WAMU 88.5 : Community

WAMU 88.5 Community Council Minutes, Feb. 6, 2013

WAMU Community Council Members Attending:
Laura Chambers, Council Chair; Kent Lynn, Vice Chair; Barbara Bares, Sharvell Becton, Dr. Christine Berg, Paul DesJardin, Patricia "Trisha" Hartge, Rawn M. James, Jr., Ginny McArthur, Larry McCarthy, Amy Nakamoto, Margaret O'Bryon, Daniel Okonkwo, Delphine Peck, Micaela Mejia Pond, Donald Quayle, Anthony Sarmiento, and Thomas Walls.

WAMU/AU Staff Attending:
Caryn Mathes, Joelle Costello, Sarah Cumbie, Debbie Galliber, Walt Gillette, Doreen Hodge, Margo Kelly, Meymo Lyons, Melanie McCarty, Mark McDonald, Paul Mozzocci, Carey Needham, Kristen Sorensen, Glenn Williams and Anne Healy.

Members of the Public:
Cliff Brody, Diana Conway and Cathleen O'Brien (WAMU Ambassador)

I. Welcome - Laura Chambers, Council Chair

Laura Chambers welcomed everyone to the First Quarterly Meeting of the WAMU Community Council for 2013. She asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the last meeting of the Council which was held on December 5, 2012.  Don Quayle moved that the minutes be approved as written and his motion was seconded and unanimously approved by the Council.

Laura said that she was especially pleased to be able to welcome the Council's two new members, Dr. Christine Berg and Thomas Walls.  She asked them to briefly introduce themselves. Chris Berg informed the Council that she is an oncologist. She said that she has been at the National Cancer Institute at NIH for the past eight years where she had the privilege of working with fellow Council Member Trisha Hartge. Prior to that, she was a member of the Georgetown University Medical School faculty. The main focus of her work has been on cancer screening and prevention. Chris explained that she is currently taking a hiatus to rest and travel. She recently spoke at a conference in Dublin and will be speaking at another conference in the UK in April.  She expects to return to Georgetown or to Johns Hopkins; she also plans to volunteer part of her time to work on the risks to human health presented by climate change. In introducing himself, Tom Walls said that he is a principal in the law firm of Dentons in its Public Policy and Regulation practice. As a member of the firm's political law compliance team, he works to ensure that clients who pursue an aggressive policy agenda comply with key legal and ethical requirements. Before joining Dentons, he served on the staffs of three United States Senators, most recently serving as Chief Counsel for Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Tom and his family live in Arlington.

Laura said that she was recently listening to The Big Fix, a new program that has been airing on WAMU. She said that she was so involved with a particular segment that she could not leave her kitchen until it ended.  She asked the members of the Council to talk briefly about programs on WAMU that keep them glued to their radios. Larry McCarthy said he often hears stories on Morning Edition or discussions on The Diane Rehm Show that affect him in that way.  Don Quayle said that he always finds All Things Considered interesting and absorbing.  Rawn James said that when he takes cabs in Washington, he notices that the drivers are often listening to WAMU and in particular to The Kojo Nnamdi Show and The Politics Hour.  Margaret O'Bryon said she finds Metro Connection fascinating and enjoys its focus on our community.  Daniel Okonkwo said he often finds it hard to leave his car or house when WWDTM is on because of its lighter focus and because it makes him laugh.  Micaela Pond said she and her 14-year-old son listen to the Writers Almanac every morning before he leaves for school. Rawn James said that he has written his two books while listening to Rob Bamberger's Hot Jazz Saturday Night.  Laura thanked everyone for their comments and turned the meeting over to Caryn Mathes for her report.

II. Update on Station Activities - Caryn Mathes, General Manager

Caryn opened her remarks by echoing Laura's warm welcome to new Council Members Christine Berg and Tom Walls.  She noted that Tom had attended the welcome and recognition reception for the Community Council on January 22nd; however, Christine was unable to attend as she was speaking at the British Thoracic Oncology Conference in Dublin-- "An excellent medical excuse!" Caryn congratulated Council Member Rawn James, Jr. on the launch of his latest book--"The Double V: How Wars, Protest and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military."

