk programming. It would be great to identify a theme the station would let us announce but also do our homework ahead of time and see if even anybody from the station might want to participate. Jenn Batterton (CAB) and Dave Hall (CAB) stated that from a number of conversations with Station personnel at the Gala "there may be some people on staff who may be glad to show up and speak about their particular area. "Amy Eddings is curious," and Kaari Pitkin evidently expressed interest. Ms. Hellman went on to say that "at last month's CAB meeting we talked about whether its on-air talent or people representing other departments within WNYC speaking or presenting to the Board and a decision was made that was something we were not going to do this year." Ms. Gouverneur noted "I think this is something we would certainly be able to talk about since people have expressed interest, and I think it's something we would like to be able to pull off. We've proved we can change our announcement." Dr. Weinstock stated "whatever we do is kind of an experiment and so it would be interesting to have people come in and discuss specific topics and gauge how it goes." KC Sahl (CAB) asked "Do we want to as a test run choose a topic for our next meeting that we all just discussed?"

Show Reviews:
Ms. Gouverneur moved onto the next agenda item of "Show Reviews." She stated for those who weren't here last year one of our most fun meetings was the result of an project where everyone was assigned to listen to one program and be prepared to come to the meeting and discuss how they felt about it. It was not scientific, it was not research in any way, it was more "I really like / I really don't like it, here's why..." She said, "So we covered virtually all of the WNYC produced programs. And it was really fun. Everyone enjoyed it. I understand the station was really grateful for the comments. And so the question became, are there more shows we should be doing this for? Do we care if it's not produced by WNYC? Should we be reviewing the shows that it's airing anyway? It could be that we could feed this into the idea that we talk about a theme in a future meeting. And I'd just like to know if anybody has any specific gut reactions to particular shows?" Inge Reist (CAB) wondered whether we should broaden our reach to review shows WNYC did not produce but those that we hear on WNYC, or were dropped by WNYC. She suggested that this inquiry would be a good addition to the Show Review roster. "And maybe devoting a little bit of time to what is not on WNYC might be something for us to consider too." She continued. Alex Senchak suggested that with new technologies listening to other public radio stations and their programming is more feasible.

David Weinstock suggested we consider two shows each meeting and then have maybe 10 minutes to dedicate to each one. This would be an opportunity for everyone to discourse about the shows and open it to the public. And it would be more focused than it was last year where it was somewhat diffused because we did so many shows. And ultimately once we've gone through all the shows that have been produced and carried by WNYC we can then start branching into shows that are available elsewhere. Edward Sawchuk (CAB) thought Show Reviews was a healthy exercise for us to focus on programming and issues of programming. Brenda Williams (WNYC) stated that most shows carried by WNYC are distributed by NPR, PRI, etc. Sallie Gouveneur suggested that members of the CAB also continue the tradition of reporting on a program or show any member was "moved by, particularly enjoyed or even if you had an issue with." It was agreed that for January we would listen to "Car Talk" and "Radio Lab." David Rahni asked if WNYC would consider the need/merits to syndicate Gary Null's program? Fred Friedland said he listened to folk music on WFUV and wondered whether WNYC could carry more.

Sallie Gouverneur continued by stating that we have our online group, shows aired on other public radio stations and shows dropped by the Station could be added to a running list. An audience member stated "It might serve your interests to retrospectively collect the programs the station had on going back a certain number of years, and start doing some cross comparisons about programs and other stations they have shown up and maybe explore why those stations went away, maybe check out programs from the past and compare to now and evaluate the changes during WNYC's history." Alex Senchak offered to acquire some lists. David Weinstock observed that "Probably the most common complaint we get from the public by this meeting is things aren't the way they used to be. Why did we drop this show? That show?"

Outreach Updates:

Sallie Gouverneur announced that at the end of the meeting, anyone interested in participating in a subcommittee to discuss other stations' youth outreach programs with regard to what WNYC might consider doing, get together to figure out a date and time and place to meet.

New Jersey:
Alex Senchak reported that he had been exploring two locations for a New Jersey outreach meeting both in Northern NJ in the Livingston/Morristown area. He noted the difficulty of finding mass transit friendly locations. Lastly, he noted that Newark Academy offered to host a meeting."It's one if the three oldest schools in the country, they have a great history and that this would be my first choice to hold an outreach meeting," he said. Brenda Williams noted that most of the listenership in New Jersey is in Hudson and Bergen counties, "so the further out you go, the less people you have listening to WNYC." Alex Senchak stated he teaches at Newark Academy and that he conducted a survey with the math department of the school and found out that 72% of parents listen to WNYC. Dave Hall offered to assist Alex on this activity.

Other Themes and Places:
Sallie Gouverneur asked about other particular themes or geographic locations. Members mentioned the New York Is Book Country Fifth Avenue fair (WNYC has almost always had a little booth there); KC Sahl suggested attending a community board meeting where you could go and talk about WNYC and solicit comments. Gale Brewer, City Council member for the district which includes the Ethical Culture Society, had attended our October meeting; KC said he would look into that possibility. The issue of having a radio personality present to attract attendance was discussed. Sallie Gouverneur noted that the Board did this twice -- in the Bronx and in Harlem. But the Westchester outreach meeting did not have a radio personality, it was conducted only by CAB members and featured a focused panel with people speaking about issues in Westchester. An audience member stated "I went to the Bronx outreach meeting. I thought it was quite successful." Audience member William Signer offered to explore a venue for a meeting to look at architecture/urban planning/housing. Brenda Williams suggested aligning ourselves with community-based organizations, thereby bringing in their constituents. Inge Reist spoke in support of a topic on architecture and housing since this was a topic that interested Manhattan residents. Dave Hall suggested focusing on the Asian community. An audience member suggested that if we wanted to go to Flushing, we consider asking the Queens Borough public library if they might offer space.

David Rahni stated that as we continue the geographic-based outreach forums, we have to look at the need and merit for an internet-based virtual forum for the podcast and internet audiences. Jenn Batterton suggested that we treat our public like the special people that they are and just to thank them for coming, to engage them more and make the divide between us and them smaller. KC Sahl stated that the Board had started but didn't follow up a project to assign a Board member to research an audience question and respond directly to that person. Discussion continued on means to receive audience feedback, inviting previous attendees and speakers and email follow-ups. Sallie Gouverneur mentioned again the idea of including topics for upcoming CAB meetings on our on-air announcements. Judy Hellman suggested that the CAB website note specific items for discussion at stated meetings.

As there was no further comment from the attending public, Sallie Gouverneur called for a motion to adjourn, which was made and seconded.
Whereupon, the meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.

Minutes Edited and Prepared by Edward S. Sawchuk
Further Edited and Reviewed by Sallie Gouveneur