WAMU Community Council Members Attending:
Laura Chambers, Council Chair; Kent Lynn, Vice Chair; Barbara Bares, Sharvell Becton, Paul DesJardin, Maria Gomez, Patricia “Trisha” Hartge, Rawn M. James, Jr., Jody Steiner Kelly, Kim Y. Jones, Virginia “Ginny” McArthur, Larry McCarthy, Daniel Okonkwo, Micaela Mejia Pond, Donald Quayle, Anthony Sarmiento, and Peter Tannenwald.
Keith Woods, NPR Vice President for Diversity in News and Operations.
WAMU Staff Attending:
Caryn Mathes, Rebecca Blatt, Sarah Cumbie, Susan Dankoff, Althea Evans, Tish Few, Walt Gillette, Doreen Hodge, Chris Lewis, Kara Merrigan, Debbie Morris, Benae Mosby, Paul Mozzocci, Carey Needham, Wendy Ponvert, Kristen Sorensen, and Anne Healy
Members of the Public:
Richard “Dick” Kaufmann (DAC Chair), Cliff Brody, Glenn Ihrig (WAMU Ambassador), Charles Kelley, Ingrid Lombardo, Steve Peterson and Dr. Bruce Sklarew.
I. Welcome – Laura Chambers, Council Chair
Laura opened the Fall Quarterly Meeting of the WAMU Community Council shortly after 7 p.m. She welcomed everyone and asked Doreen Hodge, a senior account manager in WAMU’s Corporate Marketing Department, to introduce the three new account managers who have joined the staff since the last meeting. They are Tish Few, Debbie Morris, and Althea Evans. Doreen also introduced Sarah Cumbie who was working in Content Operations and has now taken on the position of Corporate Marketing Coordinator. Development Director Walt Gillette introduced Susan Dankoff, WAMU’s new Director of Campaigns, who has been hired to lead WAMU’s Capital Campaign, and Wendy Ponvert, the station’s new Assistant Director of Development for Leadership Giving.
Noting that tonight’s meeting will focus on audience diversity, Laura related a recent experience she had at the mall when she had her picture taken. The photographer was from Eritrea but when he found out that she was on the WAMU advisory board, he informed her that he was a regular listener to The Kojo Nnamdi Show which he considers a major source of his education.
Laura called for a motion to approve the minutes of the last meeting of the Council which took place on April 25, 2012. Barbara Bares pointed out that the date of the last Community Dialogue was incorrectly listed on page 5 as August 24th when it should have been April 24th. Don Quayle moved that the minutes be approved with that one correction. The motion was seconded and the minutes were unanimously approved.
II. Presentations on Audience Diversity
A. Introduction of Presentations
Caryn welcomed everyone to this “Special Edition of the WAMU Community Council Meeting.” She explained that for this session, the focus will be on just one topic; and will consist of special presentations at the station level and at the NPR network level on this one topic. The topic is audience diversity.
Caryn noted that several members of the Community Council as well as members of the station’s volunteer support group for fundraising, the Development Advisory Council, have asked the same question that we regularly ask ourselves –“How well are we serving all of the possible constituents in the National Capital Region?” and “How well are we positioned to attract new Audience?” Our goal is to attract an audience that reflects the changing demographics of the region, the changing face of America, and responds to the revolutionary changes in media distribution and consumption in this digital age. Last week, WAMU’s own Armando Trull reported on a Penn State study ranking the D.C. Region as fourth in the nation for ethnic diversity. Three of our suburban communities were among the top 25 in the country as being the most diverse -- with the remainder all being in California. Caryn pointed out that our region is in the forefront of this demographic shift, and D.C. ranks as the 3rd most educated city in the country (education level is one of the primary drivers of public radio listening). In view of this, what should we expect in regard to our ‘reach’ into what NPR CEO Gary Knell identifies as the ‘Four Quadrants of Diversity’ with which we as public broadcasters should be most concerned – ethnicity, age, geography and thought?”
Caryn informed the Council that at WAMU, 16% of the major programming decision makers (as defined by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) are people of color; 48% of major programming decision makers are female; 28% of the overall staff at WAMU are people of color and 45% of this advisory board are people of color. WAMU’s audience is trending up for both black and Hispanic audience. The significant increases put us at an Arbitron estimate of 94,000 black listeners tuning in weekly and around 29,000 Hispanics. 15% of WAMU’s audience composition is Black and around 5% Hispanic. Caryn said that while those percentages are most likely astronomically high compared to most public radio stations around the country, we have to stop and remind ourselves that there is much room for growth. “We know there are some unanswered questions such as is Arbitron sampling for listeners of color in the right places and the right way? And there is the larger context of public radio listeners being a somewhat rare breed anyway – WAMU overall attracts between 600,000 and 700,000 weekly listeners in a market where 4.5 million people are using radio weekly. But our aspirations to serve are higher!”
