Friday, March 31, 2017


Jody Evans, CEO of the Public Radio Program Directors Association (PRPD), announced three new members have been appointed to the organization’s Board of Directors. They are Kristen Muller of KPCC, Jacqueline Cincotta of WNYC and Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media.

Also, Hawk Mendenhall is now Chair of the board.

The appointments fill board seats being vacated by Bill Anderson of KCUR, Michael Arnold of Wisconsin Public Radio and Tamar Charney of NPR. Charney had been chair of the board.

Other members continuing their service on the board are: John Hoban (KJZZ), Bill Lueth (KDFC), Matt Abramovitz (WQXR), Ben Adler (KXJZ), Lynne Clendenin (KOPB), Kerri Hoffman (PRX) and Todd Mundt (NPR/WBUR).

Here is more about each of the three new board members:

Kristen Muller, Head of Content Innovation
Southern California Radio, Los Angeles

Kristen Muller
Muller oversees content on the broadcast and digital platforms of KPCC. She is in charge of innovation strategy and project.

Previously she was Senior Managing Editor for KPCC News and producer of Take Two and the Madeleine Brand Show. Before she joined KPCC, Muller spent over a decade with CBS News as a producer for the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes.

In 2016, Muller was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University where she examined journalism in the age of the mega-platforms. Her work focuses on entrepreneurship, digital innovation and management strategies.

Jacqueline Cincotta
Jacqueline Cincotta, Program Director
WNYC, New York

Cincotta has worked at WNYC since 2002 and has been PD since May 2012. Prior to joining WNYC, she worked for several New York advertising and marketing companies, specializing in digital business solutions and graphic design.

Cincotta started her career in radio while she was a student at SUNY, Oneonta. After graduating she worked as an on-air host at Long Island commercial talk station WALK.

Cincotta still occasionally is on the air on WNYC, something she apparently loves. In 2011 she hosted an edition of WNYC’s Soundcheck about the impact of popular music on life at the “tender age” of 14. She shared her music confessions with Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode. You can listen to this delightful story here.

Fred Jacobs
Fred Jacobs, Founder, Jacobs Media

Fred Jacobs launched Jacobs Media in 1983 after several years as PD at WRIF, an influential commercial Classic Rock station in Detroit. Some observers say that Jacobs “invented” the Classic Rock format. Folks interested in Jacobs’ work with Classic Rock should check out his blog here.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jacobs Media expanded into research and consulting for noncom public radio stations, program producers and networks such as NPR and PRI.

Jacobs saw the evolving digital media landscape and in 2004 conducted the first Tech Survey. The Tech Survey  examines the ways audiences engage with new media like social media, streaming audio and video, smartphones and other mobile media. Jacobs has conducted over a dozen Tech Surveys for commercial clients and eight Public Radio Tech Surveys for the PRPD.

In 2008, Jacobs launched the mobile apps company jācapps. Jacobs and his associates established the first DASH Conference in 2013. DASH brings together radio folks and auto industry leaders to examine the “connected car” space.

Check out his company blog here.

KEN SAYS: Congratulations to the PRPD for choosing these three excellent new board members.  Each will bring important new perspectives and skills to the organization.

Fred Jacobs in the mid 1980s
I personally want to thank Fred Jacobs for his efforts to help public radio become more effective and sustainable. Fred knows how important public media is to our society and democracy.

It is true that Jacobs has made decent bucks from consulting noncom clients.  However, he has returned far more value to public media. 

He provides us wisdom and helps noncom folks focus on serving the greater good. This work makes me more confident about the future of public radio and public media. I don’t know Fred very well but I trust him – his aim is true. 

I first heard of Fred back in the 1970s when I was working in AOR radio. My friend Greg Ausham (who had worked with Jacobs and competed against him in Detroit) told me:

Fred Jacobs is the real deal. He has a further vision than most others in our biz. Fred intuitively knows where we are heading. You will hear more about this guy in the future. Plus, he knows every song ever recorded by Led Zeppelin.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


On Tuesday (3/28) the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) announced the winners of the 42nd annual Gracie Awards.  The awards will be presented at the Gracie Awards Gala on Tuesday, June 6th at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Local and student award winners will be recognized at the Gracie Awards Luncheon on June 27th at Cipriani in New York City.

Information and a complete list of winners are available here.

