CAB Minutes: May 2008

May 14th, 2008

New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street

Ceremonial Hall, 7:00PM

Meeting commences at 7:15PM

Board members in attendance: Edward Sawchuk, Gary Schulze, Shavonne Johnson, John DeWitt, Jennifer Batterson, Michelle Reed, Alex Senchak, Sallie Gouverneur, Gaye Leslie, Basya Mandell, Kenneth Stewart, Dave Hall, Alfred Friedland, Gabriel Schroeder, Gina Fuentes Walker

Ilene Richman, taking minutes

Ed Sawchuk opens floor to public comment:

Female listener: I'm terribly disappointed in The Takeaway (TTA). It's dreadful. So is Fair Game (FG). Listener is directed to be more specific by chair. The choice of topic, the effort to be hip. It's unworthy of WNYC. There is nothing enriching about the programs or the topics. Also, the Sunday AM programs are given scant attentions. Perhaps they could rotate programs? Why is FG on 5x a week? I love Democracy Now. The local news on WNYC is not terribly rich. Everything I hear I've already read about or am about to read about in the NY Times etc. I'd like more drama & poetry.

John DeWitt: What do you think is the target audience for TTA & what problem do you think they're trying to solve with it?

Female listener: They're looking for a younger audience. I feel as though I'm listening to a habitue in a bar.

Male listener: I'm disappointed with TTA. It shows contempt for listeners. The interviewers aren't particularly intelligent & they are dishonest journalists. For example, Adaora Udoji's biography is full of exaggerations & untruths. No one has ever built a nuclear fusion plant. And regarding covering Tiger Woods, he had already lost the Masters, so he couldn�t have been going for the Grand Slam. She must have written it when she was drunk.

Ed Sawchuk: What would you have been listening to otherwise?

Male listener: Morning Edition.

John DeWitt: I was listening to Morning Edition this morning. They covered the stories you'd expect. The hosts had reporters in the field. Then comes TTA. The same stories were covered but without the depth, insight, or pathos. There is too much effort to sound like AM anchors. I don't see what the problem with Morning Edition was. Seems like a solution in search of a problem.

Male listener: In their online blog, In the Mix, they are excising negative comments. The numbers are then changed. They took out my comment about this.

Male listener: I think Mr. DeWitt's point was excellently articulated. I've been listening to the Bryant Park Project for a while. I thought TTA would be similar. I know it's new, and that shows grow into themselves. But it's frustrating that it's trying to be national when it could be New York-centric. It's falling short. The Bryant Park Project blog is very impressive. Mentions various pieces he liked. It frustrates me that I'm not getting my NY news.

Ed Sawchuk: How would you correct TTA?

Male listener: It needs to be beyond the 2 of them. We have Morning Edition. There should be a reason NY turns to it, a NY character and personality. I love the addition of more net content and hearing this content incorporated into the show...that's fantastic.

Male listener: There is no correcting TTA. It's horrible. It's not well thought out, the anchors are pretending to be my your friends, etc. NPR, PRI, the BBC have been a source of sanity. The [reporters and anchors] only speak to contribute knowledge or analysis. John Hockenberry and Adaori Udoji don't know any more than I do. They're just chatting. A thousand other stations do that. I think the station doesn't want to spend money. It's cheaper than buying quality programming and they can sell it nationally. John Hockenberry said he sees Howard Stern as a model in NY Magazine...this is very disturbing. Laura Walker said there are many intelligent people who are put off by the style of NPR. It's very worrying that she thinks the NPR audience isn't her audience. What else will she try? A New York centered show is fine, but not in the AM drive slot. Get rid of it.

Sallie Gouverneur: There's a major structural distinction between Morning Edition & TTA. There's a lot of density in Morning Edition. You expect a lot of information in a rich format. If you step away from the personality issue, there is this other issue.

Female listener: I find TTA annoying but I'm trying to keep an open mind. I think it's trying to be like Howard Stern but at a higher level. But it doesn't work for me. I don't want the chit chat, especially when [Adaora Udoji's] responses are "Oh, that's interesting."

IV: Review of CAB presentation to Board of Trustees, 2007 - Sallie Gouverneur Ed Sawchuk introduces Sallie Gouverneur.

Sallie Gouverneur: Part our mandate is to report to the Board of Trustees once a year. This is our way of giving information we've gained both by talking to the public as well as by holding our own activities.

A Powerpoint presentation follows, which covers the following topics:
Agenda: Combat Civic ADD
-Youth Outreach
-View from NJ
-Show reviews
-Recruiting update
-Feedback from public
-Overall recommendations

Sallie concludes by noting that this year's presentation will be essentially the same.

IVb: Educator Outreach Activities—Jenn Batterson

Female listener: Why reach out to a younger audience? What is the current demographic?

Jennifer Batterson: We were going off of listener comments.

Ed Sawchuk: Regarding the current demographics, Brenda and Noreen gave a presentation in September 2007. Much of the information is proprietary, but only a small percentage of young people are listeners. We're just trying to feel out where the station should go. If an area of potential listenership isn't being served, how can we serve them?

Jennifer Batterson: We geared the Youth Outreach Committee to see how to use the existing knowledge on WNYC to reach youth via educators. We had a panel discussion in April. We got fabulous feedback from the educators. JB reads out some sound bites from the public and panelists from the April meeting.

