Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why KPLU Must be Saved and KUOW Reformed

There are two local public radio stations in the Seattle area with similar numbers of listeners.

One is lean, well-managed, financially healthy, and beloved:  KPLU, owned by Pacific Lutheran University (PLU).  Its programming is essentially a split between news/local programming and jazz.

The other station is fat, has greatly reduced its local programming, and seems to think it is a commercial radio station:  KUOW, owned by he University of Washington (UW).

The problem?

This week we learned of a secretly constructed deal in which KUOW, using surplus pledge money and loans from the UW, will purchase KPLU, destroying a valued local radio station and its independent news operation.

This blog will describe why this deal is not in the best interests of our region, how KUOW is poorly serving its listeners, and why it is not too late to stop this ill-conceived agreement.  It is a story of poorly informed university administrators, of hiding a controversial deal from the public, of a radio station gone corporate and inappropriately using its pledge funds (KUOW), and of a region where the depth of news coverage is rapidly declining.  My perspective on the sale is perhaps different than some, having been involved with both radio stations.

The Secret Deal

Without revealing the prior negotiations to the public, PLU has agreed to sell KPLU to the University of Washington's KUOW for 8 millions dollars: 7 million in cash and 1 million in underwriting announcements.   KPLU will no longer exist, with its news operation being terminated and the jazz part retained in a future KUOW jazz outlet.  KPLU staff will lose their jobs, although they will have the privilege of applying for jobs at KUOW (no guarantees).  Of the 7 million dollars, 4.5 million will come from KUOW's "reserve"--which means the cash they have piled up from pledge drives.  The rest will be derived from a loan from the UW.

Importantly, although there is an agreement between PLU and the UW, no legally binding document has been signed, which means this can be turned around if local public radio listeners act now (more later).

It is extraordinary that this deal, regarding a very popular local PUBLIC radio station, was done in complete secrecy, and even more amazing that a state university felt the need for such a clandestine approach.  Clearly, both sides were worried about the firestorm that would occur if the truth came out before the deal was struck.   And no attempt was made to allow KPLU to raise money to save itself, which could well have been done.

The Decline of Regional News Coverage

But before we analyze the effects of this deal, it is important to understand some important context:  the weakening of regional news and programming in western Washington, and why this deal will make it worse.

One fact is clear:  the depth of media coverage of local (Northwest) issues has been radically reduced over the past ten years.

(1) The Seattle PI, once a print outlet with a very large news staff, has been reduced to an online outlet with a handful of news folks (but fortunately including the redoubtable Joel Connelly).   Its online pages are full of unfortunate innovations such as "sponsored news", celebrity gossip, and pictures of nubile young women in various stages of disrobing (see examples of the first two below, the third is too risque for this blog).

 Let us say the PI is a shadow of  what it used to be.

(2)  Virtually all of the local commercial TV stations have greatly reduced their local news staff and have lessened staff pay at the same time.  Far less depth in covering major local issues.  Lots of coverage of fires and bad weather.  I do like the weather coverage.

(3)  KUOW radically cut its local programming, down to essentially one hour a day.  It does maintain some local staff that creates short segments that are interspersed in All Things Considered and Morning Edition.  

(4)  KCTS TV (Seattle's Public TV) fired virtually all of its local production staff, with its airtime now filled with Masterpiece Theater reruns and infomercials for investment advice and quack health programs.

(5)  The Seattle Times greatly reduced its news staff (by about 1/3) during its financial crisis back in 2008/2009.  We are talking about the loss of roughly 30-50 people in the newsroom.

(6)  There is some local news coverage from local weekly print and online outlets, such as the Weekly, the Stranger, and Crosscut.  Although they contribute significant stories at times, their staffs are small, generally quite young, and lack long-term experience with the region.  They are not a replacement for the losses noted above.

So here we are living in one of the most vibrant and important metropolitan areas in the country, if not the world.  The home of Microsoft, Amazon, the UW, Boeing, Costco, and so much more.  And local news coverage and local programming programming has declined precipitously over the past decade.

Amazingly, in this environment, leaders at Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington have decided to kill the valued, substantial, and award-winning news operation of KPLU.   

Want to read about KPLU's news awards?  check this out.

