CAB Minutes: October 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The New York Society for Ethical Culture

Members Present: Sallie Gouverneur, Ken Steward, Edward Sawchuck, Alex Senchak, Jennifer Batterton, Kenneth Sahl, Ashwini Chhabra, Shavonne Johnson, Gaye Leslie, Alfred Friedland, Dave Hall, Gina Fuentes Walker

WNYC: Brenda Williams-Butts, Noreen O’Loughlin, Shira Rosenhaft

Community: Approximately 5 people

Edward Sawchuck welcomed everybody and called the meeting to order. The minutes from the previous meeting were distributed to members of the board. A presentation of a bouquet of flowers as thanks, were made to Sallie Gouverneur.

Guest Speaker Margot Adler

Ed Sawchuck introduced the guest speaker, Margot Adler, NPR Correspondent, National Desk, New York. Ms. Adler gave an introduction speech and then members of the board directed questions to Ms. Adler. Ms. Adler spoke about the state of hysteria that many in radio are now in because of the competition of new media and the lack of listeners of public radio under the age of 40. She thinks the state of hysteria is absolutely ridiculous. All public radio needs to do is provide good programming and the listeners will stay tuned in. Ms. Adler quoted a NY Times writer who once said that the only news that really mattered is news that people would remember 50 years later. This kind of news usually centers on scientific discoveries that will stand against the test of time.

The NY staff of NPR used to be a small staff of 7 or 8 reporters, 4 or 5 engineers and 1 receptionist. They are now growing because of the Bryant Park Project. The stories they cover are mostly from NY and NJ, as well as national news. NPR West has a much larger staff, with 60 or 70 employees. Someone asked of her of how she approaches the NJ market. She said right now they were working on covering the extensive corruption of NJ politicians. Ms. Adler was then asked what the Bryant Park Project was. There will be 3 morning editions starting in January or February. These morning editions will be designed for the 22-45 age group. It will be a looser show; more edgy. There will be 2 hosts and 1 hour long podcasts, and it will also be on the web. She was then asked how many NPR offices there were. There are many International offices and about 19 or 20 in the United States.

Alfred Friedland went on to express his pleasure at the interval music used on Margot Adler’s program,” Justice Talks.” He then asked how the concept of the show was started. Ms. Adler explained that Catherine Colbert created it. She is an attorney that had argued before the Supreme Court. She had an idea for a debate show. It was done in Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall. Constitutional issues were argued before a live audience. It was a 1 hour show. It was too boring. The format was changed to a news magazine show. Ms. Adler brainstorms with the producers to decide on the topics. The producers get the guests. Reporters in Philadelphia do the research. The editing is done in Washington. Ms. Adler hosts the show from here in NY. It takes approximately 3-5 weeks from the time a topic is decided on until the show is ready to be aired.

She was then asked how it is decided what stories NPR will cover. It is a complex process decided by the editors of the various shows. There are beat reporters who cover specific topics like Business, Media, and International Business. Ms. Adler and Robert Smith are the two who cover just about anything. 10-15 minute segments of NPR programs are now available on iTunes. She goes to the Internet to listen to her classical music where she can listen to classical music from radio stations all over the world. With Internet radios and iPod’s, there is no need for classical music radio in public radio. Ms. Gaye disagreed saying that not everyone has an iPod or speakers for their computer. Ms. Adler believes On the Media is the most brilliant show ever produced, also much of it is podcast. She was then asked her feelings on whether she felt it was necessary for guests to be in the studio with the show hosts. She said it depended upon the situation. It was not necessary all the time.

WNYC Developments

Brenda Williams-Butts and Noreen O’Loughlin then took over and presented a Powerpoint presentation. Noreen first described some of WNYC’s organizational goals, including high quality content deeply rooted in NY, deepen loyalty and usage, strengthen financial foundation, capitalize on the move scheduled in the Spring and stimulate a culture of innovation, accountability and excellence. They went on to describe the move of the WNYC offices. The offices will be moving to a new location at Varick and Charlton. The move is scheduled for March or April, 2008. Shows will be moving to a digital platform to attract a more diverse audience. There will be mid-day talk shows targeting all of New York, but most specifically the African American and South Asian communities. There will be more hard news, as well as cultural and social issues. There will be live concerts with a new streetside performance center that will be at the new location. This space will hold 120 people. It is a black box space. There will be podcasts and satellite feeds for special events. The performance space will be launched in June. There will be programs directed at youth, as well as workshops for both teens and educators. E-blasts will be provided for teachers. Moving to digital content is one goal of WNYC to attract a larger audience with podcasts, blogging and community outreach. Brenda also discussed he Berlin Without Walls Film Festival going on 11/12-11/14 and the coverage that WNYC will be doing.

Consumer Research Study

Noreen then went on to present the results of a Consumer Research Study that was conducted online to determine statistical information both on current subscribers, as well as an expanded audience that WNYC hopes to target. The expanded audience target were people who already listen to the radio and WNYC goal is how to get them to listen to public radio and more specifically, WNYC. It was a 35 minute survey for non subscribers and a more detailed 50 minute survey for subscribers. The basic demographic information of the subscribers is Caucasian, high $, graduate level education, Liberal Democrats. They use radio as their #1 source for radio and their top favorite type of programming is talk radio and classical music. One positive thing to come out of this survey is that although the actual percentage numbers are different, there are a lot of similarities between the subscribers and non subscribers. The expectations from public radio are the same. Politics and Current Events is the favorite type of programming they want, then News Radio and then Culture, Arts and Entertainment. They want unbiased news with various viewpoints, conservative included.

The issue of trying to get people who are dedicated TV watchers for their news coverage to switch to radio was brought up by a member of the board. It is something that WNYC is not trying to do because that hurdle would be too difficult to jump. WNYC is trying to get people who already listen to the radio to listen to public radio. Another good thing that came out of the survey is that the average radio listener listens to the radio an average of 7 ½ hours a week and that is a lot of time spent listening to the radio so there definitely is a market out there for WNYC to target. The broader audience will like more upbeat, energetic hosts.

Mr. Friedland then ask if the survey results would be published, but Noreen said it was proprietary data, but she would check if it could be made available to missing CAB members. It was also asked how much the survey cost and what the purpose of it was. It costs at least 50K and can be used for many different purposes at the station. It will have an effect on all of WNYC’s strategic decisions.


Noreen then left and the Board directed questions at Brenda. Ed Sawchuck asked about public radio’s perception of being snooty. Brenda said it depended who you asked. One of her goals is to reach a more diverse audience. Although it is a small minority of the audience, there are African Americans who listen to public radio. Ed then asked if there was anything the board could do to help reach this broader, more diverse audience. Brenda indicated that a lot more community outreach needs to be done and that the CAB should work together with WNYC piggybacking off of the company objectives to reach everyone interested. WNYC should have a meeting with Ed and the Board to discuss the company objectives and some ideas as to how the CAB can further the company objectives.

Questions from the community were then taken. There were two contrasting opinions about the underwriters. One person did not like it and another person did. A question about the signal strength of the station was asked. It really is an FCC question and the fact is that FM gets stronger signals than AM stations.

Ed also mentioned that a station tour will have to be scheduled for the new board members. The next meeting will take place on November 14 at the same location. Everyone really liked this room. It has better acoustics than the previous room. Ken suggested the meetings be kept the same date (2nd Thursday of the month) so that people can plan their schedules accordingly, if they know it is going to be the same day every month. Last month’s minutes will be emailed to everyone for approval. Email addresses on sign in sheet need to be put on mailing list so that people can be notified of meetings, special events, etc.

Motion to adjourn was called and meeting was adjourned at 8:45pm.