Minutes--WNYC Community Advisory Board

Monday, January 14, 2013


Present: Joyce Lannert (Chair), Judith MoldoverCholst (Vice Chair),Renee Cherow-O’Leary,Lue Ann Eldar, Eleanor Fuchs, Beth Knobel, Sarah Lenigan, StevenRapkin,Kate Rath,David Tereschuk.

Absent: Matt Bancroft, Michael Bauman, Shavonne Johnson, Lisa Labrado , MJ Robinson, Harriet Olsen.

Special Guests: Noreen O’Laughlin, VP Marketing & General Manager, The Greene Space

Jacqueline Cincotta, Interim Program Director

Brenda Williams-Butts, Sr. Director of Community Engagement & Audience Development


Joyce Lannert opened the meeting at 7:10 pm.

Brenda Williams-Butts then welcomed the CAB and guests and introduced the guests.


Noreen O’Loughlin first presented five strategic goals:

1)     To be the leading public media multiplatform content creator, building on prominent position and experience in radio, but building additional content including live events.

2)     Activate deep audience engagement, as NPR does.  We do our own consumer surveys to know our audience and learn what they want to see in future.  For instance, do you listen on radio, or smart phone, or Internet?  Do you want to explore cultural information and get information to suit your lifestyle?  We want to provide the right information at the right time, to create useful content.  And if people use our content, it will give us additional exposure and help bring funding. 

3)     Undertake Phase Two of our digital transformation. This requires resources and trial and error, and bringing in people with new skill sets, to move the organization overall.  We want people to know we are multimedia.

4)     Position the organization for growth with increased revenue.  We need to find new ways to bring in revenue, even though we are a nonprofit.  Membership is still our main source of funding, but we want to find new ways to get support—like asking people to support shows like Radiolab specifically, for instance, instead of the station more generally.

5)     Enable creativity, nimbleness, entrepreneurial spirit and accountability with organizational efficiency.  That requires we be smart enough to modify our formula to see what works and doesn’t, and make changes.

We are trying to get our staff to work on these and to think about this as they create each show—to ask them to take these ideas and bring into the products they create.


Jacqueline Cincotta, Interim Program Director, then spoke next.  She worked with Chris Bannon as assistant program director for several years.


She welcomed the CAB and listeners.  She explained that started in Listener Services 10 years ago, to make it a more engaging vehicle and to make sure its information reached people at the station and the programming department. She said she has now been in programming for five years or so, and became interim Programming director in spring.  She first decided to review the programming, and so talked in details about the changes.


1)     Slide: Powering Up WNYC-FM.  We have had a drop in audience, but at the same time, Arbitron changed the way it measures audience—listening itself instead of using logs, as people misreported their actual listening.  They might say they listened to a show for 30 minutes when in fact they only listened for 10.  The new Arbitron method is a more effective way, because people’s aspiration listening wasn’t what they were listening to really.  We’ve also transitioned from a world where newspapers and television led the way into a multimedia world.  It has also allowed more people to create content.  The competition for ears has grown.

2)     Slide: Responding to Audience: The Takeaway was relaunched.Soundcheck returned to a new evening lineup. Jonathan Schwartz moved to Saturday nights, and Radiolab moved to Saturday afternoon.  Jacqueline then showed a chart for the programming on WNYC AM and FM for weekdays.  She said she gave producers a chance to take the summer off and told them to think of what they wanted before making changes. And Soundcheck has come back with a new website and they switched from a live program to a pre-produced program, which improved their production. 

The Takeaway is now a live four-hour show, and we wanted the voice of the viewer to be in there.  It is a national show and people told us they needed the show to be possible to run outside of morning drive hours.  So we reengineered it to be able to run anytime until about 3 pm.  We air it now at 3 pm on our FM program and on AM in the morning.  And we moved Fresh Air to 2 pm to follow Leonard Lopate with more live interviews.

The evening schedule change was to give Soundcheck a prominent time at 9 pm.  Also our news shows were all done in the morning, and we believed we needed fresh news content in the evening.  We wanted to offer companionship to listeners in a new way, with strong story content, with some content like that what you would usually hear on the weekends. And that’s why there are now different shows in the 8-9 pm hour during the week like Studio 360 on Mondays, the Moth on Wednesday, Radiolab on Thursday.  And we have a new show called Q from the CBC on at 10 pm.

On weekends, we wanted to invoke that same kind of thinking, to provide listeners with a more consistent listening experience.  Switching to music on Saturday afternoons seemed to be a disconnect for many of our listeners.  So after Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me we’re programming Radiolab, This American life, The Moth, and the quiz Ask Me Another.  And we moved Jonathan Schwartz to Saturday night—but you can live stream it on our website at 2 pm when he tapes the show. 

Listenership numbers are up a little but we need a whole year to see if the new programming changes are working.


Jacqueline then spoke about Hurricane Sandy.  We set a contingency plan in 2011 for hurricane Irene that we didn’t really need, but we did need it for Sandy.  We planned for round-the-clock live coverage.  We thought about what might happen, including that our staff couldn’t get here.  Lots of listeners had battery powered or hand cranked radios and really relied on us.  At the peak of the storm we had Brian Lehrer on, with our listeners becoming a valuable source of crowdsourcing.

