CAB MINUTES: SEPTEMBER 2018
COMMUNITY BOARD MEETING MINUTES
Tuesday, September 12, 2018 at The Greene Space in downtown New York City
GUEST: Laura Walker, President & CEO, New York Public Radio
- Presentation from Laura Walker
- Q&A with Laura Walker
- Public Comment
- Community Advisory Board business
PRESENTATION FROM Laura Walker:
- Laura began by thanking the CAB for its feedback this year and noted that the CAB will be providing an update to the Board of Trustees later this month. She continued by reflecting on the work of WNYC during 9/11. Her initial comments looked back on the FY 2018 programming highlight and reflected what was learned from the termination of Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz. She detailed actions taken by the station as a result.
- WNYC program highlights included: receiving the WEBBY award for WNYC’s mobile app Wired; the joining of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life to acquire Pocket Cast, the world’s most powerful podcast player. She also noted the following podcasts launchings: Trump Inc; the development of Caught by the newsroom and Radio Rookies; Radio Labs’ Gonads about reproduction; Late Night Whenever with Michelle Bateau; American Fiasco about the US soccer team meltdown; After Effects covering how America fails intellectually disabled individuals: Only Human, and the podcasts for kids, This Podcast Has Fleas and Pickle.
- Music highlights included New Sounds’ expansion to a 24/7 online destination and its combining with Q2 Music. Family Concerts, popular with people under 30 and over 55; Music in the Schools, Live Chamber Music broadcasts and broadcasts from Central Park.
- Gothamist highlights include the raising of money to buy many of the Gothamist Media properties including Chicagoist (which was sold to Chance the Rapper), DCist (sold to WAMU) and LAist (KPCC), with a total reach of 1.2-1.3 million people for these properties.
- Laura updated the CAB and attendees on the 9-Point Organizational Transformation Plan launched at NYPR. The development plan began with an October workplace culture study, which concluded that the staff were happy with their work but felt overworked. The staff requested that managers give better feedback and support.
- The NPR Values were displayed. Laura noted that the values were constructed from conversations with staff, Board Members and outsiders. These now seem to have taken hold. Laura noted “We need to act internally the way we sound on the air.”
- Proskauer Rose recommendations will be implemented by November. Highlights include an “Out of Bounds” policy, a bullying policy, the hiring of an Ombudsman, a “Whole Organization” Sexual Harassment Protocol, more documentation protocols, a reconsideration of how we get back to people who’ve made complaints, while also being more transparent, yet mindful, of privacy.
- The General Counsel’s Office is more deeply involved in HR actions. There have been new hires, a HR business partner and an employment engagement manager. MUPR implemented a 360 feedback and an annual survey to understand how people want to operate as a team and define more effective methods of communication and feedback.
- New Program highlights include: Launched this week, Allison Stewart’s Midday talk show All of It covering the art and culture of communities in NY/NJ. New Podcasts includes one with John Green (of the book The Fault in Our Stars) and Hank Green on Science/Math ; Sideshow podcast based on Gothamist; 10 Things that Scare Me, a mini podcast dealing with fear, sometimes serious and comedic.
- Other events highlighted included: Werk it Women’s Podcast Festival, taking place in Queens in mid November; The Greene Space events, including launch party celebrating “27: The Most Perfect Album” on September 24th and WQXR’s 2nd Annual Halloween Party. Laura encouraged everyone to VOTE in NY’s Primary (the next day).
Q & A with Laura Walker
- Many attendees were concerned about some NYPR sponsorships, especially that of Perdue Pharma, and they wanted more information on how sponsorship decisions are made. Grave concerns were expressed about WNYC becoming a vehicle for whitewashing. Laura noted that in consultation with NPR and other stations, a decision was made to discontinue the Perdue sponsorship. Ultimately it was decided that the perception of the sponsorship was not good. She further noted that communicating displeasure is much harder with NPR, and that NYPR may not always agree with NPR’s sponsorship decisions.
