September 2019 Minutes


NYPR Community Advisory Board

CAB Meeting #1 2019-2020 Season

Monday, September 23, 2019 | The Greene Space at 44 Charlton St, New York, NY 10014


Guest: Depelsha McGruder, Interim Chief Executive Officer


  • Conversation and Q&A with Depelsha McGruder
  • Public Comment
  • Introduction of new CAB member, David Lowenstein
  • Community Advisor Board Business

- Conversation with Depelsha McGruder

Depelsha began by sharing a PowerPoint presentation that outlined New York Public Radio’s [NYPR] prior year successes, awards, and other noteworthy achievements. From there, she presented NYPR’s FY20 outlook, summarizing the station’s programing agenda over the next year. This includes new programming/content launches across radio and WNYC’s podcast network, such as the Open Ears Project (a WQXR’s classical music immersion initiative). She emphasized relaunches and renewals of popular programs, such as Werk It, We The Commuters, and Trump Inc (a clip of Trump Inc was played for the audience). She then discussed the arrival of the new CEO, and the challenges facing the station with the installation of new senior leadership, many with fewer than three years of experience with NYPR. She reiterated the station’s continued efforts to improve internal culture, seeking to make NYPR a ‘first-choice place to work’. She summarized NYPR’s values, which encourage and embrace diverse voices, equity, trustworthiness, accountability, trust, and collaboration and restated the station’s commitment to maintaining transparency and empowering open communication within the workplace.

Depelsha went on to discuss NYPR’s strength in the marketplace, sharing what the station views as its core competencies:

  • Audience & Community – focus on audience growth, expansion, engagement & impact
  • Sustainability – responsible revenue growth through membership, sponsorship, and development
  • Operations – improve how the radio operates/communicates/conducts its business
  • Culture – ensure that the station remains grounded to its core values via training, career development, and comprehensive employee evaluations

 - Q&A with Depelsha

Q: With regards to revenue streams: what does ‘development’ mean? A: Development is fundraising intended to attract wealthy donors and large foundations.

Q: Local news programming over the weekend is too short, and oftentimes revisits stories broadcast earlier in the week; I would like to hear new local news stories over the weekend. A: Feedback appreciated. The station is currently looking over the entire local news strategy.

Q: Could you discuss the audience engagement strategy, and perhaps how the CAB might help with the station’s audience reach goals? A: As we define our audience engagement strategies, we'll certainly look to engage the CAB. In the meantime, it's encouraged that the CAB shares NYPR content when feasible.

Q: Do you have insight as to why the listenership is at an all-time high? And are there any plans to build out non-fiction storytelling? Is there anything in the works to leverage the station’s strengths in that area? A: Much of the audience's growth was driven by Black & Hispanic audiences. The station has had success with marketing campaigns intended to reach those audiences. With regards to the second question: we have non-fiction content coming down the pipeline and we will share more details soon.

Q: Curious about the meaning of ‘public’ in public radio? If the public owns the radio, then the public should have control over the editorial content, but it currently feels like an arm's length relationship, and I personally wish to see more cases of judicial fraud covered by the station (examples are provided). Are you planning to build a mechanism where listeners can recommend stories and the public can vote/recommend those stories to editors? A: We do have listener services, and there is a mechanism to send your feedback directly to the station, however the ‘public’ in public radio doesn't mean that the public owns the material; it means the public has access to the content for free.

Q: Most of the pollical-oriented stories tend to focus on liberal/left-wing issues; why aren't more stories focused on conservative issues, or showcase more conservative viewpoints? A: The station strives to present diversity in its perspective of current political issues.

Q: Can you provide ball-park figures for revenue derived by the three sources of revenue you mentioned earlier? A: Not certain on the actual percentages, but membership accounts for roughly 40~50%, sponsorship accounts for 20~30%, and the balance is derived from development funding.

Q: How do you cater to younger listeners, such as millennials, or younger generations? A: Our community engagement efforts include initiatives that focus on children, teens, etc. We could be more intentional about how we program to those demographics. We continue to think about ‘when’ and ‘how’ we engage with them.

Q [follow-up]: There's an opportunity to use WNYC to inform the community about the city, and more broadly, the world. With more platforms it would be easier to reach the younger audiences. Could we use the station's resources to reach younger audiences that way? A: Agreed. For example, WNYC's vast library is a great opportunity to go into schools and share content that's already been created.