One of the most popular things we did was an MTA recovery map, which was very important to a lot of people.  We tracked over 8.5 million page views to our site and over 11 million to public radio.  We have a series on called “Life After Sandy” going on, and we’ve dedicated reporters to keep following the recovery.  We’re in this for long haul.


We were not immune to damage.  We worked here on generators, with a slim staff because a lot of the station had no power—only the key parts of the building like the master control room had power.  A lot of reporters were out reporting or working out of their homes. She also showed before and after shots of the AM transmitter site, which was heavily damaged.  She said the station has had to go off the air at times for repairs to the transmitter.  We go out there by boat, though we will build a new boardwalk at some point.  One of the NJ stations went off the air that was close to Seaside Heights, but it’s back on the air.  We were heartened by the feedback we got back from listeners.  We got dozens and dozen and dozens of donations and comments about how much we helped.  We were also given a $250,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for rebuilding.


Jacqueline then discussed Election 2012 coverage.  It was almost washed away, but we did get to the election coverage.  We had live coverage of debates.  We had a great digital map that was live on our website showing how people voted county by county, and you could zoom in on it.  And it gave you characteristics that you could check.  And we did Brian Lehrer’s traditional “30 Issues in 30 Days,” which was very popular.


Noreen O’Loughlinthen came back on to talk about the marketing opportunities presented by the presidential election.  We had live programming in Greene Space and on the radio.  We tried to drive people to live events here and live coverage, as well as our digital coverage.  We also did a barter deal with WNET to share in their coverage.  She showed an ad done by WNET for the WNYC election coverage with the slogan—“Never Turn it Off.”


She then introduced Brenda Williams-Butts to talk about community engagement. 


Brenda talked about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event coming next week, one of our signature activities.  This is the 7th annual event. And it will be Sunday 1/20/13 at 3 pm in the Brooklyn Museum.  Brian Lehrer will be hosting again.  In this way we serve our core listeners and reach new audiences.  Brian’s show has the most diverse audience on the station and this event is the most diverse this year.  We have 1830 RSVPs so far so we expect over 900 people.  And one hour of his program on Monday will be made up of excerpts from the program.  This year there will also be a theatrical component this year, from A. Peter Bailey’s play“Malcolm, Martin and Medgar.”


We are also partnering with the newsroom to hold 2-3 more “community conversations” in two or three boroughs before the end of the fiscal year.  These will be groups of 20 or fewer.  We want listeners’ feedback and to build relationships in community.  This will help us build contacts for new tips.  We can also use this to find expertise for stories.  There will be one soon on education reform at NJ Performing Arts Center with Brian Lehrer and New Jersey reporter Nancy Solomon.  Nancy has been working on education reform reporting for months.  NJ PAC came to us about this event.  That one will be about 250 people.  Date is March 20th, 2013.  We’re also thinking about one on coverage after Sandy.  We want to look at the people dealing with the infrastructure issues, which will also be a bit bigger than 20 people.  The Greene Space also got a grant for “The Big Read” for “Their Eyes are Watching God” celebrating the 75th year of this book, working with the Brooklyn and NY Public Libraries.


Brenda then invited questions.


CAB member David Tereschuk asked about alternative sources and what it means.  Brenda says it means voices in communities we don’t always reach, like Latinos and Blacks who don’t always listen to public radio, but who want to talk about what’s important to them.  Also generational and geographically distant people.  We will probably pick the people through our partners, like the Brooklyn Museum. We want to talk with people who are already civically engaged.  And they relate to topics that the newsroom is already covering, and for which it seeks new sources.


CAB member Renee Cherow-O’Leary asked who will moderate and about questions.  Brenda said there will be questions and someone from the newsroom will moderate like Amy Eddings or SoteriosJohnson or Cindy Rodriguez.


Joyce said that this could also be a way to try to help understand and reach out to those cultures.  We try to share the rich cultural activities in New York.


CAB member Beth Knobel asked about complaints about schedule changes.  Jacqueline said the station knows we make people unhappy when we make changes but the number of complaints has been relatively small.  We understand you can’t make people happy all the time.  We also have gotten compliments on the changes, particularly on weekend days.


Beth Knobel then asked how we on the CAB can make sure we add to and don’t repeat what you’re doing.  Brenda said they laid out what they’re doing so that the CAB can decide what it wants to do.  The station also does singles events, which people really like in our core audience.


Renee Cherow-O’Leary explained that we on the CAB are trying to bring added value to the station, to not be on outlier.  Could News Director Jim Schacter’s group give us an idea of where they’re going so that we can try to be more responsive?Brenda suggested that the station looks to the CAB for responses to what the station is doing, while she is trying to change things for the future like building new audiences.  Noreen said the CAB is to reflect the public, to try to help develop its mission.  Renee explained that we know you have a lot of data, but we don’t.  Noreen said that the CAB is trying to address the public to give us feedback, while we’re trying to create programming to serve the public.  We’re trying to get reporters out to the public to increase their understanding on the ground.  The CAB’s role is more to say to the Board of Trustees that the station is serving our community. 