To show you how poorly PLU leaders understand the impact of their actions, PLU spokeswoman Donna Gibbs noted that the loss of KPLU news is not significant since the Seattle-PI is now a "vibrant online destination." Perhaps she thinks celeb interviews and half-undressed young woman is the kind of "vibrant" material that can replace the experienced journalists she is firing.  PLU management seem unaware of the great contributions KPLU journalists have made in our area.

Public  Reaction

In a single phrase: highly negative.   There have been about 6-10 major news stories on the sale.  Virtually all of the stories are critical.  Virtually all the online comments associated with these articles  are critical of the sale.  Go to the facebook pages of BOTH KPLU and KUOW: essentially all the comments are highly negative.

KPLU listeners feel they have been stabbed in the back.   KUOW listeners are stunned that KUOW has been banking their pledges while pleading poverty.  Faculty at the UW, as noted on the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) listserv, were disappointed that the UW administration did not reveal this was in the works.

Why is Pacific Lutheran University Selling KPLU?

The vision statement of PLU is:
As a university of the first rank, Pacific Lutheran University seeks to maximize the achievement of its mission and become an internationally renowned model of the New American University, purposefully integrating the liberal arts, professional studies, and civic engagement.

You noticed the civic engagement part? In few ways was PLU better engaging the community then through KPLU. So WHY are they selling?

Before the sale, this is what PLU President was saying (see Joel Connelly's article in the PI for more)

“Year-round, KPLU demonstrates its commitment to providing compelling, informative and entertaining content, mentoring students, strengthening its connection to the community, and furthering the mission of KPLU.  I’m excited to see what’s ins tore between KPLU and the rest of PLU in 2015.”

“Especially noteworthy was KPLU News’ extensive coverage of events such as the Skagit River bridge collapse, the Oso mudslide, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting and the 2014 election. KPLU produced special series on salmon recovery and students learning about careers from people experienced in their fields.In addition to on-air, KPLU utilized digital platforms to tell these stories.
“Speaking of students, KPLU utilizes the talents of PLU students year-round. In 2014, PLU Medialab conducted a research project to help inform KPLU’s marketing efforts, and this year KPLU will debut a news internship program for students.”

And why is he changing his tune now?

PLU claims to be in good financial shape but was it actually desperate for KUOW cash?  The PLU President claimed hat they had to sell now because the "value" of KPLU was declining since radio was getting less popular.  A strange argument for a robust station that was serving the needs of roughly 300,000 listeners a week.  One that easily was able to support itself with short pledge drives.  Was is because PLU would gain a relatively new building, built for KPLU with substantial contributions from the community?   Or the fact that pledges from all sustaining KPLU members WILL NOW GO TO PLU instead.  This seems unethical at best.

Disfunction at KUOW

One might be willing to consider this sale if KUOW had a good track record in providing good local coverage or was dedicated to informing the region about important issues.  If it had a history of honesty and interest in listener needs.  Unfortunately, it does not.  One would also feel better about the deal if KUOW was committed to greatly increasing its local news and regional programming and in the process hiring most of the KPLU news staff.  But it is clear that they have no such intention.

Consider what has been happening at KUOW the past few years.

(1) KUOW has reduced local programming from 5 hours to one hour (including ending Steve Scher's popular morning show, Weekday).

(2) KUOW has eliminated long-form programming where issues could be dealt with in depth.  Program director Jeff Hansen believes that folks only will listen to short segments (no longer than 5 minutes), which is not a little insulting to the highly educated KUOW audience.  He told me this in person and is widely quoted expressing this opinion.

(3) KUOW has filled its schedule with repetitious syndicated material (like The Takeaway)

(4) KUOW has extended the pledge break periods to several weeks, in contrast to KPLU that keeps them short (one week or less).

(5)  KUOW has gone corporate, with often multiple advertisements per show.

 "This program is sponsored by John's Auto Repair, which specializes in Mercedes, BMW, and Audi vehicles, and which is having a special this month for tune ups.  Get more information at or call 206 718-3829".

Or they use commercial approaches like:  the next program can only be found on KUOW.    And they constantly advertise upcoming segments to keep folks tuned in.

KUOW claims to be non-commercial radio. LOL.

