The St. Louis Beacon and St. Louis Public Radio have merged today. The purpose and direction of the new organization are clear — to serve the public with the highest quality reporting on local news and issues. But many details remain a work in progress as we officially begin our work together as one newsroom.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the merger:
How long has this been in the works?
In October 2012, we announced the intent to explore an alliance. In January 2013, we started working with the independent consulting firm Coats2Coats to identify the best path forward.
What will the new organization be called?
We don’t know yet. We’re currently working with TOKY, a local independent branding and design firm, to answer that question. In the meantime, we have co-branded many of our platforms.
Where will I be able to find the content?
We’ll be one organization, so all new content will be on the co-branded St. Louis Public Radio and Beacon website. Beacon reporters will also contribute to the on-air content on 90.7 FM. The previous Beacon website will refer you to the co-branded St. Louis Public Radio website for some time. And, until we can get the archives imported, you’ll be able to see past stories on the Beacon site. There will be one newsroom located in St. Louis Public Radio’s building, UMSL at Grand Center.
What about e-mail newsletters?
Subscribers to the Beacon’s e-mails will be added to the merged organization’s daily news e-mail and general e-update lists. You can edit your preferences at stlpublicradio.org.
What will the budget be?
The annual budget will be about $7 million.
How much did this merger cost?
Because St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon are nonprofit organizations, this was not a traditional purchase or acquisition. Together, the organizations have been raising $3 million in special funding over the next five years for the new organization. Of that total, $2.5 million has already been pledged in private funds.
How many employees will the new organization have?
The combined staff will total about 60 people, with roughly 40 dedicated to the reporting, editing, and production of content on air, online and in other ways.
For more information about the combined organization, see Editor Margie Freivogel’s welcome letter.
Today, the Curators of the University of Missouri System approved the merger of St. Louis Public Radio and The St. Louis Beacon. Beginning in December, the organizations will combine newsrooms and begin to change the face of independent local news in our region and beyond by providing even more depth and perspective on issues and stories that impact our community.
Additionally the new organization will work closely with the University of Missouri system, particularly the School of Journalism in Columbia, to train journalism students in public media and to develop a sustainable business model for the industry.
From Beacon reporter Dale Singer in a detailed report about the approval of the merger: “Dean Mills, dean of the journalism school at Mizzou, told the curators at their meeting that he was excited about the chance for students to work in the St. Louis area and for the Reynolds Journalism Institute on the Columbia campus to apply its research on a new journalistic structure. When approached about the idea, he said, ‘it took me 20 seconds to say yes, yes, yes.'”
Today St. Louis Public Radio general manager Tim Eby said, “We are excited about this first in the nation merging of an non-profit online news start-up and a public radio news operation. We feel that this is a model that will bring about a stronger local service for the St. Louis region on-air, on-line, and in the community.” In a post on this blog in September Tim detailed more of his take on the last year of merger talks.
Beacon editor Margie Freivogel is set to lead the newsroom effort of the combined media organization. Her thoughts on today’s developments are detailed in her editor’s column.
National press has been paying to attention to the merger. Here’s what other news organizations have been saying:
- Poynter: Merger between St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis Public Radio Gets Closer
- Current (public media industry news): University board approves St. Louis Public Radio merger with St. Louis Beacon
Proving that a public radio station can listen as well as broadcast, we have made some programming changes after receiving member and listener feedback regarding our July programming changes.
- Science Friday returns to the KWMU and WQUB lineup beginning Friday, September 27, 2013 and will air Fridays from 1-2 p.m. and again from 9-10 p.m.
- Fresh Air will regain an afternoon slot on Monday-Thursday from 1-2 p.m. It will also remain on the schedule in the evenings from 9-10 p.m.
- Here and Now will air from 2-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. We will continue our collaboration with Here and Now to bring reports from St. Louis to the national program on a regular basis.
“We made the decision to bring back Science Friday and move Fresh Air back to the afternoon as a result of feedback from our listeners and members,” said General Manager Tim Eby. “Public radio listeners are passionate and loyal people, and we truly value their opinions and their support.”
St. Louis Public Radio is working with NPR to conduct two focus groups related to the show All Things Considered on Monday, April 29. We are looking for a variety of All Things Considered listeners: those who listen every day and those who may listen only once or twice a week.
If you’re interested in participating, please start by taking this very brief survey.
Arch City Radio Hour is an hour-long program featuring music artists, bands, and events in the St. Louis region. Every two weeks, host Nick Garcia – of Archcityradio.com – will highlight notable St. Louis musicians and songs. The show will also feature in-depth interviews and live performances.
