CAB Minutes: November 2007

7pm, Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The New York Society for Ethical Culture

Members Present: Alex Senchak, Sallie Gouverneur, Ken Stewart, Jennifer Batterton, Gina Fuentes Walker, Shavonne R. Johnson, John DeWitt, Gary Schultze, Michelle K. Reed, Gaye Leslie, Gabriele Schroeder

WNYC: Shira Rosenhaft, and a WNYC Trustee

Welcome – Public Comment

Alex Senchak introduced himself as the vice-chair of the community advisory board as well as the moderator of this month’s meeting. He started off the meeting by asking the public to if they had any issues to address. A member of the public started off by saying that she loves WNYC, and she is very grateful for it. She spoke with respect to the Civil Service Union Local 37, and the situations arising with the Civil Service Chief and the union. She mentioned that the Local 37 workers work in the hospitals, libraries, the housing departments, etc., and expressed the importance of these workers and the situations that are currently going on (membership intimidation, etc). She wanted to know if there could be more coverage on this topic on news segments on-air, for she feels it affects the daily lives of so many people.

Alex asked if she had contacted listener services, and contacted other shows, and the woman answered “yes”. Alex then clarified the woman’s concern that there may be an overlook by WNYC in addressing current situations or current stories. Alex confirmed that this woman had given him a written letter on the same topic. She mentioned that the story has been made public through many different sources, including but not limited to, Reader’s Digest. She also mentioned that the Civil Services Chief would be an excellent resource for information on this topic. She reiterated the importance on this subject a few times, and wanted to make clear that WNYC get the information before there is a strike. Alex reminded the woman that there are many news stories to tell, and promised that somebody would get back to her with her concerns when they have more information.

Sallie Gouverneur suggested to Alex that he follow up with K.C. Sahl on this subject. John DeWitt said that “news organizations need to prioritize coverage”. He informed the woman that if there is something “brewing below the surface,” it isn’t until it actually comes to the surface is it worthy to report. The woman is concerned because she believes the purpose of public radio is to get the story out before the story breaks. Ken Stewart asked the woman to reiterate where WNYC can research this information. The woman stated that they could ask Lillian Roberts or Marc Rosenthal.

There was some back and forth conversation with Ken Stewart, the woman originally posing the concern, and another member of the public. Alex moderated by reassuring the woman that they will give them information as soon as they have it, including how stories are chosen and how investigations are handled. Alex mentioned how last month they had a discussion about a reporter from NPR and how she conducts her research, and mentions that there is plenty to report on.

Gaye Leslie spoke mentioning a book by Susan Stamberg called “Every Night at Five,” which tells the upheavals of planning a news story, and then immediately the plan can be changed immediately because a new story has come in that is worthy of reporting. She mentioned that this book was brought to her attention on ATC (All Things Considered).

Another member of the public spoke. He mentioned he listens to WBAI, and wonders why it is in the middle of the dial. There seems to be reluctance with WBAI (a listener supported non commercial station) with respect to freedom of speech. He mentioned that he cared about society, and listens to WNYC and enjoys it. He especially likes the talk programs and the music (relaxing and beautiful). He expressed concern for the world in general, and wanted to know how we can change things for the better. Alex moderated and brought the man back to topic. This gentleman went on to say that WNYC has a sort of upper-classiness that he finds distasteful. He made many comparisons with WBAI. He made the point that he enjoys WNYC, and loves Garrison Keillor, and does not like Car-Talk. He likes Lenny Lopate. He referenced He said that “there is something wrong with WBAI, and there is something wrong with WNYC.” He said that if there is something wrong, he is going to say it. He continued to request how WNYC can be better, but then proceeded to ask if the world can get better. His point was never clearly made. John DeWitt commented on the man’s arguments by first answering why WBAI is in the middle of the dial. He then went on to say that “there is room for everything in this world.” He reminded the room that this was his first meeting, and he is a classical musician by training. He went on to say that WBAI’s presentation is more on the “alternative side-whatever that may be.” He referenced the shows that this gentleman likes, and reminded him that even those shows are criticized locally. He said, “You can’t be all things to all people at all times”. He also said, “There really needs to be variety”.

