Archive | October 2011

What do you need to know to make informed choices? How can we help you?

The St. Louis Beacon, Nine Network of Public Media, and St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU are working together to plan election campaign coverage that is most useful to you. We’re asking you, the voters, to help us get started by telling us what information you want to know, and in what format you would like to receive it.

The Beacon, Nine Network, and St. Louis Public Radio have many ways to share information, so all of your ideas are welcome.

To get things started, we’re holding a series of conversations where you can come and meet some of our staff and other civic-minded and politically engaged people like you.

Please join us Tuesday, November 8, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., in the University of Missouri-St. Louis Millennium Student Center, room 313. We know everyone is busy, so we intend to keep these meetings to about an hour.

Please RSVP by contacting Sydney Meyer at


Interesting insights from NPR’s Ombudsman

NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos

Edward Schumacher-Matos joined NPR as its Ombudsman back in June and has quickly adapted to his position as the public’s representative to NPR. He serves as an independent source regarding NPR’s programming, explains NPR to its listeners, and shares listener feedback and concerns with NPR.

Today he addressed the issue surrounding Lisa Simeone and her involvement with Occupy DC.  Several media outlets, including NPR, have reported that Simeone has been removed from her position as the host of the public radio program Soundprint.  A number of media outlets have suggested, incorrectly, the NPR had a role in this termination.

In addition to her hosting role on Soundprint, Ms. Simeone is also the host of World of Opera, a program that  is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina.  The program is distributed by NPR.  Simeone is neither an employee of NPR nor of WDAV; she is a freelancer with the station.  WDAV has made the decision to retain Simeone as host of the program.

In Schumacher-Matos’ piece, he notes:

As news ombudsman, I focus on news coverage issues and the journalism being produced at NPR. I am independent in choosing what to write about, and what I say when I do.

Simeone, however, is a non-NPR employee who hosts an opera program produced by a North Carolina public radio station that has nothing to do with news. The program is distributed by NPR, but Simeone has no influence or role in NPR news. The issue surrounding her, therefore, is a management and legal one. Any comments listeners want to make should be addressed to Audience Services.

However, he does use the opportunity to discuss NPR’s ethics code, which specifically states that “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.”

St. Louis Public Radio has a similar policy for its journalists.

A post by Schumacher-Matos a week ago had a whole lot more meat on it as he detailed a comprehensive review of NPR’s coverage of the problems that News Corp. and its head Rupert Murdoch have faced in light of the phone-tapping and bribery scandals that have occurred primarily in the U.K.

A summary of Schumacher-Matos evaluation stated that:

NPR has rightly given a lot of coverage to the scandal, but not more so than other major news organizations or even The Wall Street Journal itself. With the glaring exception of one online headline, NPR’s coverage has been professional, sound, and calm. There has been no underlying tone of smacking lips, and certainly no liberal bias.

Schumacher-Matos admits that “There is no love lost between the Murdoch organization and NPR. Avowedly conservative commentators at two of Murdoch’s properties, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, routinely slam the public network. They had good fodder, for example, in NPR’s bungled firing a year ago of Juan Williams.” 

However, the Ombudman’s assessment finds that the amount of coverage by NPR of the scandal was no more or less than most mainstream media outlets including Murdoch’s own publication, The Wall Street Journal.

Each week, NPR distributes an e-newsletter of recent postings by its Ombudsman.  It’s worth the time to subscribe as his insights, which are fascinating for those of us who rely on NPR News as a primary news source.  It’s a shame that more news organizations aren’t keeping themselves this accountable.

UPDATED as of 4:35 PM

NPR has just announced that WDAV, which took over production of World of Opera in January 2010, will assume responsibility for the distribution of the program on November 11. The change will be seamless for listeners. As you know, the program will continue to be hosted by Lisa Simeone, produced by WDAV, and distributed to all the stations that air the program.

It’s October … which means it’s membership campaign time

Our Fall 2012 Coffee Mug

If you’re an avid public radio listener, October is one of those months out of the year when you can turn to just about any public radio station across the country and find the station on the air encouraging its listeners to support the station.

On-air fund raising campaigns have been a staple for public radio stations for more than 30 years and continue to be one of the most critical times of the year for stations to raise money to pay for the programs that listeners enjoy throughout the year.

The St. Louis Public Radio Fall On-Air Fund-Raising Campaign begins on Thursday, October 13 and runs through Friday, October 21.

The results and reliance on these on-air campaigns vary from station to station across the country. Some smaller stations rely almost entirely on on-air fund raising, while many larger stations, including St. Louis Public Radio, have developed a balance of support from on-air campaigns, direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, sustained memberships, and philanthropy to raise the needed funds to pay for the local and national programs.

Only about a third of our total support from individual contributors comes during our two on-air campaigns. What these campaigns do best for us, though, is to bring in thousands of new contributors to the station every year. It is far and away the most effective and efficient way for us to gain new supporters to the station.

Around three years ago, we made some changes in our strategy with our on-air drives to focus more on new donors and the results have been phenomenal! In 2008, 13,000 donors gave to the station and now more than 20,000 are active supporters of St. Louis Public Radio.

We are also giving our listeners a voice in talking about why they support the station. These testimonials help to tell the story of what listeners value about the station and are very effective in moving people to donate.

For the campaign that starts this week, we have some wonderful audio clips.

Sometimes the testimonials are extremely personal, as in the case of this story from Richard Rubin about his ailing wife’s love of classical music.

In other cases, the stories can be humorous and something that most listeners can relate to as in this story from Marc Mendolia.

And, other pieces, like this one from Karen Kalish and her new friend (and taxi driver) David Woods can be surprising.

And, in addition to these regional voices, we’ll also have our share of the friends from the national programs to add their voice to encourage you to support the station — THINK IRA GLASS.

We take great pride that St. Louis Public Radio is among only a few public radio stations in the country doing just two on-air membership campaigns each year.  Last year we were able to raise nearly $1.1 million in just 18 fund-raising days, making us among the most efficient in the country in raising money from our listeners.  Your support is essential and I hope that we can count on you again in the coming days.

Meet Gary Knell, the new President/CEO of NPR

We learned Sunday afternoon that the NPR Board of Directors has chosen Gary Knell as the new President and CEO of NPR.  Knell is the longtime President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, the the nonprofit education company behind the beloved children’s show Sesame Street, and other highly regarded public television programs like Electric Company and Dragon Tales.

The hiring of Knell comes at a critical time for NPR and all of public radio as it recovers from a series of missteps last year that included the controversial termination of Juan Williams that ultimately lead to the exit of then CEO Vivian Schiller, News SVP Ellen Weiss, and its fundraising chief.

Knell was interviewed by Melissa Block on All Things Considered on Monday and among many things was questioned about the role of federal funding for public radio. Knell articulated that public radio needs to do a better job at making the case for funding by equating public radio to institutions such as public libraries and public museums that also received tax-based subsidies.

Here’s the full interview.

Knell’s first chance to meet with member stations like St. Louis Public Radio will come on Tuesday afternoon with a conference call with station leaders. He officially begins work at NPR on December 1, 2011.