- CAB members requested that Laura share her perspective on WQXR’s new format. She noted that the staff have been asked to look at a diversity of voices and composers. WQXR will be using more digital resources, promoting more live events in The Greene Space and looking at YouTube, a place where people < 60 discover music.
- A CAB member asked how the two new acquisitions, Gothamist and Pocket Cast, were made possible and what role acquisition will play in the future of NYPR. Laura noted that NYPR were able to raise money from various sources to purchase Gothamist. The NYPR business model has a diversified revenue stream; it’s not just sponsorship. It includes membership and increasingly, other business development. NYPR is also experimenting
with asking for membership on podcasts. She noted the state of local news where the advertising source of revenue has changed to online promotion and many local newspapers have folded. NY Times, because of subscribers and its online audience, can put their resources towards international reporting and gain more subscribers. The environment is more challenging in NY. WNYC was the only local news outlet covering Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because it had reporters walking the beat, which is expensive. If no one is covering the beat on the City Council, we don’t know what to dive into because we don’t have the full picture. In terms of news coverage, we asked what role WNYC can fill, what can’t we fill, what can we be uniquely good at. Regarding the acquisitions, we acquired WQXR when we knew it was the only way for a classical music radio show to survive; Gothamist when we knew it was serving a real community need; and Pocket Cast for strategic reasons.
- An attendee press reporter asked to have WNYC provide information on the gap between median and CEO pay. Wall Street is held accountable for that number so wanted to know if WNYC was willing to provide that information. Barbara Gerolimatos, Chair, responded that the CAB has no input on NYPR policy. Attendee wanted to hear more about staff compensation, especially as members, some of whom are struggling, are being asked to support the station. The Chair took notes and restated that these comments would be sent to NYPR for follow-up.
- Concern was expressed about Koch brothers’ sponsorship of NPR’s Marketplace, and two podcasts, Note to Self and another. Laura responded that NYPR thinks long and hard about these choices. Some decisions are difficult, balancing opportunity offered by funding, i.e., funding for scholarships, more investigative reporting, etc. with lack of funding.
- One attendee asked how much Hockenberry’s revealers were paid and how much went to the “whitewash law firm” from listener funds. There should be more transparency on how funds are spent. Laura noted that the revealers were not paid, and the Gothamist acquisition money was raised completely from “other” sources, while funds to launch Gothamist are being spent transparently. A financial report on NYPR spending on programming, etc. is available on Forms 990, which can be found on the NYPR website or through Guide Star.
- John Bacon, Former CAB member, complimented WNYC for broadcasting the Attorney General debate.
- A request for more programming on housing and development in New York (given the destruction of landmarks, historic buildings and housing). In response, Laura noted that when we had newspapers, we more easily could pick and choose what we covered. Now we have a responsibility to cover housing more, but we need additional resources to cover it. A decision was made to put four reporters on immigration, shrinking other coverage. Laura noted that a former Landmarks Commissioner lamented that that lack of local coverage made his job harder as it’s hard to have informed debates because people don’t know about the issues. She noted that the newsroom, counting Gothamist, now numbers about 80 people, although not all reporters.
COMMUNITY BOARD BUSINESS:
- Chair Barbara Gerolimatos asked the Community Outreach, By Laws and Communications Committees for updates; she also noted the challenges of meeting in The Greene Space re its limited availability and possibility of meeting date changes.
- Feedback on the summer survey was discussed. Grace Clarke noted Jake Wojnas’s comment re conducting a CAB self-assessment to clarify how to best work together with the station and with community outreach.
- Nancy Walcott requested clarification on the meaning of a “Community Panel.” All CAB members were asked to note their top two priority topics for consideration as a panel discussion for future CAB meetings.
NEXT MEETING DETAILS:
Tuesday, October 10, 2018
Meeting: 6:30 PM, The Greene Space, 44 Charlton Street, New York (Google map)
Guest: Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung, Co- Founders of Gothamist.
CAB MEMBERS (ALPHABETICAL)
Jane Tillman Irving
Kathryn Tornelli, Vice-chair
Michaela Balderston (excused)
Samantha "Sam" Pedreiro (excused)
italics = not present