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CAB Minutes: January 2008

7 p.m., Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The New York Society for Ethical Culture

Members Present: Edward Sawchuk, John DeWitt, Michelle Reed, Alex Senchak, Alfred Friedland, Dave Hall, Gina Fuentes Walker, Kenneth Sahl, Basya Mandell, Gabriele Schroeder, Kim Hass, Shavonne Johnson, Gaye Leslie

WNYC: Brenda Williams-Butts, Ilene Richman (taking minutes)

Edward Sawchuk welcomes and introduces Brenda Williams-Butts and Ilene Richman.

I - Review and approval of meeting minutes: Edward Sawchuk says that the CAB is behind on approval of minutes. Ed Sawchuck to handle one from 5/07. Alex Senchak will be point person for corrections up to October & November 2007. Need volunteer to elicit comments for October & November minutes which I will then forward to Shira at WNYC, so she can post them to website. Agreed that Dave Hall will handle 10/07. John DeWitt will handle 11/07.

III - Committee Discussions & Goals:
A: Arts Committee:

Dave Hall names members of committee. He explains that the committee divided arts shows on WNYC, concentrating on locally produced ones but couple of the national ones as well that cover arts. Daily shows will be monitored for a week, weekly shows for a month, just doing a survey to see what art forms are included, how much coverage each receives, the breadth, depth, and look for weak spots, eg poetry or theater that might be undercovered. We will finish the survey by next month’s meeting. We will report back to this board in April or May and present to the trustees in June. Any questions, can talk to me or Gina.

December Social - Held on December 12 at a steakhouse in Long Island City. There was low turnout from committee members. There was confusion about whether it was public or restricted to CAB, apologies about that. Initially meant to be open to the public, but then considerations due to expenses. Dave Hall found artists to perform including the Saw Lady, a LIC resident, also The Uncles, a LIC sketch comedy group. He was trying to find out what was going on artistically in LIC and find folks outside of the mainstream who might not have been able to be heard on other stations. Turns out that Natalie Peruz, the Saw Lady, has actually been on Prairie Home Companion. Because of the things the committee would like to check out is have we been covering the underground/avant garde stuff that happens in NY. I thought this would be a good opportunity to check out a few locally based artists doing interesting things. Dave Hall would like to discuss the whole idea of whether the social should be private or focused on the public.

B: Diversity Committee:
Basya Mandell introduces the diversity committee, whose goal is to reach out to under-represented potential or current listeners and gain their feedback. We have been focusing on the means to do that. I personally think alternate meeting venues for our regular meetings would be a good approach, but cost keeps coming up. The CAB has looked at venues in Harlem and Brooklyn. We may want to create a modest revenue stream to fund these events. Question is then how to do that.

Alex Senchak: The Cincinnati station, their meetings move all the time, and it costs a lot. They partner with organizations that are committed to the station in exchange for publicity. Maybe we should consider partnering with an organization that is already committed to the station.

Alex Senchak: Where did members of the general public come from tonight?

They answer, “Midtown,” and “59th Street.”

One member of the public says the UWS. But asks “why are meetings always on Wednesday?”

Brenda Williams-Butts: I think you do have to try different things. I do this full time, and it’s hard. You do have to create partners, test different locations. The same day might create a problem. For example; if you’re going to Harlem, you need to know that Wednesday is Bible Study night. You have to look at the bigger picture, and design a committee to do that. It hasn’t worked in the past, I know that. You have to try different options - build partners, use e-lists, listserves. Build a database.

Alex Senchak: We have a list to blast out to. The issue is the method by which we can blast out. Tried Yahoo mail but can only do 15 at a time, and it’s time-consuming. Seems easy but there’s so much effort.

Brenda Williams-Butts: Constant Contact is easy if you have the budget. They offer a free trial.

John DeWitt: I use it for my company, I think it’s great. Let me look into creating a list for you on my account. If you’re looking for other venues and partners, pick something well-known to the community. For example, off the top of my head, Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Gabriele Schroeder: Who would they be partnering with, the station or the CAB?

Brenda Williams-Butts: If you want to barter, it’s the station, that’s the collateral.

Basya Mandell: Who would the contact be?

Brenda Williams-Butts: That would be me. First need to find out if that’s something we want to do. We have an inventory, and we need to prioritize it. When you barter, you are using the underwriting inventory. My other suggestion is to create partnerships with local papers.

Alfred Friedland: I think we’re barking up the wrong tree. We’re supposing the reason is a lack of publicity but I think there’s plenty. Advertising must be reaching people, and our target audience. Question should be, why aren’t people showing up? Alex, any data on attendance from other CAB’s?

