CAB Minutes: January 2007
7 pm, Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The New York Society for Ethical Culture
Jenn Batterton, Fred Friedland, Gina Fuentes Walker, Emily Gertz, Sallie Gouverneur, Dave Hall, Judy Hellman, Gideon Pollach, Inge Reist, KC Sahl, Ed Sawchuk, Gary Schulze, Alex Senchak, Ken Stewart, David Weinstock, Shawn Williams.
Apologies: David Rahni
Absent: Nicholas Arture, Mary O'Hara, Elizabeth Nam, Basya Weisman
Alan Weiler (WNYC Trustee), Noreen O'Loughlin (Vice President), Johnathan Bracken
MEMBERS OF PUBLIC:
B. Lauf, Sheafe B. Walker, Nicole Monichiello
Minutes from the January 10 Meeting:
Minutes were not read aloud but distributed for review by individuals.
Sallie Gouverneur greeted members of the public and invited comments to begin and advised that the public would have an additional comment period at the end of the meeting.
A woman from the audience inquired as to whether the John Ciardi poetry readings were archived and if they could be replayed. A discussion amongst CAB members followed, with Inge Reist asking whether the readings were a WNYC or a NPR program. Ms. Gouverneur then responded that the archives would be checked. She also recommended the woman might enjoy listening to the Writer's Almanac as well. The audience member also requested that the Bob Edwards' interviews with Red Barber be replayed if possible. Ms. Gouverneur said the archives would also be checked for those.
Sheafe B. Walker asked whether there were plans to have more Radio Lab podcasts as there were only five on the WNYC website and no apparent archives available of past shows. Dave Hall and Alex Senchak suggested to Mr. Sheafe that he should try going to the Radio Lab website to look for more programs, where an archive is kept. Mr. Sheafe expressed his admiration of the program, stating that its style "harkens back to a radio show of the 1930s and 40s."
A woman from the audience asked why Brian Lehrer is re-aired so late (midnight) and why the re-airing time is not announced on the 10 am airing. Ms. Gouverneur did not know the station policy on this but would pass on the inquiry. Ms. Reist suggested that the Leonard Lopate show do the same.
Another woman from the audience noted that the weekly program schedule on the WNYC website was difficult to follow and suggested the Texas Public Radio (San Antonio) layout as an example of a clearer format that could perhaps be consulted.
Station Events of Note:
Ms. Gouverneur made note of the special upcoming station events: a live interview with Governor Corzine of New Jersery and the Dr. Martin Luther King forum at the Brooklyn Museum (with Brian Lehrer).
October and November Minutes:
Ms. Gouverneur inquired as to whether the October 2006 minutes had ever been approved as she had not received feedback. CAB members voiced their approval of the minutes. Ms. Gouverneur then pointed out that the November 2006 minutes were available in the room and requested them to be reviewed, with any feedback being given to her.
Action Notes: Ms. Gouverneur said that in a discussion of the November minutes Mr. Sawchuk recommended that there be made mention in the minutes of the follow up response ("action notes") to suggestions/requests/inquiries from the Public and from CAB members during CAB meetings. Judy Hellman expressed her pleasure with the format of the November minutes. Ms. Hellman also requested "action notes" to be included in the minutes.
Identifying Preparer: Ms. Gouverneur then clarified that it would be necessary to show in the minutes both the response to the given suggestion/request/proposal and the CAB member who would be following up with that issue. Ms. Gouverneur volunteered to begin taking a tally of questions and then delegate them to CAB members. Noreen O'Loughlin mentioned that Brenda Williams (WNYC) could be the point-person for this at the station. Jenn Batterton suggested that this could in fact be a rotating post among CAB members. She also suggested a similar tracking system for the questions coming from CAB members and the follow up responses to these.
Ms. Gouverneur asked whether a secretary was needed to handle this task, noting that Mr. Senchak had written up just such a job proposal in the past. Mr. Senchak recommended that there be not only an accurate tracking system, but also that the person in charge of it be clearly identified and that the duties of this person be relegated only to him or her.