Performers Beth Bombara and Marc Chechik were featured on the previous Arch City Radio Hour.
Beth Bombara writes and performs her own music, which she describes as Americana with a shot of blues. She has released three CDs, one LP, is working on a 7″ single, and is looking forward to releasing two EPs for 2013. She was named 2012 Best Singer-Songwriter by the Riverfront Times.
Beth and her band performed “Just Can’t Win” from her first album, and a brand new, unreleased song:
Marc Chechik is the song writer and rhythm guitarist for the band Melody Den. Melody Den’s second release, “Storylines”, delivers sharp, insightful songwriting with rock n’ roll instrumentation.
Marc performed the song “Storylines”, the title cut from Melody Den’s new album:
Currently on the Show
Fred Friction and Jason Hutto are our featured guests on the current Arch City Radio Hour.
Fred Friction first made a name for himself in the St. Louis music scene as a sideman on spoons, then ran the legendary south St. Louis club Frederick’s Music Lounge while playing with rock trio Highway Matrons, and has released one album, “Jesus Drank Wine.”
Fred is in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for his next album, “Murder Balladeer”, which Jason is producing.
Steve St. Cyr (pictured: center in blue) will be our guest for the February 18-March 3 Arch City Radio Hour.
Steve produces Songbird STL, an intimate, in-the-round singer-songwriter show, every couple of months at the Focal Point in Maplewood. Steve got his idea from seeing Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and carried this idea to St. Louis.
Steve will talk about the origin and history of Songbird, and play some of the more memorable performances from past Songbird Cafe shows, including a couple of the songs from a Songbird that took place in the UMSL Grand Center Community Room back in December 2012.
To listen to past episodes, visit stlpublicradio.org. New shows are added every other Monday.
St. Louis Public radio received the Champion of the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council at the 2013 St. Louis Arts Awards at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel on Monday, January 21, 2013.
The event kicks off the Arts and Education Council’s 50th anniversary of funding various arts organizations in the St. Louis area. Proceeds from the event benefited the Arts and Education Council’s annual campaign which funds nearly 70 arts education organizations throughout the bi-state region.
The award is given each year to one business or organization that epitomizes leadership, generosity, and dedication towards the arts in their local community. Local groups, organizations, and citizens nominate local businesses for this honor. The award is artwork by local artists.
St. Louis Public Radio is a constant supporter of the arts community in the St. Louis area through online and on-air work. St. Louis Public Radio provides the St. Louis area with in-depth interviews, a forum for civil discussion, and entertaining programs that focus on the issues and people that make up the St. Louis area. St. Louis Public Radio broadcasts live St. Louis Symphony performances on Saturday evenings, provides a 24-hour stream of classical music online and on HD channel Classical KWMU-2, and covers happenings in the arts in St. Louis each week on Cityscape. A video of the work St. Louis Public Radio produces was shared at the event.
Also honored at the Awards were Chuck Berry with the Lifetime Achievement award in the Arts, PNC Bank with the award for Corporate Support of the Arts; Judy and Jerry Kent for Excellence in Philanthropy; the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for Excellence in the Arts; Michael Uthoff for Excellence in the Arts; and Duane Martin Fosteras Art Educator of the Year.
- Started broadcasting from UMSL at Grand Center on June 18, 2012
- Received a $1 Million pledge from Monsanto for UMSL at Grand Center
- Estimated surplus at fiscal year-end of more than $200,000 – an operating surplus of approximately 4% of revenue
- A 4% increase in overall revenue including a 4% increase in individual giving and 2% growth in corporate sponsorship billing
- Unveiled new mobile app for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices that resulted in a 150% increase in listening to our three webstreams
- St. Louis Public Radio news reporters recognized with seven awards for journalism excellence from the Missouri State Teachers Association, Missouri Broadcasters Association, and the Illinois Associated Press.
- 2013 St. Louis Arts award recipient from the Arts & Education Council as “Champion For The Arts” and St. Louis Magazine’s “A” List for classical music programming.
- Sponsored more than 80 community events focusing on the arts, science, education, literacy, cultural diversity, green living, civil discourse and community development. This list of events includes the two most-successful blood drives in the history of the station, a symposium on entrepreneurial business start-up and development, an international business career conference, and awards ceremonies honoring St. Louisans for their contributions to the arts and business communities.
These bullet points are highlights but the year also included on-going excellence in our news and programming areas. You regularly hear our reporters from St. Louis Public Radio on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. St. Louis on the Air continues to discuss the important issues facing our region and Cityscape serves as a connector to the arts in St. Louis. Our web site and social media efforts have evolved to serve a new platform for audience engagement and public service.