Alex Senchak: Attendance goes up when there are problems. Attendance has been great because public radio in most parts of the country has lots of problems. We’ve experienced this after the shift away from music to talk.

Alfred Friedland: Then problem isn’t lack of awareness.

Alex Senchak: They don’t know what the meetings are.

Basya Mandell: We’re not making it attractive enough. And it’s a confluence of factors – location, publicity, and something to draw them in.

Gabriele Schroeder: The announcements are horrible.

Edward Sawchuk: May 14 I hope we’re in the new performance space. Jenn has asked a date for a meeting at another venue for the educator outreach panel. She would like to do it April 9th. So I think we’ll be out of her April 9th and May 14th. That leaves us March 12th. So can we be at another venue by March 12th? Is that enough time?

Basya Mandell: Brooklyn Borough Hall?

Conversation about what the CAB does to attract people. We should publicize what the meeting will be discussing, maybe something vaguely controversial.

Alex Senchak: The station can’t say we’re talking about one specific thing at an open meeting. We must have meetings – unsure whether we can call them something else? Alsowe must have public comment at the beginning & at the end.

Edward Senchak: It’s not in the agenda but the public is welcome to speak up. (Discussing various venues where meetings had been held in partnership with other organizations.) Some were successful, some were not. They were successful because we were able to elicit comments and issues that we would not have been able to otherwise.

Alfred Friedland: Few if any of these public outreach meetings have had much public attendance, Brooklyn expected to.

Brenda Williams-Butts: 40% of WNYC listenership is in Manhattan. Moving to other locations in Manhattan might be a solution. 25% are in Brooklyn. 25% are in New Jersey. Just so you have some stats. Out of over a million listeners. I think it warrants more discussion.

II - CAB Recruitment
Edward Sawchuk: Time to discuss recruitment. Alfred Friedland and Edward Sawchuk are reluctantly leaving. There will be vacancies on this board. This is the process: We make on-air announcements. There’s a 3-4 week period in which to submit an application. The application has varied in past from formal to informal. We cull through, schedule 20 minute interviews with 4-5 people on a board. We agree on a rating mechanism. After each interview we discuss likes, dislikes. We decide how many to bring on. The committee brings this to board. We vote, decline, ask questions. Then at the annual meeting of the station we recommend a slate to the board of trustees. To my knowledge they have never declined our recommendations.

Basya Mandell: Do we want to expand our recruitment efforts? If so, how?

Brenda Williams-Butts: Using the air is best means – it worked very well last year. You’re talking to listeners.

Back to III – Committee Discussions & Goals
C: Education Outreach Committee:

Alex Senchak: Jenn couldn’t be here. Is anyone from the committee here?

Edward Sawchuk: We want four educators, grade school, middle school, high school, and college, to say how teachers can use the station to educate their students.

Shavonne Johnson: They’re shooting for April 9th in Park Slope.

Edward Sawchuk: We have two handouts tonight. One is a hard copy of Sallie’s presentation to the board of trustees in June of last year. This is for your review prior to next month’s meeting when Sallie will give the presentation to us – a year’s worth of meetings in 20 minutes. This will also be given to the trustees. There are also 2 sheets, which say “show reviews.”

V - Program reviews
Edward Sawchuk: What programs do we want to review? Our review should parallel this format because it worked well & it’s easy to follow. Does anyone have ideas for which programs we’d like to over, and who’d like to cover them? We did five last year, could do 5 this year.

John DeWitt: How do we know what the targeted audience is?

Edward Sawchuk: That’s a difficult question. We get some information from the station. Last year, was it Radio Lab? We didn’t think it was reaching the targeted audience.

Alfred Friedland: I said that it was conjecture science, which isn’t the same as pseudoscience., and it’s the closest we’re going to get to science on WNYC these days. Science Fridays is gone. There is almost no science on WNYC. (Discussion of a SOF program featuring a scientist and then general SOF discussion.)

One of the members of the public states that she likes Faith Salie a lot. It’s a good time for me. She’s funny but has good people on there. And they throw in some music. I’ve talked about that here before.

Alfred Friedland: Fair Game has been excoriated here. I’m not sure why.

Gabriele Schroeder: Should we gear our review to the new programming? Is that morning show going to be starting soon? Are there programs the station would want us to review? Fair Game is asking to be reviewed, can win a $100 gift certificate. Do we want to select new stuff, old stuff – does the station have a preference?

Dave Hall: What did we do before? All the talk shows?