Ms. Gouverneur said that the station will continue to put out the CAB meeting minutes and asked whether Mr. Senchak was volunteering for the position described. Mr. Senchak confirmed that he was volunteering for the position though he asked whether a formalized description of the responsibilities was needed. Inge Reist was not in favor of formalizing it and asked if it was necessary to have an official secretary. Ms. Batterton explained why it was necessary to have a position like this, noting that someone was needed to collect and organize the information. Inge Reist noted that she felt that a secretary wasn't needed and that a CAB member could take on the role informally. Mr. Sawchuk asked who the current minutes taker was for this meeting and John Bracken identified himself. Mr. Sawchuk recommended that the minutes be completed in a timely manner and Ms. Gouverneur believed it wouldn't be such a protracted process this time around. Ms. Batterton suggested taking a vote on what CAB members' favorite format was for the minutes. However, Ms. Gouverneur said that this was not necessary if everyone agrees that the previous minutes format met with their approval. Ms. Gouverneur then volunteered to be responsible for recording the suggestions/requests/inquiries made to CAB, the follow up response to these and the CAB members who had given the response. She welcomed volunteers to step forward to take over these responsibilities.
Shawn Williams first noted that Robin Bilinkoff proved very helpful. Ms. Williams then said that the wording for the radio announcement had been finalized and that the 15-seconds spots would air February 1-4 and February 17-28. She also noted that the normal monthly CAB meeting message would be avoided (airing February 5-13) along with the fund-drive messaging. Ms. Williams also asked that current members in their third-year get back to her as to whether they plan on remaining on CAB or resigning from it. She would like those responses by the close of the February 2007 CAB meeting. Ms. Williams also asked if anyone had a location for the interviews to take place. Mr. Sawchuk said that he was following up on this issue. It was agreed to talk about this further at a later time, though Mr. Sawchuk indicated that locations in mid-town were the most likely area.
Orientation Booklet: Ms. Gouverneur expressed concern about generating orientation booklets for new CAB members. Mr. Senchak then said that he had made up the previous booklets, which Lori-Ann Krushefski had essentially copied from past versions. Mr. Senchak said that he still has all the original documents on file and that he could print out new, updated copies. Ms. Gouverneur then asked Kenneth Stewart what his recommendations were for the ideal booklet. Mr. Stewart expressed concern that too much of the information in past booklets was dedicated to the radio station's history and not enough towards CAB itself. He would like to see more on CAB's history, purpose, responsibilities, its relations to the board of Trustees, etc. Ms. Batterton remembered that the old booklets used to feature a CAB mission statement and Mr. Senchak concurred. However, he was unsure that any official language on this had been recorded. Emily Gertz then summarized the basic mission statement of CAB, noting that U.S. Code required their existence. Ms. Reist commented that CAB was "the 'public' in 'public radio'" and that it created an "immediate public forum." David Weinstock suggested that a welcome letter be included in the orientation booklet and Mr. Sawchuk told Mr. Senchak that he would email him the info necessary to put this together. Ms. Gouverneur then clarified that Mr. Senchak and Ms. Batterton would work together on the booklets.
A woman from the audience noted that these same questions had been raised before by other CAB members and that the information must be out there as to what conclusions they came to. Ms. Gouverneur replied, however, that the nature of CAB changes throughout the years, along with the station itself. These changes could mean that any such records that do exist on conclusions made are perhaps no longer relevant. The woman from the audience remembered she had stopped listening to WNYC for a time following a one hour-long program consisting solely of the sound of chirping crickets. Mr. Sawchuk then noted that this would seem to be CAB's first "action note."