At the June 6th event, AWMF will recognize Samantha Bee, America Ferrera, Drew Barrymore, Mariska Hargitay and Savannah Guthrie.

Noncom public media organizations did very, very well in the “non luminary” categories such as radio news, podcasts and student awards. By my informal count, noncoms won 23 of the 39 (59%) categories. NPR entries led the noncoms with 6 awards. WNYC Studios won 3; American Public Media won 2 and station winners included KCRW, WFUV, WUNC's The State of Things and Vermont Public Radio.

Regarding entries from commercial media, Cumulus Media won four awards and iHeartMedia won three. The Gracie Awards recognize outstanding achievements across new and traditional media platforms.


Karen Foshay, Reporter & Correspondent,
“KCRW Investigates: Burned”

Burned is a limited series of investigative reports heard on KCRW, Los Angeles and is available as podcasts [link]. 

In 2016 Foshay’s reported about the conditions and compensation of workers in the LA restaurant industry.

Foshay spoke with dozens of restaurant workers, labor lawyers, and government enforcers, and sifted through thousands of public records concerning Los Angeles-area restaurants. 

She learned that restaurant workers too often are abused and ripped-off. Here is a telling statement from her report:

Restaurant kitchens are full of knives, ovens, pots of boiling water.  But if someone gets hurt they might have to keep on working.

Do you seek absolutely “must hear” audio? Try this: Burned published a list of the top 20 restaurants with the highest number of judgments and decisions against them [link]. Perhaps you might reconsider having dinner tonight at Mandarin Cuisine in WEHO.

Leila Fadel, NPR International Correspondent, Cairo
News Feature: “Two Little Bombs”

Leila tells the story of a mother in Egypt who is raising two teenagers. 

The kids are dealing with conflicting messages: Rebellious western culture and Islamic fundamentalism. 

Here is one line from Fadel’s story:

She realized none of them [her kids] was coping well, so she was happy when four years ago, the oldest girls sought guidance from a religious group that proselytized from a tent in their impoverished neighborhood. 

Maybe faith could help them.

You can hear it here.

Rebecca Lewis, Fordham University
Podcast: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

This piece is an amazing change of pace from the day-to-day concerns of the world. Lewis takes the listener on a joyous trip into the night sky. She travels to distant solar systems and avoids black holes as she ponders whether there is life “out there.”

Ultimately, she reflects on planet Earth fits into the great unknown. Dig this sample line:

Please just tell us that after almost 14 billion years, humans are not all there is. We're kind of a mess. Gotta rep planet Earth.

When you look at that night sky, it's hard not to think about what else is out there… So we blasted off among the stars to get some answers about what's going on and why young people care. Live long and prosper.

You can hear it here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


One of reporter Jacqui Helbert’s first stories for NPR News station WUTC, Chattanooga [link], turned out to be her final report for the station. Helbert, a recent graduate of’s Story Workshop, started working part-time for WUTC last fall. 

Jacqui Helbert
On Tuesday, March 7th, Helbert travelled to the state capitol in Nashville to cover a field trip by students from a Chattanooga-area high school.  The students, members of the Cleveland High Gay-Straight Alliance Club, made the trip to voice concerns over Tennessee’s bathroom bill. The proposed legislation is similar to a controversial law enacted in North Carolina.

Helbert accompanied the students to a meeting with State Sen. Mike Bell, (R-Riceville). Bell is the sponsor of Tennessee’s bathroom bill and is a well-known Culture Warrior.  When Bell was asked why he proposed the legislation and he replied, in part:

State Senator Mike Bell
"Did ya’ll see the news where there a transgender person arrested in Oregon this past summer. He was a teen. He demanded to be placed in female prison. After three months they had to take him out because he was having sex with all the female prisoners.

How do you define it [gender identity]? Is it how I feel on Monday. Or do I feel different on Tuesday. Wednesday I might feel like a dog. It doesn’t matter what I present myself as. It’s in my DNA. It’s science."

Helbert recorded the meeting and included Bell’s remarks in her story for WUTC. After the story aired on March 9th, the news went viral across the state and caused quite a stir. State Senator Bell didn’t like the negative publicity and allegedly complained to officials at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga (UTC), WUTC’s licensee, about it. A couple of weeks later, Helbert was fired. The university said she violated ethics guidelines.