Caryn explained that the first presentation would be by Rebecca Blatt, WAMU’s Senior News Editor. She will be followed by Keith Woods, Vice President for Diversity in News & Operations for NPR. Caryn thanked Keith for postponing his appearance at the Public Radio Program Directors’ Conference in Las Vegas in order to be here tonight. She asked that Council Members hold their questions until after both presentations.
B. Efforts to Increase Audience Diversity at WAMU
Rebecca Blatt, WAMU’s Senior News Producer, gave a power point presentation on the efforts the station is making to reach out to all of the diverse communities in our listening area. (Please see Attachment #1) Rebecca began by saying that she always enjoys meeting people who listen to WAMU because all of us at the station always have our listeners in mind. In order to produce content that is relative, accurate and inclusive, we need to have a sense of who is in our listening community whether they happen to be listening to us at that moment or not. She said that the “Four Quadrants --Age, Geography, Ethnicity, and Thought” frame the way in which we think about diversity.
As examples of the breadth of our community coverage, Rebecca talked about a few of the stories the station has covered this past week which demonstrate how we try to engage with our communities on issues of diversity. One story concerned the Langley park area and the efforts of that diverse community to gain access to transportation. Another illustrated the way in which the station used digital media to enhance a story about the deaf community. Rebecca pointed out that the key factors in increasing diversity are “Staff, Audience, and Content” and that they are intertwined. The composition of our staff directly affects the content of our stories which in turn affects the diversity of our audience. She noted that the station has made a great effort to increase the diversity of the staff in all of the four quadrants to which NPR CEO Gary Knell referred. She pointed out that 28% of WAMU’s full time staff are now minority employees along with 16% of our programming decision makers. WAMU’s content covers all age groups from the high school students in Kavitha Cardoza’s award winning reports on the dropout crisis to the stories we have done about caring for the elderly. And, our talk shows cover issues of local, national and global significance.
The diversity of our audience is increasing, but there is much more work to be done. Rebecca said that there are opportunities to increase audience diversity through our increased digital media effort. WAMU’s online visitors are up 33% and putting our product on mobile devises gives us a great opportunity to reach out to a younger audience. Recruiting and fostering young talent and increasing the number of reporters also contributes to our efforts to increase audience diversity.. The more reporters we have, the more specialization we can allow, and the more opportunity there will be for in-depth coverage of community issues. In closing, Rebecca talked about a special project of hers, the Public Insight Network (PIN). PIN is a community online of people who have expressed interest in being a source for WAMU. This has allowed us to bring new voices onto the air and to engage with people with whom we would not otherwise come into contact. It has enabled us to bring more diversity not only to our content but also to our audience.
C. Increasing Diversity in Public Radio Audience Nationwide
Keith Woods opened his remarks by saying that he was happy to be back with the WAMU Community Council. He last spoke to a meeting of the Community Council in March of 2010 shortly after coming to Washington to become NPR’s new Vice President for Diversity in News and Operations. Keith said that as Rebecca has already covered a lot of the structural ground that guides how we work on diversity in her presentation, he would just like to talk about how we see the world right now and about the things that we are trying to do to expand out further. Referring to the four quadrants of age, ethnicity, geography, and thought, Keith pointed out that the average age of the NPR listener is fifty-three. In order to be relevant, we have to push the age diversity issue so that we are capturing a younger audience. Generational diversity would help us find both the listeners and financial supporters to continue our mission. Ideological diversity is not code for liberals – it is code for those who are not liberal. The challenge is to cover a wide range of thought and to encourage new perspectives that are not normally part of our content. Keith said that we need to make an aggressive attempt to be more inclusive. Geographical diversity means NPR needs to widen its coverage. We have tended to tilt towards the corridors of power in Washington and to the East and West Coasts ignoring the vast middle of the country. As a visual reminder a map has been set up in the news department and pins are being placed on it to demonstrate the areas our stories have covered. As far as ethnicity is concerned, Keith explained that the NPR audience is 87% white and 13 % other which is not a sustainable number. There is much room for growth. The African American and Latino population in our colleges continues to grow and as the public radio audience is largely college educated, we should be gaining these college graduates. However, he added that NPR does have a large number of listeners who do not have college degrees and we also need to keep them and increase their numbers.