Caryn explained that her immediate focus these days is on the new facility at 4401 Connecticut — "ramping up to acquire new resources to fund this transition and our programmatic aspirations--and thinking about national issues impacting the public broadcasting industry."  As a member of the NPR Board, Caryn is now chairing the Board's Committee on Satellite Interconnection and Program Distribution.  She informed the Council that she had participated in a large consultation at CPB looking at how we as a system propose to maintain our critical satellite distribution and interconnection systems that--on the public radio side--shuttle 450,000 hours of programming annually if federal funding is severely curtailed or completely eliminated. Caryn explained that the public broadcasting financial eco-system is a pretty fragile thing and that the loss of the 27 cents per capita that Congress appropriates to public ratio directly, coupled with the loss of millions that CPB traditionally has invested in public broadcasting's technology, infrastructure, music licensing, and hardware replacement would have a destabilizing and devastating effect. All public broadcasting entities are focused on hammering out a strategy at the national level to allow us to "survive the sequester" and other coming financial storms.  Caryn said that in the near term, on the home front, WAMU is focused on excellence--"on mattering more to our communities by being engaged and inclusive, and acknowledging how small the world continues to become by connecting local-to-global in every aspect of what we do." "The resources our listeners have invested in WAMU have allowed us to step up to constantly reinventing ourselves--with an on-air improvement strategy, content expansion strategy, a digital strategy, a community engagement strategy, and diversity and inclusion strategies." WAMU delivers the most listeners to NPR programs of any station in the nation, second only to KQED in San Francisco. And although the two cities are similar in population size, KQED's listener base only bests WAMU by 0.3%.

With regard to the station's move to its new facility, Caryn informed the Council that it now appears we will have a phased move of the administrative offices and the broadcast function beginning in late May. She noted that "the building is going to be a game-changer. It will be a multi-dimensional space that will work in concert with our producers' need to produce content on multi-dimensional planes. The audience we have, and the audience that we must make our own, expects websites optimized for mobile devices, interactive databases, live streaming, archived/on-demand content in the form of podcasts, video, social media interaction, blogging, etc."

In concluding her remarks, Caryn stated: "If we are to matter more, then WAMU has to be a tool of empowerment for our listeners to express themselves in the world and take action on the world.  As blogger Steve Smith for 'Mobile Insider' stated, personalized media is already in the rear view mirror — we're on to actionable media. So you are seeing us invest in things like the Public Insight Network to allow citizens to engage directly with our local news department and share human stories that resonate, and the digital department is developing a citizen's guide tool to help our listeners track accountability in their government. There is so much in the pipeline--and even more in our heads of how we can 'matter more' — and this new building was designed and stacked from the outset to support simultaneous activity that is imperative to a modern media enterprise."

Laura asked if there were any questions for Caryn. Chris Berg asked if moving further away from the University presented any limitations or advantages.  Caryn said that we will still have access to the advantages being part of the University provides. She explained that we had looked at over six different locations over a five-year period before finally finding a facility that would meet our needs. American University was able to purchase the building, and we will occupy approximately half of the space — about 45,000 square feet. The rest of the space will be occupied by other University units and there is some existing rental space on the street level.  Barbara Bares asked if the May date for the move was definite, and Caryn responded that it was not. The first phase of the move will only involve the purely administrative units. The broadcast units will not move until all the studios and equipment are in place. Don Quayle asked if the broadcast equipment would all be new and Caryn said that it would.  Micaela asked about naming opportunities and Caryn assured her that there would be a number of naming opportunities available for major donors.

III. Updates from WAMU Directors

Programming - Mark McDonald, Director of Programming

Mark opened his report by informing the Council that Meymo Lyons has been officially named WAMU's Managing Editor, News and that Brendan Sweeney has been promoted to the position of Managing Producer of The Kojo Nnamdi Show.  He commended both Meymo and Brendan for their outstanding work on behalf of the station.