Car Talk: Ms. Gouverneur raised the topic of the program Car Talk to review. She then asked who on CAB detested Car Talk, noting that Fred Friedland would want to speak on this later as well. Mr. Stewart spoke up and said he likes the program, that he found it very informative and humorous, but had one complaint. He thought that the two hosts giggled too much and that this proved distracting. Ms. Reist noted that the two hosts had become more mannered and exaggerated over time. Ms. Gertz said that the amount of info to humor is actually much reduced than in the past, however, the number of jokes played on the callers had increased. To her, it appeared that the hosts were "too pleased with themselves" these days. Mr. Stewart wondered if something could be done to "rein them in." Dr. Weinstock did some background research on the program using Wikipedia and noted the following: the hosts' accents had gotten stronger throughout the existence of the program; the program is the highest rated on public radio; and the hosts did not answer the callers' questions immediately but had a team or researches filter calls before they addressed the issues. Mr. Senchak thought it a good thing for the hosts to express their localism and that the program broadened the spectrum of listeners out there. Ms. Gertz pointed out that the program also took the rare step of admitting to its mistakes.
Mr. Stewart chimed in that Car Talk was more entertainment than info and Mr. Sawchuk added that it took a dry subject matter and made it entertaining. Ms. Reist mentioned a sports program on the radio, a subject which did not interest her in the slightest, which was informative and humorous, and thus drew her into the program. She thought Car Talk had the same effect by bringing in more variety to WNYC. Dave Hall brought up the point that Car Talk was a great opportunity for independent recording artists to get some air-time during the 30-second music spots that ushered in the show's sessions, and that he himself had his music played on the program. Mr. Senchak wondered if Car Talk was being played at the most opportune time (Saturday afternoon). And a brief discussion followed regarding how the program aired first onFM, followed an hour later by an airing onAM. A woman from the audience mentioned she switched between AM and FM frequencies often and that the two, side-by-side time slots worked well. Ms. Hellman thought the scheduling worked nicely as well. Mr. Stewart pondered whether the producers of Car Talk would desire CAB's feedback and Dr. Weinstock noted the best way for sending any such feedback: "on a $20 bill." Ms. Gouverneur raised the point that it was not CABs responsibility (or purview) to tell WNYC to tell the program's producers their opinions. Dr. Weinstock also mentioned that in his research he came upon an 18-page-long listing of fake names like those the two hosts used in their programs credits. Two examples given were "Walk-In Closet" and "We Pack Too Much."
Radio Lab: Ms. Gouverneur then moved on to the second program review, for Radio Lab. She found that the program had a very relaxed feel and a comfortable pace, adding that it had an intimacy and impromptu-feeling to it. She made note that this was a WNYC-produced program. Mr. Weinstock had one complaint: the dyad of explanation between the show's two hosts. He found that the "fake melodrama" (as when one host acted shocked over the statement of the other) was irritating and silly. A woman from the audience then asked if there were any Joe Frank listeners in the room, which met with a quick response from Ms. Reist who answered with an emphatic "No!" Ms. Reist then added that listening to Joe Frank was "like a bad dream" and that his show was "positively disturbing." Returning to the matter of Radio Lab, Ms. Gertz said she liked the program's "experimental approach to playing with sound." Mr. Senchak related it to On The Media's style, noting that it drew listeners in. He was also happy that it was not a weekly program; its "come and go" nature added to its likeability. Mr. Stewart, on the other hand, said that he found Radio Lab to consist of amateurish entertainment and pseudo-science, although he admitted to only having listened to one show. He also found it over-produced.
Mr. Hall said that he was a fan of the program in terms of its well-highlighted shape and balance, which resulted in an "elegant" product. However, he did feel an amateurish atmosphere slip in at times, relating it to listening to college radio. Mr. Hall did think that Radio Lab brought diversity to the radio, if only through the very background of the hosts themselves. Dr. Weinstock countered Mr. Stewart's earlier claim by stating that the science featured on Radio Lab was indeed grounded, citing the fact that reputable science magazines had featured articles on the program and its content. Ms. Hellman asked how many present listen to the program live versus download it at a later time, and what the best time-slot for the show might be. Mr. Hall mentioned that it used to be on Sunday evenings, a time which appealed to him very much. Ms. Hellman then asked if a late-night time frame was better for the program. For her part, Ms. Gertz expressed regret over Radio Lab filling in the time-slot which was once dedicated to The Next Big Thing. Returning back to the issue of content, Fred Friedland noted that Radio Lab was the closest approach to scientific programming on the radio. He added that "speculative science is not science, but it isn't pseudo-science either." The program does manage to engage the non-scientifically literate public. However, Mr. Friedland said he wants to bring "significant science" to WNYC as well.