I suggest that you listen to Helbert’s report here. To me, this is fair story that captures various viewpoints about the legislation.

Wednesday I might feel like a dog.

State Senator Bell’s complaint centers on Helbert’s failure to notify him that he was being recorded. But, Helbert’s presence and intentions were obvious. She worn a lanyard showing her press credentials, pointed a shotgun microphone at Bell and was carrying a digital recorder with a finger on the “record” button.

Helbert never hid what she was doing. But, Bell alleged she never said she never said: This meeting is being recorded. Because of that, Bell said he believed she recorded a private conversation and his privacy was violated.

Helbert was fired Tuesday (3/28) by George Heddleston, UTC’s senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications. In a press release, UTC said the decision to terminate was made by university officials, not folks at WUTC. The university denied that State Senator Bell had used the state funding UTC receives as leverage to turf Helbert. According to the Nashville Scene report, WUTC receives about $500,000 a year in state funds via the university, along with office space on campus.

For more details, I recommend Nashville Scene’s excellent report here.

The first of what is likely to be many Congressional hearings on the fate of the Corporation for Public Broadcast (CPB) was held on Tuesday (3/28). PBS CEO Stacy Harrison testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. The hearing can be seen and heard on the committee’s website here.

I was listening to the hearing as I wrote this post.  Almost all of the questions and answers involved PBS programming. Republican representatives asked about Sesame Street's deal with HBO. A typical comment was: Big Bird isn’t being fired because he is now an independent contractor.

Harrison spoke about the success of PBS programming and other media services for kids. It was boilerplate stuff that hasn’t changed much since the 1990s.

Thank you to Sue Schardt for spreading the word about the hearing.  I wish (and hope) that someone, or some organization, will take the lead on behalf of the public radio system to publicize when future hears are scheduled.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I never really slept after the night of Tuesday, November 8th. Like many Americans I had watched the election returns roll in while I checked the local races on

My wife and I had some folks over to watch America choose its first woman to be President.  As you know, that did not happen and the party ended early. As the sun appeared on Wednesday morning, I checked my usual resources (Morning Edition, Joe & Mika, the New York Times) and I didn’t feel so alone.

I wasn’t alone. According to new Nielsen Audio PPM data prepared by Dave Sullivan from the Radio Research Consortium (RRC), the 7am to 8am was probably the most listened-to hour of the 2016 election cycle for 45 full-time NPR News stations. You can download the full report here.

click to enlarge

The chart on the right shows that 1,158,200 estimated average-quarter-hour (AQH) listeners were tuned-in to the 7am – 8am hour (local times) on Wednesday, November 9th

During the full year of 2016, weekdays between 7am – 8am average 882,900 AQH listeners.   

So, the morning after the election, AQH listening was up 24% to these 45 stations.

click to enlarge

The chart of the left is familiar to anyone who follows listening to NPR News stations. It demonstrates public radio’s “Tent Poles,” the spike in listening in morning and afternoon drive times. 

Though more and more listening from all sources is on demand, the clock and convenience still make drive times the key hours for NPR News listening.

Dave Sullivan’s report shows how Nielsen Audio PPM estimates can used beyond the normal stats.  PPM technology can provide granular views of listening patterns tied to an event, a specific date or even the stages of the moon. Thank you Dave Sullivan and RRC for the useful report.


Yesterday we discussed stations in the Research Triangle market (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill).  Today we have the noncom data for February 2017 compared with June 2016. WUNC showed respectable gains in estimated weekly listeners over eight months but the gains in streaming audio weekly listeners is remarkable.

It is the same pattern in Portland. NPR News station KOPB. Estimated weekly listeners to the broadcast signals and streaming audio were both up compared to June 2016. 

Classical KQAC also added weekly listeners.

In February 2017 WUWM had its highest number of estimated weekly listeners in recent memory. 

Estimated weekly listeners were also up for WHAD, the Milwaukee repeater of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network. Ideas features public radio talk programming without airing NPR’s Morning Edition or All Things Considered. I am not aware of any other noncom station that do public radio talk and not ME or ATC.

Is the Ideas Network approach something that could work elsewhere? Or is it an "only-in-Wisconsin" phenomenon? There is one very good reason other NPR stations should consider Ideas for themselves: It is a far cheaper than the NPR news magazines.