Mark distributed the report that Lettie Holman, Manager of Programming and Research, had prepared comparing the Arbitron ratings for Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 and demonstrating amazing growth for the station. (Please see Attachment #1.)  The report also included data on January Week 2 ratings in which WAMU was #1 in the Washington, DC area with a 9.6 share (our highest ever) and 735,300 weekly listeners representing a four-week uptrend.  Mark noted that during this period WAMU was # 1 in afternoon drive for the first time.

Mark said that he was extremely proud of the station's extensive coverage of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration which involved collaboration between the news, programming, engineering, and web team.  Micaela Pond said that she saw a number of people who had come to the Mall for the ceremony listening to WAMU's coverage of the event.

Mark talked about The Big Fix, a new program WAMU produced and aired as a pilot project for five weeks last fall.  The program is designed to give listeners the opportunity to present their innovative domestic policy ideas to people in power. The host and creator is Al Lewis. Mark explained that we were able to utilize our Public Insight Network which is managed by WAMU's senior news editor, Rebecca Blatt, to solicit ideas from listeners on ways in which some of the problems discussed might be fixed. Chris Berg said that she had listened to the program and was impressed with the ideas that came in. Mark said that the pilot series received a good response, and they are now working on improving the program. He is hoping that American Public Media might assist with some resources to make it a better show and eventually with distributing it to public broadcasting stations across the country.

WAMU has had an ongoing relationship with AU's School of Communication.  Mark teaches a course at SOC and the station uses a number of students as interns, and we have worked together on a number of projects over the years. With the move to the new building, we are looking at ways in which we might possibly formalize this relationship to our mutual benefit.

On Sunday, February 3rd, WAMU aired a live production of the Lean and Hungry Theatre which was held at the Whittemore House, a historic mansion in the District of Columbia.  Mark commended the engineering team for its great work in broadcasting this production. He said that it was a great example of the type of work we will be able to do with the arts community once we have our black box theater in our new facility.

Laura asked if any of the Council Members had any questions for Mark. Delphine asked about our experience with the Public Insight Network. Mark explained that through the Public Insight Network we can appeal to our listeners who use the web to share their interests and expertise with us when requested so that we can call upon them to augment our news coverage.  Tom Walls asked what accounts for the dramatic increase in listeners.  Caryn said we have considerably expanded our local news coverage and improved our weather and traffic reports so that listeners do not have to tune to a different channel for that information.  Kent asked if the station has seen an increase in underwriting and membership to correspond with the large increase in the number of listeners.  Caryn said that our underwriting revenues have greatly increased, but that it takes a bit longer to convert new listeners to members so the growth in membership will be slower.  Delphine asked if there are particular programs that have shown the most growth.  Mark responded that the numbers for The Diane Rehm Show and Morning Edition and the weekend shows have experienced amazing growth, but he said that the promotional strategy has also been an important factor because it encourages listeners to stay tuned in for longer periods.

Financial Update - Carey Needham, Director of Business Administration

Carey reviewed the Fiscal Year 2012 and Fiscal Year 2011 Revenue and Expense Detail as of December 31, 2012. (Please see Attachment #2.) The report was sent to the members of the Council prior to the meeting. Carey said that the revenue from both Development (Individual Giving) and Corporate Marketing has increased markedly.  Development reported an increase of 6% in gift income between FY 2012 and FY 2013, and Corporate Marketing reported a 9% increase in total sales.  Carey noted that Development income from individuals spiked during October largely due to the October On-Air Membership Campaign which ended with $1.9 million contributed and committed from more than 13,000 members - a historical best for WAMU.

