WGDR Annual Meeting Speech – Listen Now

WGDR pictureWGDR Director Kris Gruen’s State of the Station Speech

WGDR Annual Meeting, August 18th, 2013

(special thanks to David Parvey for audio production)

Transcript: WGDR State Of The Station, August 18th, 2013

Good afternoon everyone,

It’s my pleasure to be here with you today.

If you’re new to the station, my name is Kris Gruen, I’m the Director of WGDR, and on behalf of myself and my staff I want to welcome you all to the station’s Annual Meeting, especially significant as we celebrate WGDR’s 40th Anniversary this year.

It’s been over a year since we last convened the Annual Meeting, so there are many points of interest to touch on and I’m sure I’ll miss things I would otherwise focus on if we had more time. If you have something of import to add, please consider sharing your thoughts during the Community Forum portion of the meeting later on.

Although I plan to focus mainly on the many exciting initiatives and advancements that have developed since last we convened for the Annual, I’d like to start out by explaining some of the main motivations for the changes– and the discussions of future change—set forth by WGDR governance groups, staff and licensee over the last few years.

Chief among these motivations has been a struggling national economy, it’s daunting effect on the sustainability of higher education currently, the new pressure it places on our major grantor, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the CPB) and it’s effect on the lives of listeners of non-commercial radio everywhere. I say that current economic challenges are now central in the planning of WGDR’s trajectory, but not the only motivating factor, because while the consequences of not responding to the call for change are dire, WGDR remains in a rare position to respond in a timely, creative and community oriented fashion. Even while the station’s licensee grapples with a very challenging budget to balance, Goddard continues to look to WGDR and it’s volunteers as a source of light and profound promise in these difficult times.

Since last we met, current WGDR staff have traveled twice to the National Federation of Community Broadcasters conferences held at different locations around the country annually. The NFCB is the country’s leading membership organization and lobbying group for all issues facing community radio, and past and present WGDR staff and volunteers have been attending conferences for almost a decade now. Held in San Francisco, this last conference carried “Transformation” as a theme, and featured it’s signature station advancement program, the 5×5. This year, the leadership of the NFCB recognized WGDR for its unique position of having a thriving volunteer community, healthy and productive governance groups (PAC and CAB) and a deeply interested and supportive licensee, and asked WGDR staff to produce a panel and participate on another. This invitation to participate as national community leaders was a first for us, and although WGDR is only considered an entry level 5×5 station, the NFCB sees the perfect combination of elements for WGDR to grow into a model station, should we begin to adopt some underlying principles of best practices in the realms of the organization’s station advancement program. These five realms are Engagement, Programming, Development, Governance and Compliance. Participating in San Francisco this year made it even more clear for GDR staff—all members now with training in the 5×5, and five with extended training— that there is much within this model of advancement that can, and will serve to build WGDR into a community media resource that is both worthy of listener investment and academic study, the two main goals associated to WGDR’s interest groups: the listener and the licensee.

In the past, we’ve talked about the threats of diminishing interest from the station’s licensee, and the fear that funding for and from our major grantor, the CPB, would be lost, and that our listeners would find it difficult to support us financially, or even find that our broadcast is less than essential, but since we last convened many of these concerns have arrived as realisms. With a decline in enrollment over the last few years, Goddard has tasked all departments of the college to produce innovative enrollment initiatives and alternative revenue streams. With real cuts to the CPB (8-10% due to this year’s sequestration) WGDR was one of hundreds of non-coms that lost a significant portion of it’s grant sourced funding. In addition, the CPB has just now released a batch of new minimum requirements for non-commercial educational and community radio stations before they can even be considered for its major grant, the Community Service Grant (CSG)– the same grant WGDR currently considers its lifeline for operational expenses. These new minimums will be implemented over the next two years. In examining those new minimum requirements, WGDR staff recognized several areas in which we do not currently meet the minimum—most alarmingly, the $300,000 minimum for non-federal funds. These funds are any dollars a station realizes independently of its CSG, like listener donations, and in our case, licensee support. Over the next two years, WGDR needs to add almost a third more non-federal dollars to its revenue line, or we stand to lose our CSG grant completely. Similarly, we’ve seen listener’s financial support plateau over the last few pledge drives, though we’ve met all but one of our modest goals.

All of these economically driven, service oriented elements together say loudly and clearly that the great thing that WGDR has been needs now, without question, to pull its assets together, build a new, focused mission and identify how to evolve– how to join a new breed of community radio, a deeply team oriented model– if it means to have a valuable enough impact on its stake holders to thrive going forward.

So, under the guidance of the licensee, and informed by organizations like the CPB, the NFCB and the National Center for Media Engagement, strategic initiatives put in motion at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 have now begun to show positive results. In addition to WGDR’s long time gift to its listeners of featuring an eclectic base of volunteer programmers producing a colorful range of individualized programming, WGDR staff and leadership has resourced its core assets to produce a myriad of service oriented programs reflective of the 5×5’s ideals for its internal, external-local and worldwide communities.

In fall of 2011, WGDR launched a concert series in the Haybarn Theatre recognizing a need to make a consistent, face-to-face connection with the area listeners and serve the college with a sustainable vehicle to draw the local community to the campus. Since its inception, the series has run nearly twenty events, featuring such notable artists as Suzanne Vega, Archie Shepp, Bombino and the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars. The series has become a featured component of the college’s efforts to engage its distanced interest groups—alumni, potential students and area supporters– and has sponsored a fertile working relationship between the radio station and the college’s Advancement department.