Alex moderated by saying that the tenor of the situation is rather important to the group, and will be discussed for many meetings to come. He went on to say that because WNYC plays music as well as talk radio, it holds a lot of weight and it’s important to mention. A member of the public mentioned that she loves the music as well. Alex went ahead asking if there was anything else (likes/dislikes) that anybody on the Board or the public wanted to share. Gary Schultze said that he likes Car-Talk. Gaye Leslie mentioned that she was first attracted to WNYC because of the music, but that she really loved the shows that had bad words, and she appreciates the “craziness and outwardness” of some of those shows.


Alex spoke about the WNYC Gala. He said that there were 10 members of the Advisory Board present at the Gala, and it was a wonderful evening. He expressed gratitude at being allowed to attend. The entertainment at the gala was “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. Paula Poundstone, David Hyde Pierce, Carl Castle, and other celebs were in attendance. He went on to talk about the entertainment, and how they have really grown because of WNYC. He also mentioned how nice it was to see the radio folks in person up on the stage. It said a lot about the possibilities and the future of the station and upcoming events. Gaye Leslie wanted to know about more station functions, and Shira mentioned the NYC Opera Singles Night which will be held tomorrow night. She commented that this event is an outreach event rather than a station function. Also, the Berlin Philharmonic is currently on-air.


Location is the Jackson Avenue Steakhouse in Long Island City. Alex said that he will send all of this information out shortly. Dave Paul will be assembling the event, and it will feature local artists. Alex is not sure if it will be a public meeting or not and also admitted that this topic was just recently presented to him at 5:09pm. Local Artists will be performing. He went on to express the importance of this outreach because they will be meeting in a different location in the city, they are going to discuss with the local artists how life is like for them in that community. How is life in New York City trying to make it as an artist? The idea is to hear from these folks and get their input on how life is like for them in LIC. There will be a performance at the beginning, a meeting afterwards, food served in the middle. Alex thinks that this meeting should be a public meeting, and he asked the Board for suggestions on what could be missing from this meeting.

Alex mentioned that the good thing about this meeting is that people can attend the meeting, listen to free music, and not pay anything (except food or drink). Sallie Gouvernour asked Alex to clarify what he meant when he said that food and the discussion would be at the same time, and Alex clarified that the meeting would be the official meeting, and that food would be presented at the time of the performances. Ken Stewart wanted to make sure there was a predictable time for folks to come and talk about the station. He went on to express the importance of having somebody who lives in LIC to talk about the station and to find out their input.

Alex asked if there was any objection to the “music” portion of the meeting starting at 6:30pm, and the official public meeting commencing at 7:00pm. Gaye mentioned that it would be difficult for folks to attend if the music portion started at 6:30pm because folks work, and could the music be after the public meeting (9:00/10:00pm). Alex said that he will talk to Dave and Ed.

General discussion commences about the location, ease of transit and parking as well as schedule of the evening. Gabriele asked if there were any close subway stations. Shavonne R. Johnson wanted to make sure that they advertise this meeting, for she didn’t hear about the current meeting until a few days ago. Alex reassured her that this meeting will be advertised, just as they have been in the past. Jennifer Batterton said that there needs to be a new advertisement written for this meeting. Alex confirmed this, and said that Dave Paul and he had spoken briefly about it today. Alex will make up a flyer and send it out by the later part of this week. Sallie Gouvernour reminded Alex that if he is not clear about what they want to do and does not use the correct language, they will quibble and argue with you. Alex said that Ed has spoken to the Director of Community Affairs about this topic. Jenn wanted to make sure the CAB emphasizes that this upcoming meeting is a public meeting, since the venue and the nature of the meeting are so different from the normal meetings.

Alex said that either Dave or he will moderate. He wants the topic of the meeting to be focused on what is happening in Long Island City, especially regarding the Arts Community. Alex said that he promises to have more information after he talks to Dave and Ed. Alex asked that if anybody has any connection to Long Island City to give them more information on the area. He mentioned reaching out to the community board to publicize the event. Jennifer mentioned reaching out to the Community Board, and that she will call them directly to find out. Alex, Jenn, and Dave should all sit down and talk about publicizing this to the best they can. Alex mentioned timeliness, effort, and emphasized that everyone should make an effort to help out.


They are holding off on minutes due to revisions and changes made today for the April, May, & September minutes. Alex did not feel comfortable sending them out yet. Shira also mentioned that some of the minutes she received were not officially approved. Alex mentioned that the September minutes were sent out, but there have been changes to them. Ken Stewart said that the distribution of the minutes should happen the second Thursday of every month.