(6)  KUOW pleads poverty while banking a surplus of 1-2 million dollars per year.  Check out their annual statement (buried on their web page).  Here are some of the numbers I found.  The 2014 surplus was 1.15 million dollars

At the very least, they are being deceptive with their listeners.  And using this secret stash of funds to buy out the competition is SURELY not why KUOW contributors were given their hard-earned cash. Imagine if this money was used instead to improve and expand KUOW's local news coverage?  Or improve the salaries of underpaid KUOW staff?

(7)  KUOW, the radio station of the University of Washington, has nearly NO UW content.  Where are rebroadcasts of the wonderful public lectures, interviews with top UW faculty, and tapping of the intellectual powerhouse next store?  You won't find it at KUOW, the UW's radio station.

Listeners are very unhappy with the changes at KUOW, but KUOW management simply doesn't care.  If you want to see proof of that, explore the comments on the KUOW facebook page.  Here are a few examples.  There are dozens and dozens more like these.

I used to listen to npr nonstop many years, but the last year or two has been really lacking in programming. It sounds like all of your content is geared towards facebook soundbites and less discussion based programs. Because of this, I have not switched my radio on in at least a year. You guys can fix this. Bring back the call ins, create more shows and stop repeating everything every few hours. There are a ton of podcasts in the PNW, start looking there.

I love KUOW, I really do. Have been almost a daily listener for over a decade. even when I lived in another state for 3 years. But the obliteration of the weekday schedule has been devastating. Here & Now and The Takeaway are indistinguishable, and so bland. I have tried to listen to them for a year now i think, and they just get worse. So, so bland & just not a substitute for what KUOW used to do in terms of local original programming. I still can't picture a KUOW listener thinking "man I really wish they would get rid of all this in-depth conversation & investigation & swap in 3 or 4 hours of cutesy little tidbits of random stuff." I think that all of your listeners would rejoice if you cancelled the 2 shows I mention above and bring back local, actual conversations a la Weekday & The Conversation. The only thing still worth listening to is the only hour left of an actual hour of conversation- the Week In Review.

Two years ago I was kicked off of KUOW for defending the UW's admission policy on air during the weather segment (startling, but true).  There were massive numbers of calls in protest and 4,000 folks signed a petition for me to return.  KUOW management did not care.  The same kind attitude pervades that station today.

Having been at KPLU for a few years, I was struck by the different atmosphere at that station.  Humble, interested in responding to listener comments, careful with money,  and very nice people.  In contrast, KUOW management thinks they know better and really don't care about listeners preferences and interests.

The funny thing is the KUOW is doing exactly the WRONG THING to have a future.  They have filled their airtime with syndicated shows and NPR feeds, but such material can be gotten over the web.  Folks don't need KUOW to listen to All Things Considered anymore and soon they will realize this and take control of their own content.  KUOW will fail.  

The only thing that will attract folks to KUOW will be local content, but that is exactly what they have gotten rid of.  Poor planning at best.

KPLU purchase or not, KUOW needs serious reforming.  It is time for UW management include VP Norm Arkans and President Ana Mari Cauce to deal with their errant radio station.

A Bad Deal for Local Public Radio Listeners

The proposed deal will destroy a very popular local radio station.  It will end a desperately needed local news organization.  It will give KUOW a public radio monopoly in Seattle, a monopoly it probably will abuse, if its previous track record holds.

The deal needs to be stopped.  If PLU wants to get out of the public radio business, give KPLU a chance to find another buyer, such as self-financing. Selling KPLU to KUOW is like putting a lamb in the care of a can imagine how that will turn out.

And imagine if KUOW used its big surplus to improve and expand local programming instead of eliminating other stations that are doing much more with less.

What Can Be Done

This secret deal can be undone if public radio listeners, PLU alumni, UW alumni, and other interested parties act now.

First, email Donna Gibbs (PLU Vice President for Communication and Marketing) or PLU President Thomas Krise. Their emails:

Donna Gibbs:

Tomas Krise:

Seocnd, email UW Communications Vice President Norm Arkans, KUOW head
Caryn Mathes, and the Chair of UW Board of Regents

Norm Arkans:


Caryn Mathes does not reveal her email ( expected at KUOW!). So use the programming email:

Third . Leave comments on the KUOW and KPLU facebook pages opposing this sale.