Edward Sawchuk: Yes, 2 people reviewed a show. I think it was all the locally produced stuff. Should I assign them via email? We’ll stick to these 4 programs?

Alfred Friedland: As the resident atheist, I’ll do Speaking of Faith, as the resident quirky person, I’ll do The No Show.

Dave Hall: Re the shows you miss, I think they like to hear from listeners, and I think you can contact the station, not as a member of the board but just as a listener.

Alex Senchak: Inge and Alex created a list of shows no longer carried. It’s very interesting to see where the station has gone, what kind of show is not making it. It was a little tough, but might be worth doing again. I’ll see if I still have it.

IV - Website review
Edward Sawchuk: As for the last item on the agenda, not to say no, but the website is huge. We’ve never given feedback on the site. I think we should as per Alex’s suggestion.

John DeWitt: As a blind person who has to use speech on my computer, I can say that the site is terribly designed, in terms of accessibility guidelines. Radio is a key way in which visually impaired people get our news and information – I’m a sound man. For example, my company site is very easy for a blind person to use. WNYC site is not useable. I have never been able to listen to WNYC2 – it doesn’t work with my speech software.

Alex Senchak: If we can break it down into features, evaluate it according to 4 points:
- design of site, including accessibility/usability
- info & news for younger audience & others
- as a community portal
- as a source of information re the station, a program guide, etc.

Edward Sawchuk: Information and news – do we want to peg that to a younger audience? I think the website is the way you’re going to get a younger audience to the station.

Alex Senchak: In news & information, there are several tabs that could be used – links to world events, BBC, etc. Really a portal to news & world events, as well as to community partners that the station has.

Edward Sawchuk: Should we have a website person come here to a meeting?

John DeWitt: There is very little on the site re the station’s plans, changes, etc. There’s some information re the staff, but very little about the station itself. To find the information about the CAB you have to dig.

Shavonne Johnson: The site is out of date with information about the CAB.

Alex Senchak: Dave Weinstock moved to Boston. He had been sending updates to the station.

Edward Sawchuk: I once emailed Laura. I’m a big fan of VAN (Vocal Area Network), which is a portal to everything choral in the tri-state area. I suggested it because my impression of the site is that it should be a community portal. For example, finding theaters can be difficult– WNYC could coordinate all the disparate theater sites. Though I’m sure the station has its plate full.

A member of the public points out that The New York Times website has everything. There’s no need to repeat the effort.

Alex Senchak: They did a presentation here regarding the effort into rebranding. They’re looking at redoing some of the logos and creating some phrases that will get people to remember WNYC.

Edward Sawchuk: It contained some proprietary information and we didn’t know how to separate the public from the proprietary information. So, Alex will come up with some lists of criteria.

Public comment period:
Woman from public asks why there have been no repeats of the Brian Lehrer and Lopate shows for the last few nights.

Alex Senchak: They do programming changes during election season, and for legal reasons, some of that material can’t be re-aired.

Male member of public says that he particularly came here regarding the obfuscation that goes on during pledge weeks. He thinks that WNYC never says how long the pledge drives are going to be, only that it will be shortened. They should say that February drive would have had x number of days, but instead will be y.

Alex Senchak: In the past three years WNYC has changed the drives, how they ask for money, so you’re not bored to tears. You have to understand that a lot of people don’t listen all the time, so they don’t hear all the repetition.

Alfred Friedland: I would like to see more disclosure re money. WBAI used to give a running disclosure of how much they had raised. Laura Walker confirmed that they give the minimum amount required by law. The station is not candid.

Alex Senchak: You can find 990 forms, CEO salary, etc of any nonprofit online. It’s public information and they must disclose it.

Female member of public says that she doesn’t mind the pledge drives. Nothing about the station ever bothered me until the last year. Now, there are constant commercials, sometimes 4 or 5 in a row. I know it’s a younger voice, you’re appealing to a younger audience, but it’s repetitive, and the volume is pumped up.

Alex Senchak: I agree. I even heard a commercial for V8 the other day. We’ve talked about this numerous times. We’ve been told that there are 2 different kinds of ads, one is from WNYC - the underwriters, the campaigns and major donors. Then you also have the programs that are nationally syndicated. So for example in Morning Edition you’ll hear ME commercials. They both have commercials, so you have over 2.5 minutes of commercials, spread out over time. We can change the local, but not the national.

John DeWitt: These underwriting commercials came about when the government funded less. It’s always been an issue, when you’re crossing the line between a passive ad and when you’re really pushing product. I find the sustaining giver ad one of the most annoying and intrusive.

Meeting is adjourned at 9:15 p.m.