Beth Knobel asked ifNYPR President Laura Walker would come and meet with listeners.  Noreen said that the approach has been to have specialists come to meet with the CAB, like the programming director or with the head of digital services, but that they would consider a venue to listeners to meet with Laura. 


At 815 pm, Noreen and Jacqueline left and the CAB continued to meet. 


Joyce asked if we still want to address coverage of Sandy in our next “Interface” meeting, as there will be lots and lots of changes to the region in the future because of climate change, and the public can get lost in it.  Joyce say the idea would be to link people at the station with people in the world of climate change so that they will have the contacts to go to on a daily basis to learn more about what the city is planning.  It would be to put top station people in touch with top planning people. Sarah Leniganspoke about trying to curate a conversation between intriguing people in the community and people at the station.  David Tereschuk agreed and said he wanted to try to contribute to a long-term view into the future, at a level above story level and into planning.  This could help people at the station think about its role as their climate changes happen.  How for example will the station react to the big changes coming our way but coming slowly. Is the station going to just report or somehow promulgate those changes? Joyce asked how the CAB could contribute.  David said it could be like a seminar or colloquy with station planners and area planners so that an understanding between these two elements can be established now for what is going to be a decades long process.  We could be the bridge.


Joyce said Brian Lehrer brings these people into his show. What’s the difference?  The difference would be to bring a lot of top people and to have people from the station interact with them.  Judith Cholstasked wouldn’t reporters know the top people in planning? Beth talked about creating a conversation beyond what a few reporters do into a higher-level conversation which might be useful to the station.  David called it planning for the community with the community.  Eleanor Fuchs talked about changing the way the CAB works, as we’ve been working for a while to make our work more relevant to the station.  Sarah spoke about making sure we focus on the station and what they need to do.  Eleanor said said there’s a NYS 2100 commission that’s been started, so they are doing long range planning or long range thinking.  We get it on the radio, but we get it in small segments, not a whole picture.  Maybe this forum can put to those efforts how can you fit radio into this planning, and what’s the longest range view we can take?  It might spur more thinking by the station about other kinds of programming we can’t even imagine right now.  Joyce said the idea is to try to build long-term partnerships by giving them access to top station managers.  LueAnn Eldarspoke about the station’s reporting during Sandy and as its role as an aggregator.  She asked Brenda for comment.  Brenda said she thought the goal was to say we want the station to think about something. Eleanor said we want to be a broker.  Brenda says there has to be a buy-in process by management because we have so many people in the organization.  That’s what I always do, she said, as with the conversations.  Brenda saidthe CAB needs to make sure that the station is interested in what it is doing. Joyce saidwe need to know first what we want to suggest in terms of the next Interface.  Judith suggested we could make a proposal to see if there is interest. 


A listener who was on the CAB for 6 years, Barbara Genco, said that the CAB also presented results at the end of the year about what it learned, and that this seems to be a great way to give feedback to the station—we can ask questions like “how do you think WNYC needs to prepare for the future?”  This would give feedback on how the station is doing to the board.  Brenda said that this might be something that could engage the station.  Sarah said you could use the same methodology on other issues, like the dance community.  It’s a clear structure.  Eleanor said we want to do this by May, so we need to have that conversation immediately with the station about whether they would participate in this.  We would have an event with top planners and station managers on the role of the station for next emergency and way, way down the line.  How can these stations be folded into their planning, and could something come out of this that would help foster a long range partnership? Brenda saidthat we need to talk about coverage being multiplatform.  Eleanor saidthat we need to start getting everything arranged, like when we would have this Interface and who would appear and whether the station will buy in.  Brenda said we should put something in writing and next week she’ll try to get it to the right people for comment.  And the feedback from the station will help give a direction.  Brenda said Laura endorsed the idea of Interface meetings as a pilot.  We did not have a de-brief about the New Jersey meeting and we should have. 


Sarah, KateRath, and Lue Ann all volunteered to help with the planning.CAB member MJ Robinson was not here tonight but she said she would help as well, according to Joyce.


Brenda said that station personnel are all evaluated and that the CAB is one of my responsibilities, and so I hope you think I am responsive to your needs.  So I think we have a plan—you get me a proposal and I will get you feedback.  Eleanor said she is really interested but just cannot take part in planning, but will help.  Joyce said she got the names of some people who have been in press coverage of the issues to pass along to committee.  LueAnn suggested we reach out to community boards.   Beth agreed to help with outreach, and Joyce suggested we ask CAB member Lisa Labradoto help, too.  Joyce will circulate her proposal to the CAB for comment before it goes to Brenda.


On Facebook—Sarah saidthat if we want to post questions we all need to become administrators.  Beth said she would make everyone from the CAB on Facebook an administrator.  That way everyone can post and it will come up on the main feed of the site. 


The meeting adjourned at 9 pm.


Respectfully submitted,

Beth Knobel