Keith stressed the importance of creating a workplace where diversity thrives because if you increase the diversity of the staff, you will probably increase the diversity of content and the diversity of the audience. Being accessible on all media platforms is also important. The challenge is to provide relative, interesting content on all of these platforms. If you are going to be relevant and cutting age in digital media you will reach a more diverse audience. Keith pointed out that public radio has the opportunity over television and newspapers because it can live in digital space. “We do sound better than anyone else, and we have the opportunity to take the highest qualities of our craft from one media to another.”
Keith informed the Council that this summer, NPR received a two-year, $1.5 million grant from CPB to support the creation of a six-person unit to report on issues of race, ethnicity and culture. The project is intended to diversify NPR’s audience by engaging underserved listeners. The grant would allow NPR to hire additional staff to support the six person unit.
In closing, Keith said that we must continue to push our boundaries and increase our accessibility. “The intersection of race, ethnicity and culture are part of our life every day – it is what America is all about.”
Maria Gomez asked Keith how NPR and its member stations can make the changes he referred to without alienating the current core listeners. Keith responded that we can continue to do what we have been doing but we can make our stories more inclusive. He said the real challenge is how to be relevant in 1,000 different ways. Kim Jones agreed that telling a good story is important but more people will listen if they believe the story includes people like them. She relayed an experience where she had asked a younger staff member to represent her in an interview and she found that the younger staff members in her organization all made a point to listen because it was someone to whom they could more easily relate. Keith pointed out that some people who rarely listen to the radio may turn it on to listen to a particular story in response to a tweet from their friends or they may find it on the internet. Trisha Hartge said that younger people seem to want visual images along with audio, and Caryn said that we are providing visual content on our website.
Chris Lewis agreed that both audio and visual content is essential. However, as Keith pointed out audio will always be our highest competence. Rawn James said that increasing the breadth of the stories can bring in a more diverse audience. For example, a story about fishing if told in the right way can be fascinating to both liberals and conservatives and people of different ages and education levels. Peter Tannenwald that NPR’s flagship programs which draw the largest audiences -- Morning Edition and All Things Considered – focus on international and political stories. Keith said that we do not want to change the focus of these shows, we want to help them to expand their coverage and make their stories more inclusive. Daniel Okonkwo asked what members of the Community Council can do to help. Rebecca and Keith responded that Council Members can keep in touch with the newsroom to alert them to issues and potential stories they may not be aware of and to help the reporters to make inroads into diverse communities.
III. Community Council Member Match for Fall Campaign – Ginny McArthur
Ginny, who is the Vice Chair of the Development Advisory Council (DAC) and the DAC’s liaison to the Community Council advised the Council that the DAC and the Community Council usually offer a Member Match for the Fall Membership Campaign. She encouraged the Council Members to contribute to this challenge which will be offered on the final day of
the upcoming campaign. Ginny said that the goal is 100% participation from each of the Councils.
IV. Update on 2012 Community Dialogues – Kent Lynn, Vice Chair of the Council and Chair of the Community Dialogue Subcommittee
Kent reported that the last Community Dialogue took place on Thursday, June 14th. The topic was “Health Check on the Local Music Scene.” The participants were Amanda MacKaye, Coordinator of the Fort Reno Summer Concert Series; Kip Lornell, Adjunct Professor of Music/Ethnomusicology at George Washington University, anda local author and music critic; Steve Lambert, President, and Jimmy Rhodes, Booking Assistant at Hood Booking; Jay Bruder, a music historian; and, Tom Mindte, Founder and Owner of Patuxent Records. In addition to Kent, Council Members Barbara Bares, Colleen Boothby, Mary Briggs, Paul DesJardin assisted tin assembling the panel with help from WAMU staff members Chris Teskey, Jerad Walker and Brendan Sweeney. Mark McDonald moderated the off-the-record discussion.
Kent informed the Council that the next Community Dialogue would take place on
Thursday, November 15th , and it will focus on the emergence of “big data” and the challenges it presents. Kent asked for volunteers to assist him in putting this dialogue together and Sharvell Becton, Trisha Hartge and Larry McCarthy agreed to do so.
V. Old Business, New Business
Laura Chambers announced that she would be appointing a Nominating Committee to consider recommendations for new members to fill terms beginning on January 1, 2013. She asked for volunteers from the Council and Barbara Bares, Maria Gomez, Trisha Hartge, Rawn James and Daniel Okonkwo all agreed to serve on the committee. The Nominating Committee will present its report for approval by the full Community Council at the final meeting of 2012 which will take place on December 5th. She asked the Council Members to think of people whom they believe would be a great addition to the Council and who would be interested in being considered for appointment.
There being no public comment or further business, Laura asked for a motion to adjourn. The motion was made, seconded and approved, and the meeting was adjourned at 8:55 p.m. The next meeting of the Council will take place on Wednesday, December 5, 2012.
Anne Slattery Healy