Fourth.  Let KUOW know that if the sale goes through, you will stop your donations to that radio station.  If they have piles of cash for buying out the opposition, they clearly don't need your pledge funds for operations.

Tomorrow (Monday, November 23), there will be a public meeting organized by KPLU at 2 PM at the Pike Room at the downtown Westin Hotel.  Make your feelings know.

KUOW's management has so much surplus pledge fund cash 
they can remove their competition by a buy out


C.P.O. said...

Great work, this is important, thanks for getting the word out.

DonB said...

Thanks Cliff. Your insights gained by being involved with both stations over the years is much appreciated. Also thank you for the contact list you provided. I got some of that information from KPLU already but you have provided what appears to be the complete list. Time to start making some noise.

Mary Sorman said...

I had no idea of the severity of the issue...thanks Cliff

Alice Eastwood said...

Thank you for laying it all out in a thorough but concise manner. I will pass the details along to my circle of friends and colleagues. We are all bereft contemplating losing KPLU. It is a treasure and must be preserved.

Unknown said...

Thanks Cliff for the expose. Your diligent work in providing us all with this information is greatly appreciated by all of us I am sure.
Carl Mastberg

Unknown said...

Thanks Cliff for the expose. Your diligent work in providing us all with this information is greatly appreciated by all of us I am sure.
Carl Mastberg

Carl Mastberg said...

Cliff , thank you for assembling this information.
We all join together to keep our station and how it represents it's listeners.

William Griswold said...

Excellent information and enlightening viewpoint. I hope you are right and we can stop this deal. Thank you.

Bill said...

Thank you Cliff; it seems to me the best course of action to stop the sale of KPLU is a written letter to the FCC stating the reasons why the sale is not in the best interest of the public. Next maybe contact PLU with a similar letter.

Regarding contacting PLU directly, is Donna Gibbs a spokesperson for KPLU (station) or PLU (university)? The blog stated the following: "... KPLU spokeswoman Donna Gibbs...".

Unknown said...

What does KUOWs demographics look like? I get the feeling they're coasting by on people who grew up listening to them 20+ years ago and now just routinely tithe out of habit...

Nick Miller said...

Thank you for this, Cliff. While perusing the NPR website I learned that Caryn Mathes sits on their Board of Directors. Ah, what a surprise she would then want to increase NPR programming...

Unknown said...

About two years ago I heard an announcement on KUOW that one of their board meetings was coming up and open to the public. Since I was involved with trying to get UW Bothell's student-run LPFM station off the ground (which has been stymied by the UWB administration -- but that's another story for another day), I decided to call them up and register as an attendee to see how a "real" radio station was managed. They were very interested in why I was attending, as if I had some ulterior motive. I didn't have any, but that meeting was very illuminating.

The bulk of the meeting was about their programming changes. Essentially, they had hired a consultant to boost their ratings. The consultant basically came back saying you can't increase the time spent listening per occurrence, but you can increase the number of listening occurrences. Thus, KUOW went on to overhaul their programming according to this "wisdom." No longer did you have long-form reporting -- you couldn't keep people listening with that. Now you had "magazine-style" programs with short segments that approximately matched the average listening time. To encourage people to listen more, they would tease segments coming up later.

It's unclear what affect this had on their ratings. Graphing their 6+ share since about 2009, it looks like their ratings are more volatile since the change, but it's unclear if that means anything. (As a side note, the whole methodology of ratings in markets like Seattle might be suspect. Ratings are based on inaudible codes that are embedded in radio stations' audio that are picked up by pager-like devices worn by panelists. There is reason to believe certain genres encode better than others. A company has released a box called the Voltair which supposedly enhances the "encodability" of audio, and several stations have deployed this box in their air chain and seen dramatic ratings increases that cannot be otherwise explained.)

A bigger question is why, as a non-profit station, do they care about their ratings? Sure, you can treat ratings as a proxy for how well they're serving their listeners, but there are plenty of other ways to gauge that. I got the impression that they were doing this to increase their underwriting revenue, and potentially at the expense of serving their listeners.

Upupaepops said...

Typically I only listen to the two stations on the weekend when I am in my car. It may be my car radio but the range of KPLU is more extensive and better quality than KUOW. KUOW signal is poor for me and I hate to think what will happen if this goes through

There is a small NPR / independent/ public associated station I pick up north of Everett and they may certainly find their listener count rising if this deal goes through. Good for them.