The February PPM results for Austin show the same pattern for NPR News KUT. But, I am having difficulty believing the estimated weekly listeners audience drop for Triple A KUTX. 

February was during the run-up to SXSW, a time when an amazing number of shows and other events are being finalized and promoted. It is important to remember that Nielsen Audio’s estimates are just that: estimates. The data is usually reliable but small variations of the sample are inevitable. Wait and see if a pattern emerges in future months.

Monday, March 27, 2017


There is no doubt that news and talk radio is now enjoying an abundance of listeners. Last week, Nielsen Audio released a report – Diving Deeper Into PPM’s News/Talk Surge [link] – that examines the similarities and differences between the performance of commercial News/Talk stations and noncommercial NPR News/Talk stations.

Nielsen says the surge is unusual because listening to News/Talk stations typically drops back to normal listening levels after the November elections. Not now. The news is being driven by a President who seems to thrive on conflict, bravado and insults. The result is “must hear,” “must read,” “must watch” and “must comment” reporting that draws listeners like rubberneckers driving by an accident. Regardless of viewpoints, this is HOT media and it is likely to continue.

Nielsen looked at the performance of 66 noncom NPR News/Talk stations and 205 commercial News/Talk stations using February PPM data. About two-thirds of commercial News/Talk stations are actually all-Talk, featuring opinionated hosts such as Rush Limbaugh.  The other third are either “weather and traffic” stations such as 1010 WINS and KNX, or full-time news stations like WTOP.

According Nielsen’s analysis, commercial News/Talk stations have a significantly larger AQH Share of the overall audience than NPR News/Talk stations. Commercial station listeners tend to be older than noncom listeners. Both commercial and noncom News/Talk stations are seeing audience growth but the pace of growth for NPR News/Talk stations is greater.

Noncoms do better with Millennial-age listeners (18-34) than commercial stations.  Overall, the older a listener is, the more likely they are to listen to commercial News/Talk programming.


Nielsen is about measurable metrics, not about content. In strategic terms, commercial and noncom News/Talk stations are almost completely different.

On the right is a chart showing hour-by-hour programming on WUNC (NPR noncom) and WTKK (Commercial Talk) during Monday – Friday, 6am to 7pm, hours when the most people hear radio. WTKK is owned by iHeartMedia and has a schedule that is typical of commercial talk stations.

The entire 13 hours of programming on WTKK are talk shows. On WUNC, 10 of the 13 hours are newsmagazines. WUNC has 3 hours talk and interview programming.

All of the shows on WTKK are built around opinionated hosts. All of the shows on WUNC are assembles with a handful of hosts who are more prominent than others.  The emphasis on WTKK is opinion.  The emphasis on WUNC is most often fact-based reporting.

All four hosts on WTKK are older white men.  On WUNC there is a much wider diversity of ages, gender and backgrounds. The only things the two groups of stations have in common is that they are based on the spoken word.

Differences between WTKK and WUNC are perhaps best illustrated by the bio of WTKK “morning man” K. C. O’Dea on the station website [link]:

K. C. O’Dea
KC is a fifth generation cattle rancher from Wyoming, making him the obvious choice to talk about all things alternative rock. 

[O’Dea got] a few part time shifts between classes at a local alternative rock station he eventually started working for local concert venues as a stage hand. 

[He likes] exploring the latest restaurant or brewery, checking out all of our awesome music venues, and shamelessly claiming it’s all research when the boss asks why your eyes are bloodshot.

To me, this sounds like news according to Beavis & Butthead. There is nothing wrong with that.  My point is that the appeal of commercial and noncom News/Talk in very different.


While I was doing research for the story above I came across an interesting commentary in the Seattle Weekly [link] about “the maddening allure of KIRO radio.” KIRO is one of the nation’s leading commercial News/Talk stations.  They have hired public radio folks to host shows – Luke Burbank comes to mind.

This paragraph echoes what I said above:

The guiding philosophy of [KIRO] 97.3 FM can be summed up as this: Don’t be boring. There’s a word that gets used around the station, “stentorian,” and it’s a bad one. It’s how people describe what KIRO doesn’t do, which is to simply read people the news over the radio in the voice of a practiced broadcaster. It’s an approach meant to reflect the modern state of the news on a medium – FM radio – that is decidedly old-school.