Q: When you defined what public means, you mentioned 'freely available programming'. I'm concerned about advertising across smart speakers, and a lot of stations are mentioning, on air, to “ask your smart speaker” to deliver NYPR’s services, and that is not free. Is open, over-the-air broadcasting going to continue unabated in the future, or will smart speakers encroach on the free distribution over the airways? And how much of the station’s budget is underwritten by manufacturers of smart speakers? A: We think it's critically important to have local news, and being able to distinguish between national vs. local is vital. We want to maintain editorial control over our content, but we need to address the growing market for smart speakers.

Q [follow-up]: Are there licensing arrangements between the smart speaker companies and the radio station? A: Yes, there are agreements.

Q: In that vein, are there automated voices we're hearing over the radio? A: Unsure, but I don’t believe so.

Q: Are you thinking of building community applications that invite the community to share ideas with the station directly? A: Yes, we're aggregating a lot of resources/technologies to bring the community closer to the station.

Q: About community engagement: I listen to a lot of radio, and I hear these stories, but I never hear what happened to the subjects in these stories afterward; is there a place, or plans to develop a space, where we can find out what happened to the people/places you’re covering? A: Nothing currently exists to service that request, but noted.

End of Q&A. 

- CAB Business

Meeting summary from previous CAB Strategy Session (9/17/19) approved, unanimously.

Nancy Walcott began by introducing the newest member to the CAB, David Lowenstein. David is a small business owner who owns a sandwich shop in Midtown East (Manhattan). He lives in Midtown East as well. David is an avid WNYC listener.

Nancy then reviewed the action items from the CAB strategy session held the week prior. The CAB continued to discuss its role in the coming year, debating how to sustain, and nurture, the CAB’s relationships with the community and station. Outreach, engagement, and governance strategies were discussed, and it was ultimately decided that a small team be created to manage the CAB’s social media accounts to help serve the CAB’s larger engagement/outreach strategies. Deborah Ruffins, Stan Ince, and Marlene Birnbaum will take the next steps in outlining the CAB’s social media & audience engagement strategy. They will also outline public moderation guidelines. Other audience engagement strategies were offered, such as hosting local meetings/focus groups in each CAB member’s respective neighborhood or partnering with local libraries to host listening events. It was suggested that the CAB create business cards that can be shared with the public. The cards would list the CAB’s contact information and where to send comment. Emily Hacker volunteered to investigate the feasibility of having cards made for the CAB.

It was noted that the CAB should continue to impart its diverse experience into the regular feedback to the station. As the CAB continues to define its core roles and responsibilities, it would like to better understand the station’s overall audience (echoing similar sentiments expressed by Depelsha earlier in the evening). For example, the station is committed to expanding its footprint in Queens and Brooklyn, but it’s unclear to the CAB how the radio measures audience demographics and reach (e.g. how does the radio know it’s successful in its audience development goals?). The CAB will continue to press the station for more demographic data to better gauge the efficacy of the CAB’s audience engagement strategies.

Team communication was also discussed, and various tools and procedures were offered to help keep track of ongoing team feedback/communication. Nancy will continue to look in to having the public CAB meetings recorded for wider distribution online.

CAB leadership would like to review the CAB’s mission with the Board of Trustees, and it was suggested that the CAB conduct a board survey. The survey will consider questions such as: What does the Board think of the CAB’s performance? What does the Board think the CAB’s goals should be? How does the Board want to hear about the CAB’s activities? The survey will need to be contextualized to help guide the Board through the proposed questions since this is the first time the CAB has proposed seeking this type of council from the Board of Trustees.

The meeting closed discussing potential topics for upcoming panel discussions. Ideas ranging from climate change to elections were discussed, but no topics were settled on.


CAB Members

Alex Hu

Grace Clarke - excused

Marie Nachsin

Barbara Gerolimatos - excused

Jacob Wojnas, Vice-chair

Marlene Birnbaum

Carole Chervin

Jane Tillman Irving

Michael Brown

Curry Sloan - excused

Julia Fields

Nancy Walcott

David Lowenstein

Kathryn Tornelli, Vice-chair - excused

Sindjua Sriviasan - excused

Deborah Ruffins

Lauren Filler

Stan Ince

Donna Blank - excused

Lisa Nearier

Valerie Dent

Emily Hacker

Liz Buffa


Erica Johnson, Vice-chair - excused

Maggie Stapleton



  • 25 members of the public were present
  • Mary White, BOT Liaison