Ed Sawchuk: I don't think we have an answer re: how to attract an audience, when we want to maintain a public radio posture.

Gabrielle Schroeder: We're aging. Lots of people don't listen to radio at all.

Female listener: Young people probably listen to news radio less. If you're going to attract young people, you're going to have to change the programming. You can be a niche player. That niche is there for you.

Jennifer Batterson: Let me clarify. Yes, we realize that the station is not going to give up meaty content. So in regards to youth content, the intent is not to change the programming, but rather to work with what we have in different ways.

Ed Sawchuk: I'd like to shift focus. We're in fundraising drive now. Any thoughts?

Male listener: I used to live in Buffalo. Their drives went on forever. WNYC's are unintrusive by comparison. There seems to be a culture of pride around the fundraising. It's handled very well by the station.

Male listener: Brian Lehrer made a good point. This isn't charity. You're getting something in return. On TTA, the economist said there was no reason to give, and they didn't contradict this point.

III: CAB Recruitment—Basya Mandel

Basya Mandel: We are moving forward with recruitment. There are many strong candidates and we're in the process of setting up interviews. The people at Columbia are very interested in setting up outreach meetings with us. We're looking at what kind of organizations we could partner with in facilitating our meetings so that we have a built-in audience.

Jennifer Batterson: Who at Columbia?

Basya Mandel: Different groups. A specific one was the Committee on Science and Religion.

Ed Sawchuk: Regarding the outreach meetings, and how it came about. We welcome the development, that a school is welcoming us. Outreach meetings give us a different audience, with different input.

Gaye Leslie: I'm a senior citizen, and I've been listening since the '70's. I don't mind the fundraising. Up until 5 or 6 years ago, the fundraisers were more fun. They had competition amongst the programs. Each one had a goal, and it was very exciting.

Male listener: Ira Glass still does funny stuff. But the 2 for 1 matching grants are an insult to our intelligence. You know they're going to get the money whether they raise more or less.

Male listener: Re: the competitive fundraising, that's when they had volunteers, and before the internet. The whole culture of fundraising has changed. You call up and get some guy in Texas. They get things wrong. I understand why they can't do it any longer, but there is less urgency. Of course there�s also less obnoxiousness. There is no more intimidation or guilt trip any more.

John DeWitt: I have to assume that it's worth it, or they'd change it.

Ken Stewart: I hear a NJ station that does it the old way, and I find it captivating.

Female listener: I truly appreciate your efforts at outreach to collect listener opinion. Here are my comments:
-Since it�s a public airway, it's a precious resource. I would like less duplication & more choice. I feel abandoned Saturdays after 6PM. There is too much Prairie Home Companion & This American Life. Especially when it's on both stations.
-The survey has alerted me to 3 programs I'd never heard of. Ask them to let us know about other programs. I would like there to be a listener bulletin board on the air re: station programming, personnel changes, etc. Maybe on On The Media?
-When I'm in other parts of the country I hear all these other programs. Couldn't you carry some of them? For example jazz, Democracy Now?
-Many of the west coast programs all sound the same.

Male listener:
-I'd like to comment on the promo for the podcasts, where they talk about "real New Yorkers." I am registering distinct unappreciation. It's NYC provincialism, and it's sad to see WNYC embrace it.
-Regarding programming that appeals to youth: the music programming seems to be allergic to any specific genre. Everything has to be eclectic. If you want to get young people in, have an hour devoted to indie rock. 7 hours of Jonathan Schwartz? What is that about?

Sallie Gouverneur : We were told that he pulled in more from fundraising than anyone else.

Male listener: I like the show; I listen to it. I have nothing against seniors! But why not have World Cafe? It's a great program dedicated to rock & pop. To get youth, focus, no apologies: "Indie Rock."

Ken Stewart: Should we get someone from programming to address us as to how choices are made?

John DeWitt: I don't think we've heard how or why for TTA.

Gary Schulze: I've listened to it about 4x. I never thought I'd hear a show on WNYC that would drive me back to Imus in the morning.

Gabrielle Schroeder: It's hard for me to catch the show. I went to the [Takeaway] site and found it almost unusable. I don't enjoy hearing hosts' throat noises when they're trying to interrupt each other. I also found it jarring to go back & forth between TTA & Morning Edition.

Male listener: There are some benefits to an AM drive show. It's young. Check out NPR's Bryant Park Project to see how it can be done. It's not true that youth won't listen to radio. This American Life is the most downloaded show on iTunes.

Male listener: All public radio news shows sound the same. There is kind of a right way to do it. There's no need to dress it up. This American Life is genius. It wasn't geared toward a young audience...they just did what they envisioned. The way you get great shows is not by doing what commercial radio station do, i.e. design around a demographic. We need programs created with passion & integrity. TTA seems to have been created with a specific audience in mind.

Male listener: When TTA is on, Morning Edition is on the other station, right? Why can't people just switch?

People explain that not everyone gets both AM & FM.

There follows the beginning of a discussion about the upcoming election, which is quickly overtaken by the issue of whether the public should stay or go for this part of the meeting. The audience begins to leave, and the election issue is not taken up again.

Meeting is adjourned at 9:00 PM.