Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Archive for May 2018

PLEDGE The Book Excerpt: Kumbaya

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Owners, or the people running a place, can have a big effect on its character, or the feel of the place they’re running. Many times, that comes down to the relationship between employees and supervisors, or management and the board. Public radio is no different. But public radio listeners probably don’t put public radio stations and say, unions together in their minds much since, because public radio is so cerebral, reasonable, progressive and intelligent, why they might wonder, would there ever be any need for anything so impersonal as labor agreements. Everybody is always moving in the same direction, aren’t they? Not according to this 2014 statement from the WYPR Organizing Committee in response to station management efforts to kill a union vote.  “In These Times” writer Bruce Vail reported on the issue.  “We are disheartened by management’s decision to spend significant station resources to undermine our democratic effort. We hope they will commit as fully to making measurable improvements to the workplace and supporting the production staff.”

An author conducted survey of people in and associated with public radio found that nearly 40% of public radio stations are unionized. A little more than one in three are not. And 25% of respondents didn’t know either way.  For a lot of listeners, that might be a surprise. But staff in stations, like miners, teachers, pilots, nurses and longshoremen tend to unionize after labor disputes make them see that management doesn’t always work in their best interests. That’s not good for pledge drives, since strikes tell listeners all is not well in public radioland. And development officers like their givers copacetic. Labor unrest can have secondary effects on station character and ownership that goes way beyond whose name is on the building. The work can suffer. Morale can plummet and old, familiar voices can vanish without so much as a whisper in the thick of palace intrigue.

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Written by Interviewer

May 5, 2018 at 05:02

Posted in Scratchpad

PLEDGE Excerpt: It’s pledging season!

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Defenders of drives often say people continue to listen even though they don’t like drives. But there is plenty of support for the idea that drives actually push listeners away.  While the networks don’t host pledge drives, they pull out all of the stops to support them, ranging from playing up how they can be hilariously fun times to sicking network luminaries like Ira Glass on non-givers.  And though goodies haven’t been conclusively proved to spur giving, because there can be so many pledge drives in any give year, and because when stations ask their asks, they may encounter donors suffering from donor fatigue, they continue to sweeten pots with giveaways .

They do it by stirring up friendly competition with matches and challenge grants in which some members of the community practically dare other members of the community to give as much as they’ve given for the cause. Or, pitchers do it with swag, also known as “premiums”, aka concert seats, wine tastings, wireless speakers, iPads and plane tickets. In other words, promotional items given in exchange for “valuable consideration” like an underwriting credit, or maybe, a bunch of underwriting credits.  This is what academia calls, “transactional giving” and stations don’t like it very much because the idea that someone only gives when they get implies they aren’t really committed to the “cause” of public radio.

Written by Interviewer

May 4, 2018 at 11:37

Posted in Scratchpad

PLEDGE Excerpt” Anger Translation

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Pitchers are quick to say that the drive will be noticeably shorter if givers give a lot, quickly and often. But one of the oldest complaints listeners have against pledge drives is that even after they’ve done as they’re asked, the drive continues because so many others have not. “Pledge-driving me nuts” was what Sarah Bunting titled her blog post at Tomatonation.com in 2007. While lost in an enjoyable interview from her beloved WNYC, a pitcher interrupted to, she says, “tell me some shit about how everyone listening to him right now who doesn’t cough up some money is basically going to hell, like, 1) don’t mess up the flow of a perfectly good segment, and 2) I GAVE YOU THE MONEY ALREADY.” (28) Kelly Williams Brown, writing for the Daily Beast in 2014, talked to Paul Maassen, General Manager of WWNO in New Orleans. She asked, “whether there would be a time when those of us who are already members could magically skip the membership drive; it does feel unfair that those of us that dutifully pony up our $12.50 a month have to suffer with all the shirkers.”

Near the top of the hour of a 2015 pitch break, in this comparison between a cold virus and some of station KCLU’s listeners, news director Lance Orozco sneezed, and then said he was “allergic to slackers.” He was obviously talking to people who had not yet contributed to the station. Should pitchers and the managers that support them get the occasional pass to be outright mean considering how often they are attacked with outright meanness? Who knows? But public radio stations are staffed with people who love and believe in what they do. Occasionally, they hit back whether they should or not.

 

Written by Interviewer

May 3, 2018 at 06:51

Posted in Scratchpad

Pledge Excerpt: Callsign Mysteries

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Pledge Survey Image

It’s probably iconic that many kids in the 50s, 60s and 70s grew up listening to faraway AM stations on junk pieces fished out of trash cans in neighborhoods from coast to coast. From their beds, WLW, “The Nation Station”, WABC in New York, WLS in Chicago and others callsigns were their targets long after parents were asleep. The walls of their bedrooms, illuminated by the yellowish-orange glow of glass amplifier tubes. And spinning the dial, they were probably mesmerized by the rattling off of various callsigns which could sound like incantations, spoken by strange staticy tongues from exotic locales.

Those who paid closer attention might’ve noticed that stations west of the Mississippi started with “K” while stations east of the Mississippi started with “W”. Eventually, some of those kids might’ve eventually gone to work for civilian or even military broadcasting. And their voice became the one ricocheting around the planet. But callsigns are far from being romantic mysteries of youth.  To read more about callsigns or public radio, visit http://pledgethebook.com and get on the pre-order list for PLEDGE: The Public Radio Fund Drive.

Written by Interviewer

May 2, 2018 at 15:07

Posted in Scratchpad