The saving of KPLU is just such a story.
Last November, it appeared that the Puget Sound region's favorite jazz, blues, local and NPR news public radio station (KPLU) would be lost. Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) had made a secret deal with the UW and its public radio station (KUOW) to sell KPLU for 7 million dollars. The KPLU staff would be fired and it award-winning local news team would lose their jobs. KUOW would get the KPLU transmitters and a monopoly on local pledge money.
KPLU and the Phoenix Have a Lot in Common
It seemed inevitable: the loss of ANOTHER news outlet. The ending of probably the best jazz station in the country. The loss of valued local content to a corporate-style competitor more interested in its bottom line than serving the public.
But then something unexpected happened. Folks said no. Spontaneous protests occurred at PLU. Massive letter and email writing campaigns began. Protest websites were established and social media (twitter, Facebook) filled with the comments of angry KPLU listeners.
And it worked. The UW and PLU decided to give the community a chance to save their radio station--but they had to do it quickly or the sale would go through. The community would have to raise seven million dollars in six months.
The reaction of the Northwest public radio audience has been extraordinary. As of today (May 3), KPLU (actually Friends of 88.5) have raised a bit more than 5 MILLION DOLLARS from over 16,000 listeners. Just amazing. If the donations continue at this rate, the necessary funds will be collected before the June 30th deadline.
But the contributions are only one part of the story. All through the region groups are holding SaveKPLU fundraisers: in restaurants, music venues, lecture halls, and parties in private homes. In a few weeks, there will be a gathering at the Museum of Flight with a real astronaut. It is clear that thousands upon thousands of local folks value KPLU and this crucible of fundraising is building a unique and enduring relationship between listeners and their radio station.
A connection is being forged that will make KPLU stronger. Folks are willing to make pledges, participate in fund raisers, comment on social media, and encourage their friends. All to prevent the loss of a valued news outlet, unique musical programming, personable on-air staff, and popular community outreach efforts that are a signature of KPLU.
But some KPLU supporters are worried, concerned that PLU will find a way to make a deal with KUOW and the UW. KUOW clearly is still hungry for KPLU's transmitters, and is doing what it can to undermine KPLU (like starting a competitor jazz outlet called PlanetJazz). But can you imagine what the public reaction would be if KPLU raises the 7 million from tens of thousands of contributors and PLU does not let the community purchase the station? The reaction would be immense and intense. PLU and KUOW would be isolated and marginalized. And they know it. I also believe that the UW administration wants to do the right thing and would prefer if a community solution succeeds.
Or go to one of the many SaveKPLU events listed on the above web site. There is nearly one every day at locations around around the area.
The Phoenix is rising out of the ashes.