In May, we announced the intent to acquire WQUB-FM from Quincy University. WQUB is the public radio station service more than 120,000 people in and around Quincy, IL and serves as a northern extension of our coverage area. The costs of this acquisition should be around $100,000 with our business plan calling for operating the station in the black in three years. The most important aspect of this acquisition is that we have preserved the public radio service for this community.
Also in May we completed the second year of live Saturday evening broadcasts of the St. Louis Symphony from Powell Hall. These broadcasts have been a resounding success in audience and financial terms for the station. We begin season three in September as neighbors to the Symphony where we envision new opportunities for collaboration.
On the subject of collaboration, we end our fiscal year beginning an exciting project with the St. Louis Beacon and the Nine Network of Public Media focused on the 2012 election and government accountability. Beyond November, with funding from the Deer Creek Foundation, will be our first serious collaborative effort with our new Grand Center neighbors. We view this collaboration as a test effort for future opportunities.
We also initiated another partnership this year with Sauce Magazine that explores the food culture of St. Louis. Sound Bites is heard monthly on Cityscape and has been very well received by our listeners.
Our fundraising efforts were highlighted by significant growth (up 18%) in gifts of $1,000 or more and with the expansion of our sustaining membership program. We now have 26% (5,300) of all current donors in our sustaining membership program.
Finally, from a financial standpoint, our expected surplus this year will bring our case reserve up to approximately $1.7 million. It’s a tribute to the station’s staff that we went from no cash in reserve to where we are now in just four years.
Thanks for your great support of the station this year. Looking forward to a very exciting FY 2013!
In the past year, audience growth on St. Louis Public Radio’s digital platforms has been tremendous. Comparing this January to last, our number of unique visitors to the site has increased by 90 percent. Additionally, the number of people listening to our online streams has more than doubled. For all of our streams combined during January 2012, we had a cumulative audience of 29,892 unique listeners. In January 2011 we had 11,855 unique listeners, a 152 percent increase.
We attribute the launch of our mobile apps to some of that increase. The apps are currently available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, with plans for Kindle and possibly Nook. To date, across all platforms the mobile apps have received 5,287 downloads.
Social media drives traffic to the site as well, though not as often as one might think. The number of referrals from Facebook and Twitter together during January was 4,852, with individuals visiting multiple times counted for each visit.
So with 39,859 more unique visitors to our site this January compared to last, we have to attribute much of our success to our increased focus on frequent online news updates. The current website was launched in December of 2010, with a dramatic shift in strategy. The newer design puts our visitors’ needs first in that its main function is to deliver content—not content promoting the station, but our award-winning regional news coverage and programming. Since the change to the website, for the first time we saw our news stories among the top-ten most-viewed pages on the site. As a news organization with a mission to be a trusted source of information, this is right where they should be.
Our “Listen Live” page has been our most popular page probably since the earliest days of kwmu.org. There’s no doubt that the introduction of Classical KWMU-3 and the ability to listen to classical music on our site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week has attracted many more listeners, accounting for much of our year-over-year increase in traffic. The Saturday live broadcasts of the St. Louis Symphony are also popular, attracting listeners from around the globe.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be seeking feedback about the site via an online survey. Using this data, we will continue to evolve the site to meet listener needs. Please participate when you get the chance so that we may be of better service. Thanks for being a fan of www.stlpublicradio.org!
Digital Media Manager
Burn some holiday calories by laughing along with the Capitol Steps in their year-in-review awards ceremony, Politics Takes a Holiday! Listen Saturday, December 31, 2011, from 1 to 2 p.m.
- Biggest Clueless Middle Eastern Dictator Who Thought ‘Arab Spring’ Was Just a Trending Fashion
- Best Not Just Any Committee But a SUPER Committee
- Most GOP Debates Ever Held Ever
- Worst Place to Hide Your Mistress While Serving as Governor of California
If there is anything Congress can agree on, it is that the Capitol Steps’ will have you laughing harder than Rick Perry’s debate opponent!
So laugh away 2011 with the Capitol Steps’ Politics Takes a Holiday, Saturday, December 31, 2011, at 1 p.m. on St. Louis Public Radio – 90.7 KWMU-FM.
There is still time to take advantage of the Charitable IRA Rollover before it expires on December 31st. The Charitable IRA Rollover permits an IRA owner age 70 ½ or older to make a direct transfer to a qualified charity such as St. Louis Public Radio. We have already had some of our donors that advantage of this special opportunity. This tax-free transfer counts toward your required minimum distribution (RMD) and offers a convenient way to make a year-end gift to St. Louis Public Radio. A true WIN-WIN opportunity!
Find more details here at stlpublicradio.org.