Ms. Gouverneur noted that Mr. Friedland was not present for their earlier discussion on Car Talk. However, Mr. Friedland was able to concisely sum up what it was he disliked about that program with the phrase "contrived laughter and merriment." Nonetheless, he admitted that the content of Car Talk was good. Mr. Senchak proposed a vote on the two programs being reviewed broken down into two categories: content versus current presentation. The results were the following:
Car Talk: Content (15 in favor – unanimous) / Current Presentation (12 in favor, 3 disapprove)
Radio Lab: Content (12 in favor, 3 abstained) / Current Presentation (12 in favor, 3 abstained)
Mr. Walker in the audience noted briefly that he particularly enjoyed the Radio Lab show that featured the subject of space. Mr. Stewart asked if the show had been picked up by other stations and Dr. Weinstock replied that, indeed, 133 stations carried the program. Ms. Gertz likened Radio Lab in a way to the phenomena of "War of the Worlds."
Next Programs to Review: Ms. Gouverneur then raised the issue of which two programs should be reviewed at the next CAB meeting in February. After a brief discussion among CAB members, it was decided that the two programs to be reviewed will be "Wait, Wait-Don't Tell Me!" and "Evening Music."
Youth Outreach: Ms. Gouverneur then requested a Youth Outreach meeting report. Ms. Hellman said that the committee had had their first meeting, during which observations of the group's role and presence were discussed and a national survey was reviewed. Ms. Hellman said another meeting is coming up soon and that the minutes of the meeting will be emailed out to those interested.
February Meeting: Ms. Gouverneur then raised the issue of possible venues for the February CAB meeting. She brought up the possibility of having it at the Center for Architecture and of perhaps doing a tie-in with ongoing matters at the Center (i.e. housing or architecture issues). She felt it was a good idea to have the February meeting there. Suggested topics could be discussed at a later time. Ms. Gouverneur questioned whether CAB could organize itself in time and expressed doubt that public announcements could be put out in-time. Ms. Gertz suggested picking more specific issues to be discussed at the February meeting and narrow down the theme. Gideon Pollach mentioned he has a contact in the affordable housing field and Dr.Weinstock said, on the opposite end of the spectrum, he had a contact in high-end housing. Ms. Hellman raised the issue that it might be better to have a CAB meeting relating to these issues in March. She likes the idea of using the Center of Architecture as the venue since its location in the West Village (which is experiencing ongoing preservation and zoning issues) will bring immediacy to the topics discussed. Ms. Gouverneur asked if March would in fact be better to have such a meeting as it would allow CAB more time to organize. Mr. Stewart responded that, yes, March would be better. Ms. Hellman concurred and that it would allow them more time to put the word out to the public about the meeting. Mr. Sawchuk asked how cost might affect the possibility of having the meeting at the Center for Architecture. The price of the library may also be different from the cost of the lobby. Ms. Gouverneur asked what CAB members thought they could afford. Ms. Gertz agreed that March was better but that a great amount of promotional activity should be avoided. Ms. Gouverneur agreed that realistic expectations of attendance were needed. Mr. Sawchuk noted that the Executive Director of the AIA is interested in supporting a meeting at the Center for Architecture. Ms. Gouverneur added that even if March can't be done, the venue should still be considered. Discussion followed among various CAB members over how the issues of housing and architecture can be tied in to WNYC's programming and how the station covers these issues. Ms. Batterton added that she has contacts in the affordable housing and green housing fields. She did wonder if CAB was going after this space simply because it was offered, saying that other venues are available if the Center for Architecture falls through.