Delphine asked if WAMU had funds in a reserve account.  Carey responded that when Caryn became WAMU's General Manager in 2005, the balance in the reserve account was only $362,000.  Until the end of 2012 we had $15 million in reserves, which enabled us to make a $10-million down payment on the renovations to our new facility.  Chris Berg asked if operating expenses would increase with the new facility, and Carey responded that they would increase markedly as we are moving to a lease payment arrangement. Rawn James said that the threat of the impending sequester is already affecting government agencies and if it goes into effect it will probably lower the amount WAMU can expect from the CFC and from individual giving.

Upcoming Membership Campaign - Walt Gillette, Development Director

Walt said that his department was getting ready for the upcoming Winter Membership Campaign which will begin on Saturday, February 16th. The goal for the campaign is $1.3 million, the highest ever for a Winter/Spring Campaign.  Caryn pointed out that while we are always thrilled when we raise a large amount during our On-Air Membership Campaigns, they produce approximately one-third of WAMU's annual revenue and we need revenue from major donors and other sources to make up the funds needed to operate the station.  Walt thanked the Council Members for their support of the Membership Campaigns through the Council Member Match. He said that we generally raise $1.50 to $2 for every Member Match dollar.

IV. WAMU Development Advisory Council Update - Ginny McArthur, DAC Liaison

Ginny followed up on Walt's comments about the importance of the Council's Member Match.  Both the Community Council and the Development Advisory Council (DAC) offer member matches during the on-air campaigns, and they are usually offered on the last day of the fundraiser during the first or second hour of The Diane Rehm Show or during Kojo's DC Politics Hour. Ginny explained that the goal is 100% participation from the Council Members, and she introduced Melanie McCarty, WAMU's Major Gift Officer, who will serve as the contact for the Council Member Match.  In closing, Ginny said that the DAC is looking for additional members, and she asked Community Council Members to let her know of anyone they think might be interested in getting involved in finding new major donors for the station.

V. Report on Community Dialogues - Kent Lynn, Council Vice Chair

Kent reported that the Community Dialogue Subcommittee, which he chairs, held its first meeting of the year on January 16th and that it was well attended by Council Members and staff. The subcommittee came up with the idea of focusing all three of this year's Community Dialogues on health care, specifically the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). Kent explained that there were a couple of reasons that we decided to focus on this important subject: the first is that WAMU does not currently have a dedicated health care reporter, and the second is that we have several members of the Council who have extensive experience, contacts, and expertise in this area.  The dates for the three Dialogues will be Tuesday, March 19th, Tuesday, June 18th, and Tuesday, October 29th. These off-the-record discussion meetings will take place in the station's community room from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. preceded by a continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. for the panelists, Council Members, and WAMU staff.

VI. Old Business, New Business

Laura reminded everyone to put the dates for the three remaining Quarterly Meetings of 2013 (Wednesday, April 17th, Wednesday, September 18th, and Wednesday, December 4th) on their calendars. There being no further old or new business, she asked for any public comment.

VII. Public Comment

Cliff Brody, a former DAC member and station supporter, said that he is always impressed with the creativity of Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac.  He finds it a great time to stop and listen and think about the ideas expressed.  In addition to Morning Edition, The Diane Rehm Show, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and All Things Considered, he enjoys listening to Kristen Tippett's program on Sunday mornings and On the Media.  Cliff said he always impressed with the professionalism of everything he hears on WAMU.

Diana Conway introduced herself.  She is the President of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance in Poolesville, Maryland.  The Alliance was formed by residents of upper Montgomery County who want to protect their nationally recognized model of conservation, the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve.  The group has expanded to represent the Reserve's interest more extensively, including protection from additional development threats and increasing the support and awareness of its local agricultural communities. Diana said that she loves WAMU and would like to encourage the station to take a more active interest in the Agricultural Reserve.  Brendan Sweeney and Meymo Lyons both thanked Diana for coming and bringing the work of the Alliance and the issues affecting upper Montgomery County to the station's attention.

VIII. Adjournment

There being no further business, Laura thanked everyone for their participation and asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. The motion was made, seconded and approved, and the meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Anne Slattery Healy


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