Starting in Spring of 2012, Programmer Support Coordinator, Leah Xylona, went to work building a multi-purpose website. The external site features eleven comprehensive areas expanding visitor engagement with new tools like SoundCloud supported archives; live logos and links to support cultivation of station relationships with investors and partners (Underwriting Coordinator, Jim Cross); Facebook navigation; multiple ways of viewing the air schedule; concert pages with ticket vending capacity; a realm to send in listener/visitor Feedback; highly visible year-round donation buttons; and station news supported by a center-piece slider that carries—almost exclusively— image links to local programs and their programmer’s show pages.  In addition to all the new elements of programmatic and community engagement, the external site also carries—most importantly—other elements of the CPB’s new minimum requirements criteria: digital versions of station financials, details for the open meeting requirements and a page that “tells the station’s story”, also known as “how WGDR serves it’s listeners”. The new website also has an intranet, designed entirely to support communications within the station’s internal groups, and makes available for download, at any time, all current station policy and engagement criteria, providing accessibility, transparency and accountability for both paid staff and volunteers of the station.

In early 2012, Production Coordinator, Carl Etnier, began work on supporting programmers to build the station’s identity with personalized promos for each program. Almost every program now has a promo to support it, including the CAB, and Training Coordinator, Jackie Batten’s high school groups! You can hear the spirit of the station in these works, and the beginning of a comprehensive, listener oriented broadcasting practice that Operations Manager and Program Director, David Ferland, hopes to evolve. “Looking ahead”, Dave says, “we envision an air schedule where live and pre-recorded, local and syndicated programming and promos and PSAs are intentionally organized and presented in conjunction with the best practices outlined by the 5×5”. The Goddard Hour—another station project stewarded by Mr. Etnier—also started up in early-mid 2012, and is a program featuring the rich stories of the lives and works of the extended Goddard community. This service to the licensee has provided hours of essential archives available to interested parties all around the world, connected alumni to one another, attracted students to contact the college and delighted general listeners with Goddard’s eccentric offerings and history.

2012 saw Goddard’s internal periodical, Clockworks, revised with an entire page devoted to WGDR news. The first edition of the new format featured three stories about significant goings on at WGDR: A piece about a rejuvenated and expanded high-school training program, with an image of Training Coordinator, Jackie Batten, working with a handful of Cabot students in the Production Studio; A piece announcing WGDR’s updated archiving system, the industry standard SoundCloud, featuring GDR programmer, Merry Gangemi’s (WSR’s) interview with Lambda Poetry Award nominee, Davida Singer; And a piece titled “A New Pair Of Shoes” about WGDR’s successful implementation of a first-ever evaluation and assessment program called The Self Directed Inquiry. All three of these stories point directly to steps WGDR has taken to reflect the call coming from the NFCB, the CPB, the listeners and the college. Never before has the WGDR volunteer programmer and the college had a systematic way to work together on developing programming– never before has the college been contacted by so many Project Based Learning programs in area high-schools looking for intentional partnership– and never before has WGDR, Goddard College Community Radio, been so ready to respond to these opportunities for partnership and innovation.

The radio station now reports to academics, and is at the center of planning to support academic initiatives—like nationally coveted internships, and models for remote study in media literacy and citizen journalism. This planning has taken me to our sister campus in Port Townsend, the NFCB conferences in San Francisco and even to DC and the White House, to visit partnering facilities and programs. At home, WGDR has been approached by Cabot School to serve as a site for their Project Based Learning programs, run collaboratively with Barre Technical College. These programs offer area youth PBL credits toward their high school degree and carry with them a healthy budget. This innovative partnership places WGDR in the accredited curriculum of its area high schools, and offers incentives to participating students in the form of potential credits, should they choose to enroll at Goddard.

Holistically, WGDR is now practicing more community engagement online, on-air, in person and in planning than ever before; Experimenting with targeted localized programming, produced collaboratively between volunteer and paid staff; Exploring new models for fundraising and systematizing alternative revenue streams like the concert series, sound engineering for hire, rehearsal space and public events at the station; Involvement with all departments of the licensee, reporting and planning at the heart of the institution with programs set to serve as engines for enrollment, and cutting edge learning opportunities for students of all ages; Governing with healthy, consistent communication and productivity both at the licensee and department level; and Operating legally, both at the physical plant and digital level, vetted by mock FCC inspection and supported by private and national legal expertise.

WGDR is arguably stronger than ever before, but this can only be a starting point for realizing a station that meets the new criteria of healthy community radio as defined by community leaders, stations that grows to raise 90% of their required revenue from non-federal funds, stations that work with similar organizations to develop underwriting buys, that make use of census data and listener surveys to strategize their air schedule, that know the needs and aspirations of their area communities and reflect that knowledge in programming decisions, stations that become important and trusted institutions in their regions.

WGDR now needs all of its members to think of themselves as a team, working toward an agreed upon goal. As we head into the end of 2013, with an exciting anniversary celebration ahead of us, and a fall and early winter full of rich planning meetings to support the development of an updated station mission, and transparency and inclusivity around the adaptations of the 5×5, I ask that each one of us reach across the lines of our particular programs and begin to learn about all of the programs, initiatives, outreaches and efforts that make up Goddard College Community Radio. I ask that as listeners, we make our aspirations known. And I ask as community members sharing the responsibility for the advancement of a treasured project, that we practice grace under fire, and undying patience when working together here.

I look forward to a transformative year with all of you.

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