New Jersey April Meeting: Mr. Senchak gave an update on the April CAB meeting to take place at Newark Academy in Livingston, NJ. The date of Thursday April 19, 2007 has been locked down. This is the same night that the monthly alumni meeting had been scheduled and it was thought that the CAB meeting would tie in nicely with it. The Academy guaranteed the space for the CAB meeting and offered to host a post-event meet-and-greet gathering with refreshments provided. Mr. Senchak noted that four speakers had been lined up:
1) Newark Academy history professor and NY Harbor historian
2) Head of NYS Association of Independent Schools
3) Spokesperson for St. Barnabas Health Care
4) Spokesperson for NJ Transit
Mr. Senchak mentioned other topics he'd like to see discussed at the meeting: volunteerism, urbanization, the Arab community, and the Chamber of Commerce. Regarding invites, Mr. Senchak said that the Academy will send these out to students, families and alumni. He added that the invitations must be tailored toward the car-centered community. Mr. Senchak noted that Bob Hensley is interested in the meeting and that Mr. Hensley, along with the aforementioned speakers, are all avid WNYC members. Mr. Senchak said that he Academy had generated a list of previous presenters for him and that the contacts on the list in fact called him to express their interest in the meeting. Regarding transportation to the event, Mr. Senchak said the NJ Transit rail station (Short Hills) is located close by but that car-pools would have to be organized to get people to the Academy from there. There are also cabs available at the train station. Mr. Stewart added that the means of transportation must be publicized. Also, he wondered if the subject of arts could be brought into the meeting. Mr. Pollach said that he has a contact who is a member of the NJ Symphony. However, Ms. Gouverneur cautioned that the number of panelists must be narrowed down. Mr. Senchak agreed and added that a logistics person was needed.
Ms. Gouverneur said the Westchester meeting should be used as a model when planning the New Jersey one. She also thought that CAB should let Newark Academy do the work of bringing in people to the meeting. Mr. Senchak clarified that the CAB meeting at Newark Academy would be replacing the usual monthly alumni meeting. He also said the Academy will give total control of the function to WNYC. Mr. Senchak recommended visiting the Academy's website (www.NewarkA.edu) and the NJ Transit website (www.NJTransit.com) for travel arrangements. Mr. Sawchuk asked is directions to the Academy could be posted as a hyperlink on WNYC's website. Ms. Gouverneur didn't think it would be a problem but would look into it.
Finally, Mr. Senchak said that he was compiling a list of shows no longer on the air and asked CAB members to send him other show titles he might have missed that have been canceled.
B Lauf in the audience said that he was pleased with the format of this CAB meeting and found that it had more interaction with the public throughout the duration. Mr. Lauf asked if there was an appropriate time during CAB meetings to discuss the process behind program scheduling. He wondered if a Q & A period on what goes into this process of choosing programs was possible. In other words, "how can members be members?" Ms. Gouverneur noted that in the past the WNYC Director of Marketing used to attend CAB meetings and provided answers about programming questions. The greater point to her was that providing a venue for such a discussion was beyond CAB's purview. She said that CAB was not privy to programming decisions. However, Ms. Gouverneur noted that this topic has been known to come up incidentally at CAB meetings. Ms. Hellman added that perhaps CAB can report to the station that the public would like occasional opportunities for the public to talk to underwriters and program schedulers. Mr. Pollach suggested Mr. Lauf should try the WNYC Listener Services and found that they were normally very responsive. Mr. Sawchuk agreed with this.
As there was no further comment from the attending public and as the meeting had already run over its scheduled time, Sallie Gouverneur called for a motion to adjourn, which was made and seconded. Whereupon, the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 pm.
Follow-up from Sallie Gouverneur:
Here are the follow-ups we need to do on behalf of the members of the public who attended:
- advise the station to announce that Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate's shows are rebroadcast, and when
- find out whether John Ciardi's poetry readings are in the WNYC archive, and ask if there is hope of hearing them again
- ask if there will be any rebroadcast of Bob Edwards' interviews with Red Barbour (it probably should be directed to Edwards at his new show produced, I think, by PRI)
- suggest that there are better ways to showcase the weekly schedule online, and that the website for the public station in San Antonio TX has a good example.