Ken Stewart wants to have a discussion on the way news reports are given. He mentioned a formula that he created in his own head called “Where Close”, indicating that he wants reporters to indicate where they are in the city/country when they close the story. He mentioned that newspaper articles tell you exactly where the story is taking place. He gave examples of listening to a report on a car accident for three minutes, but not knowing where the car accident occurred. He wants the reporters to indicate where they are, especially if they are in the studio or out on location. He says that it helps him understand the story better. “He wants to know where people are”. Gaye argues that reporters always sign off when they report, and Ken disagreed.

Ken’s second discussion: He wants interviewers to specify their locations as well. He feels swindled because he is made to think that all interviews are made in the studio, but then the interviewer will say something like “well, we’ve lost connection to this person because they are riding up in the elevator right now”. Ken argues that face to face interviews are much different that satellite interviews, mostly because of face to face reactions and conversations. The way you speak is a lot different if they are sitting at the table in front of you, and an interviewer can make assumptions if the person is not in front of them. Gaye argues that “if the quality of the interview is good, does it really matter?” Ken thinks it does matter. Gaye asks why, and Ken presents the argument listed in this paragraph.

A member of the public (a listener), who said that she was a broadcaster and a journalist at one point, asked Ken if he was concerned about the “Lead” or the “Tag” not being identified. The woman said that she finds the reporters very good at signing off when they end their stories, and where they are from, and that that always resonates with her. She mentioned the program “Fresh Air.” She did not know that the program was recorded, and she gave other examples of how reporters were on satellite or communicating through another means, and then she went on to say that it doesn’t really matter where they are reporting from. She understands Ken’s request, and how non-verbal cues that play a significant factor, but doesn’t think it plays an issue at all. She did admit that she likes to know if something is live in the studio, or if it’s pre-recorded. She admits that is a big difference. Ken mentioned CBS news, and a different member of the public assured Ken that WCBS news is not live. She said that the reporter will even say “In Brooklyn”, but they are in the studio. She said that they didn’t use to do it, but that is how they do it now. She admits that this is the style that they are doing things, so this is the style that they are using. She said the WNPR programs are also pre-recorded as well, because there are no organized pauses, or anything to suggest a live recording. She said that if the reporter says “reporting live”, then they are really live. Ken mentions that there is a difference between “reporting live” and “reported live”. The member of the public reassured Ken that if they say they are “reporting live”, they are certainly live.

Alex moderates the discussion back to the call-in shows. Alex mentions that if a caller calls in, they are not live and the show is taped. He posed the question “Should people be made aware that these shows are not live, and sometimes the public is made aware of this and sometimes not”. Generally speaking, Alex said that reporters try very hard to represent where they are. He mentioned noticing a difference between cell phone communication and studio sound.

The woman who brought up this topic mentioned that reporters like to play down the scenario as to exactly where they are so they can play the power game, and not reveal the fact that they may not be reporting live from the actual place where they are supposed to be reporting. She mentioned ego, and power plays. The reporters want the public to think they are sitting and having this conversation across from you. Many people spoke about the aforementioned topic, including the members of the public, Gary, Gabriel, John DeWitt, and they all discussed different radio programs and whether they agree with this topic or not. Gabriel mentioned how some radio reporters read the newspaper during their programs.


Before adjourning, Alex asked the members to form committees. The names of the committees will be “Arts”, “Youth Outreach”, and “Listener Diversity”, and Alex wanted the members to volunteer to go to any committee they like. Shira urged Alex to adjourn before the members discussed and joined committees.

Before adjourning, a member of the public wanted to know exactly who the Advisory Board was comprised of, and what they do. Also, what is the process behind taking what they hear tonight to the folks that need to implement these changes. Alex responded that the Board is comprised of volunteers who are listeners who are interested in the station. They do not work for WNYC. The mission is to simply listen and review the station and its programming as well as various efforts, and then they internally talk about them and make recommendations from the public and formally make those recommendations to the Board of Trustees in person at their meeting. A member asked if there were any Editorial Staff from WNYC present at the meetings, and Shira introduced herself as the only member of the staff present at this meeting. They listen to the public on what they like to hear, and what they don’t like to hear. Ken Stewart reiterated that they are all listeners, and that they listen to the public, and conveys those ideas to the Board of Trustees. Gary said, “We do not have an agenda.”

Alex reminded him that the Advisory Board does not suggest materials or programs to the Producers directly, nor would they ever start doing that.