And yes KCTS has turned in to an infomercial station

Robert Sutton said...

This is an unfortunate trend in Seattle area "community" or "student" run radio stations for decades.

KCMU (now KEXP) is essentially run as a commercial station. KUOW likewise.
Heck NPR in general, the "liberal alternative" to commercial radio, is effectively commercial, with less variety than it ever had (the same programs and same well paid hosts never changing).

Bethanthemum said...

Thanks for your insight. As a PLU alumni I received notice about the sale, but I wasn't sure what to think about it.

Eric said...

I like KPLU, but if PLU wants to sell off KPLU, why didn't they consider WSU? I'd rather hear NWPR on 88.5 and have an alternative to the dross that radiates at 94.90 MHz.

John E Vidale said...

By my quick check, an $8M sale would add 10% to the $80M PLU endowment. Perhaps PLU is aiming to give out more scholarships, rather than supporting a radio station. This discussion is curiously bereft of mention of the primary factor in this sale, why PLU has decided to sell the station.

What will be the effect on PLU if the sale of the station is blocked because the public tries to force them via the FCC to stay in the entertainment business, and they do not gain the $8M?

Westside guy said...

I used to listen to KUOW for hours, every week. I used to support them financially as well. But as they first remade, then dismantled, Weekday, I found myself listening less and less - and decided "why support a station that doesn't meet my needs?"

The only program I listen to even I frequently is "The Swing Years" (which is great, but I don't think about it a lot si ce otherwise I'm not tuned in).

For NPR shows, I subscribe to the podcasts. I give money directly to the stations that produce those shows. Really, local programming is the ONLY reason I'd listen to KUOW - and that's exactly what they've chosen not to offer!

An interesting aside - back when I paid more attention, on those occasions when a local story made the national scene, NPR seemed to include KPLU reporting far more often than anything KUOW produced.

Greg Stumph said...

The only winner in this deal is KBCS.

Art Spooner said...

I found another email contact for KUOW Head Caryn Mathes:

Let's keep the emails flowing!

BCMaC said...

Great work Cliff Mass!! Thank you for this, because you have brought to light what many former KUOW listeners must have surely sensed: That KUOW is off the rails. I particularly like your point about the lack of coverage of the goings on within the UW itself.

As a former KUOW supporter, I am beyond offended that their management would think it okay amass such a needlessly large cash pile. KUOW clearly lied to its listeners and supporters, abused their trust, and undermined the public radio business model. They, as well as the folks in the know at PLU, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

KPLU is far and away the superior station. I will certainly do everything I can to stop the sale to KUOW, and hopefully the other 299,999 KPLU listeners will do the same.

Janine Blaeloch said...

It's a good thing you posted the info about today's meeting at the Westin at 2 p.m., Cliff. KPLU's website has an announcement, but no details. It sends you to a phone number that goes to voice mail and offers no information. Nor do they have anything posted on their FB page.

Ellen Falconer, LMP said...

Thanks Cliff. We depend on you!!!

Mark Orth said...

Thanks so much for this blog post Cliff. It compels me to action! This deal must be stopped! @guitarorth

et0hman said...

I stopped contributing to KUOW when they punted you off. I thought it was out of line for them to do so, and let them know that. I have refused to contribute to them. I listen to the shows that I want via Podcast.

I will add my voice to stop this sale. It is NOT in the public interest to sell out to KUOW.

Zorro91 said...

This is important reporting, but the real issue in local public radio access is missing from the article: the incomprehensible dominance of A Prairie Home Companion. Are there people who like this program? Do they have ears? Brains? Please, KUOW: Sunday is primo public radio time, and most of the day the broadcast is filled with a saccharine midwestern monologue affecting a Leave it to Beaver mid-century Americana that was a caricature 60 years ago and is almost offensively narrow in its portrayal of cultural norms now. Take the money you spend on syndication fees for this unlistenable schmaltz and spend it on some local reporting.

Bob Hallahan said...

Email sent! thanks for the level of detail and for your willingness to take a stand.

Greydon Clark said...

