Friday, June 26, 2015



Two members of KUSP, Santa Cruz sent me confidential information about new developments at the beleaguered debt-ridden station. In a message to members, KUSP said:

We are deeply gratified to have received a major gift in the amount of $100,000 from an anonymous donor whose express purpose in making the gift was to give the governing board and staff time to make the best decision possible for the future of KUSP.
The mystery donor appears to have an agenda.  To me, the words to make the best decision possible imply the donor prefers a certain outcome.  The last-minute entry of an interested person with a bag full of cash is odious and not worthy of an organization that seeks the public’s trust.
The message also says that Classical Public Radio Network (“CPRN”) has withdrawn their offer to buy KUSP’s license. According to the message KUSP’S Board will meet on July 13th to decide the future of the station.
(Scroll down to read a humorous item about KUSP.)
From Jim Russell, creator of Weekend America:
Ken, I think your comments are interesting and not far from the mark as I see it. But, I do take issue with one comment: “I’ve focused on Weekend America because no program I can recall reached so high and fell so far.” I think Day to Day’s failure was far bigger.

I also think you need to acknowledge that Weekend America was on the air for five years, and in addition to CPB’s money, it had major big-bucks sponsorship from Target Corporation. However, other funders were few and far between. Finally, Weekend America was intended to be a program service, more than just a single long weekend tentpole. But, local stations by and large failed to insert local material, especially in the style and tone of the program. They just didn’t have or want to commit the resources. I also think that stations, by and large, preferred the discrete program offerings available on weekends rather than an omnibus weekend magazine.

KEN: I appreciate Jim’s reply but I don’t agree with him about my reached so high, fell so far description. I know my words may have stung. But Weekend America is only one of many public media projects – most very successful – led by Jim. I am reminded that home run king Hank Aaron also frequently struck out. Like Aaron, Jim is a champion.  As I see it, Jim’s most lasting contribution to public media are the many people he hired, coached and encouraged.  Including me.  Thank you.
Michael Lazar from Radio Survivor recently published [link] his suggested program format for KUSP.  At first, I thought he was joking but maybe he isn’t. I can’t recall ever meeting him but I’ve been reading Lazar’s writing for years. I appreciate Radio Survivor’s coverage of LPFM and college radio, particularly reporting by Jennifer Waits.
Lazar’s solution to KUSP’s painful situation is based on the philosophy of English poet and social critic Matthew Arnold.
Arnold is best known for his collection of essays published in 1869 called Culture and Anarchy. Arnold believed the world would be a better place if we all aspired to cultural perfection. Arnold wrote that perfection is achieved…
…by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits…
Lazar adapted Arnold’s notions into a programming format for KUSP: Hybrid Highbrow [“HH”]. Lazar describes HH as classical music ranging from Phillip Glass to Chinese opera and readings of fiction, poetry, plays and cultural reviews. And lots of sitar ragas …mixed with a coherent philosophy.
Lazar’s perfect format sounds a lot like Lorenzo Milam’s programming advice from the 1970s: Play harps, kazoos and Tibetan Bells.
Sustainable or narcissistic? You decide.

1 comment:

  1. "The last-minute entry of an interested person with a bag full of cash is odious and not worthy of an organization that seeks the public’s trust."

    I think this is a definite possibility but I think one could just as easily view it from the other direction: there's a definite number of extremely wealthy people living in and around Santa Cruz/Monterey. Like, people for whom $100k is pocket change. It's entirely possible one of them just doesn't want KUSP to disappear overnight and is giving them enough time to get their act together.

    Would it have been much, much better if KUSP could've used the $100k as a "challenge grant" concept to launch a massive capital campaign to help fix their problems? Of course it would, but the impression I've had is that time is a luxury they don't have, and properly launching a campaign like that takes several weeks (more like months for an org that small) to pull together. And presupposes the org has its act together and is functioning smoothly which, no offense to anyone at KUSP, but they clearly do not. As in, that's why they're in the mess they're in now...and to give them credit they're trying to get said act together, but it's not gonna happen overnight.

    I would feel better if we knew that the donor had actually pledged something like $150k or even $200k and the first $100k is just to keep the lights on, but the rest will be "seed money" to help KUSP launch its new incarnation (since the status quo obviously isn't sustainable).