Perhaps making Seattle a one NPR station town isn’t for good for the community, but your characterization of KUOW's reserve fund and its use are bogus. All well run nonprofits should have or be working to build a reserve that can be used to sustain the organization in a time of deficit or take advantage of opportunities to advance the organization’s mission. Feel free to disagree with the board’s decision on how it is using the reserve, but the scare quotes, implying it was built through malfeasance, and the Pinocchio image are gratuitous.

Michael Faoro said...

First and foremost, KUOW needs to use their surplus to buy stronger transmitters. Their signal is very hard to get starting in Bellevue and getting worse as you travel down I-90.

Very well said Mr. Mass.

Andrea Ptak said...

Thanks Cliff. I had already stopped contribution g to KCTS because of their dumping of local producers and programming (I donate direct to The Corporation for Public Broadcasting instead). I had been considering discontinuing donations to KUOW for all of the reasons you've noted above—especially the cancellation of Steve Sher's Weekday, I have stopped listening except All Things Considered and when I am in the car (not often). People can contribute directly to NPR.

Thanks also for all of the contact info. I will make my voice heard.

Fleetwood said...

Good job Cliff. Hopefully we can save KPLU

Robin Daly said...

Thank you for the this article that describes very clearly the multitudinous reasons why the purchase of KPLU by KUOW is so bad for our region.
I appreciate your message that it's not too late, I was thinking otherwise. I have sent my communications to the FCC, PLU, UW and KUOW. Thanks for providing all the emails, that was very helpful.
In recent months I had already migrated a lot of my listening over to KPLU, because I appreciate the localized coverage - and if it wasn't for Bill Radke in the mornings on KUOW... oh, wait, he's not been on in the mornings lately...

Kal said...

Please read this carefully and act on some of Prof. Mass's suggestions!

Beth A Johnson said...

Thank you Cliff.

I too miss the great local coverage KUOW used to have. I miss Weekday, and really had hoped that bringing Bill Radke back would lead to more, instead of less original programing.

If KUOW had really great local news programs and coverage, I probably would have little problem with this. But the fact is that KPLU has been kicking their behind at this for a few years now. And this is simply a move to eliminate the competition.

The Helpdesk said...

Cliff, you might also want to mention that KPLU is also an primary and secondary EAN for EAS (the Emergency Alert System) for the Puget sound region. The EAS system is relayed to all other broadcast stations from the Primary and secondary. These items usually get the attention of the FCC. Just saying.

Currently, I do not believe that anything is changing except the programming and the call letters. KUOW programs will be on all the broadcast towers except for the Main Tacoma branch. That will have Jazz 24 hours a day.


Cliff Mass said...

Greydon Clark,
I can understand have a modest pool of money for a rainy day...but KUOW has extraordinary reserves and adding to it at 1-2 million dollars per year. And worse than that, they want to use their stash not for improving their programming, but to buy out a competitor...cliff

Donna said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I am so appalled by this sale. I used to listen to KUOW and loved your program as well as Weekday. I left KUOW when you left and went to KPLU. I have zero faith that KUOW will manage KPLU well. I have contacted the FCC and commented on facebook pages. I still need to email folks, which will be next. Hopefully we can stop this!!!!

Bill said...

Zorro91: I agree with you about A Prairie Home Companion; that program and maybe one other would make me turn off the radio and play my jazz CD's instead. I would like to see public radio stations be more frugal and selective with OUR money they spend on syndication fees.

Nancy Beadie said...

One issue that has not been mentioned yet is how short-sighted this may be from PLU's perspective. Who in Seattle would be aware of PLU without their radio station? And what a positive, dynamic image it conveys of a place we might otherwise expect to be stodgy.

No doubt they are doing it for the money, but the cost may be higher than the return.

Regarding KUOW, over the last 4 or 5 years I have gone from being puzzled to miffed to disappointed to angry. And now I feel like I HATE KUOW.

Their moniker should be "destroying public radio in the Pacific Northwest"

Nancy Beadie said...

One issue that has not been mentioned yet is how short-sighted this may be from PLU's perspective. Who in Seattle would be aware of PLU without their radio station? And what a positive, dynamic image it conveys of a place we might otherwise expect to be stodgy.

No doubt they are doing it for the money, but the cost may be higher than the return.

Regarding KUOW, over the last 4 or 5 years I have gone from being puzzled to miffed to disappointed to angry. And now I feel like I HATE KUOW.

Their moniker should be "destroying public radio in the Pacific Northwest"

Tracy Elliott said...

I really miss KUOW. I am glad Steve Scher is doing podcasts. The station used to be so amazing. I can't believe what has been done to it and now it is hours of repetition with almost no local content. The Stranger's Blabbermouth podcast is the closest I've come to a replacement, but it is only once a week. Thanks for advocating for KPLU.

bugjah said...

Wait- so am I missing something or is "Sound Effect" (a one hour show on Saturday) the *only* locally produced news program on KPLU? From what I can see, all the other news programs are national, and all but a handful are already broadcast on KUOW. Radiolab is an exception - I do love Radiolab.

So what is Mass talking about here?

As for the Jazz, KPLU is literally the **lamest** jazz station I've ever heard. It's totally vanilla and non-challenging, as if Coltrane never lived (much less anyone after him). It's an embarrassment that a city with such vibrant music as Seattle has such a lame jazz station.

The one exception is Ken Wiley's Sunday afternoon show "The Art of Jazz" - absolutely wonderful, and the only decent jazz show on the station. I also like Kessler's blues program, though 12 hours of that over 2 days (while impressive from a DJing stamina point of view) could probably be cut in half without sacrificing too much quality.

So, from my point of view: save Sound Effect, Art of Jazz, Radiolab and 6 hrs max of All Blues, and you have more than 6 days of quality programming to replace the lame and redundant stuff that's on KPLU currently.

Mike said...

I can't believe how far downhill KUOW has gone since Jeff Hansen became Program Director. Personally, I have stopped listening, except for the Week in Review show on Friday. It's time for the Jeff and probably the Station Manager to move on.

The lack of local content is actually very bad for the University of Washington. In the old days, a lot of professors were guests on Weekday and other programs. This gave UW professors a way to polish their media skills, show off their knowledge and remind the general public what a great institution our tax dollars support. Big loss for the U.

Targhee said...

Thanks Cliff! Wonderful post. As a Tacoma resident, I was shocked to hear this news. The only thing I can figure is the KUOW relishes the thought of firing you twice.

John Kessler's All Blues show is a local and national treasure. I'm not aware of any other blues show. If there is, please email me at (I know Cliff will like that address, I've had it for 12 years). I used to listen to KUOW when we lived in Seattle from 1988-95. Then they got rid of the classical music and just carried NPR feeds. As Cliff as pointed out, I don't need KUOW or any other station to find those, I can just go on the web.

Two weeks ago ,when I was in Beijing and firs learned about this "sale", I posted on the "All Blues" page, who's listening to John Kessler and from where. From 5396 miles away from Tacoma, I was not the winner. One dedicated listener was in Bangkok. And the USA listeners ranged to Iowa, Connecticut and Maine. I took screen shots of all the comments and included those in my FCC complaint. I urge others to also do so.

Thanks for doing this Cliff!

Linda Farmer said...

Thank you Cliff! I had you for "weather 101" in the late '80s and you're one of my fave professors. I love listening to your weather segments on KPLU. I serve on the KPLU Community Advisory Board and I'd like to chime in that the best course of action right now is to contact both the PLU and UW boards of regents. Only a letter of intent between the two universities has been signed so they have the power to reverse their decision before it gets to the FCC. Thanks and keep up the good work!

John S said...

Thank you Cliff for bringing some light to this issue. This kind of behavior does not inspire me to support either one of these organizations. I hope NWPR is watching and taking notes.

Bill said...

Linda, thanks for the advice on whom to contact. Do you feel that contacting the UW and PLU boards is better than contacting the FCC? And wouldn't the two boards have to reverse their original decisions on the sale of KPLU?

lord koos said...

I have no doubt that this was some kind of dirty deal... someone got something for doing this, a kickback or whatever. But it's just the latest in the ongoing media monopoly.

Linda Farmer said...

This is still a proposed sale. Only a letter of intent has been signed. The two universities have yet to finalize the contract, which means there's still a chance at a reversal. If the paperwork goes through, then we can pepper the FCC with comments (there would be a public comment period) but I'd love for it not to get that far. The PLU Board of Regents along with the UW Board of Regents are the decision makers at this point.

AdrianS said...

I HATE the 5 minute local segments that get repeated over and over for a month at a time, same for the syndicated shows that get chopped up into 5 minute segments that get repeated over and over for a month at a time. KUOW is awful, and every time I think it can't get worse, it does by picking up another national show that is not needed/wanted. I spend a lot of work time in the car and it really shows how there is no there there for KUOW. Now, finding KUOW had been banking pledges rather than using them makes me even more happy to have stopped sending them money a couple years ago.

Bart said...

Caryn Mathes

Bart said...

Caryn Mathes =

Wannabewriter said...

KPLU was broke and on the market. It had many of the same shows and could have been purchased by some out of town monster.

Greg said...

Just sick about it. Horrible loss for the community AND the school. Former KPLU employee, Broadcast Journalism grad ('88) and current TV News Director.
I will always have the ID memorized "With Jazz and News, 24 hours a day, everyday. This is Listener Supported, KPLU-FM, Tacoma Seattle, a service of Pacific Lutheran University." That about says it all.

EricOnTheRoad said...

I listened to KUOW constantly for years. I've switched to KALW San Francisco. I'd rather hear and support thoughtful local and community focused programming from another city than the awful stuff coming out of KUOW.
It's the little things, KALW doesn't fill the music beds between segments of all things considered with promos, blather about what's coming up in 11 minutes, what just happened, or jam in a pruned down awkward story that doesn't fit the context.
KALW has an annual budget of less than 3 million yet produces at least eight quality local shows. Quality national shows play at times that normal people listen, ie daytime isn't filler. On air talent is amazing.
Even if you don't switch to KALW, I suggest you give it a listen on the web or NPR app so you can see how efficient, productive and community centered a station can be.

Dennis Hartmann said...

I know that BirdNote proposed to both KUOW and KPLU. KUOW was not interested, but KPLU took them on. This innovative program has since spread to many public stations. This could not have happened without KPLU.

PEG MORGAN said...

Eric, try Bellevue College public radio KBCS 91.3

william said...

Non-profit stations are just that but it doesn't mean BIG boot get thrown around. Putting endorsements (better known as commercials at stations like KOMO) aside there is nothing wrong about having some, if not all, costs underwritten. That said I fully agree with Cliff's comments about KOUW going in the wrong programming direction by reducing LOCAL programming. For radio stations to continue to prosper they must offer unique (to it) programming. As a broadcast radio consultant for decades I preached this to the faithful; those that did cmellng, local programming prospered; those that didn't are mostly gone. The mantra in business today, radio included, is to do with the eventual goal of doing everything with nothing!
What will cause PLU to retin KPLU? Only they, at the end of the day, know but you can be certain it's about the money! For the leadership at KUOW their alleged claim that radio isn't as relevant as it once was is true. That was also true when TV was going to destroy aid, then 8-track tapes would destroy it, then cassettes, then the CB craze, then CD's, and now the Internet. Each time radio's demise was predicted new blood entered and reinvented it; doomsayers went off to graze in treasure. Maybe it's time for the UW leaders to go eat hay!

Cedarville said...

Thanks so much Cliff for shedding light on the proposed sale of KPLU. I have written to many of the people you suggested as well as cancelled my KUOW membership of 25+ years. With so many millions in reserve, it is clear that they don't need my meager contribution and instead those dollars will go to NWPR (my radio mainstay here in eastern Whatcom County) and to KPLU, for as long as it is alive and well.

Unknown said...

A scenario: You are managing a "non-profit" (well, sorta) radio station in a large market. You are personally ambitious, and wish to make a 'name' for yourself. The H-R people who influence hiring in extremely large-market commercial TV and radio stations understand ratings. But the concept of "enhanced public service" for the 'thinking' segment of a station's audience will be lost on the H-R folks. So, if you want a high-paying job, you need to build up your ratings. It's as simple as that!

william said...

As a commercial broadcaster I can unequivocally tell you the H-R department has little, if any, say, in on-air personnel salaries. It is true ratings DO matter and non-com stations have access to ratings results as well as part of determining personnel salaries. Ultimately that decision starts at the top (GM) of the food chain. My recommendation? Make friends with the PD and GM.