Friday, April 7, 2017



Jody Evans, CEO of the Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD), sends word that stations should sign up now for Public Radio Tech Survey 9. The annual survey conducted by Jacobs Media has become a benchmark study of media usage, platform preferences and perceptual trends.

click to enlarge
The chart on the left is the Media Usage Pyramid for 2016. Public Radio Tech Survey 9 will put increased emphasis on apps and the mobile web, the latest on Connected Cars, and acceptance and use of handsets and ear buds.

There is a modest fee for participating stations but the results are more than worth the expenditure. The Public Radio Tech Surveys have become an essential yardstick to understand how our listeners adopting various devices and platforms. Participating stations have access to national data and proprietary use of data for their own listeners.

Results will be presented at the Public Radio Content Conference, August 14 – 17. For more information call Lisa Riker at Jacobs Media 248.353.0709.


Public media’s gear heads, information technology and new media folks will gather Thursday, April 20th, and Friday, April 21st, a the Public Radio Engineering Conference (PREC) held concurrently with NAB Show. The PREC is being held at Tuscany Suites & Casino in Las Vegas. The Association of Public Radio Engineers are sponsoring the PREC.

Complete information, including a schedule of sessions, is available here

The Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS) will be making a special presentation at 8:15am on Friday (4/21) about the evolution of MetaPub and metadata trends. The session will feature Megan Williams, PRSS' Product Manager; Matt Walther, Senior Manager of Distribution Operations; NPR's David Julian Gray; and Phil Burger, KNPR Director of Broadcast Operations.

PRSS will also present an update on the work being done with the Future Systems, including an update on the RFP process, and the Technical Advisory Group. The session is at 11:15am, also on Friday (4/21). Featured speakers will be Mike Beach, NPR’s VP for Distribution and Ron Walker, Senior Director of Information Systems.


On March 31st, we announced and saluted three new members of the PRPD Board of Directors [link]. They are Kristen Muller of KPCC, Jacqueline Cincotta of WNYC and Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media.

In the post we praised the ongoing work of Fred Jacobs on behalf of our collective enterprise. We said the Jacobs’ efforts have helped public radio become more effective and sustainable.

We received this note from Fred Jacobs:

Fred Jacobs
Ken, this is very kind and I am very appreciative. 

I am truly excited about this opportunity to serve PRPD, and by extension, public radio.  It’s an interesting shot for them to choose someone from the outside like me.  My brother, Paul, has served on the Greater Public board for several years now (and rose to chairman).  He’s done an amazing job in that capacity.  We probably paved the way for me with PRPD.

It is wonderful the big players in public radio welcome us into their world, and feel that we bring something a little different to the table because of our backgrounds.

Ken, truly thank you for this.



Neil Sargent & his grand kids in 2016
The past Wednesday (4/5) we paid tribute to one of my mentors, Neil Sargent, who passed away recently at the age of 85. Neil was my boss at Transtar Radio Network and a friend of many years.

Tom Taylor kindly mentioned my tribute to Neil in his daily newsletter [link] and I heard from several co-workers at Transtar who also praised Neil. I received this comment from one of them, Skip Joeckel, owner and operator of syndication firm Talk Shows USA [link]:

Ken, What you wrote about Neil was  beautiful!!

Thank you for saying what so many of us who worked for Neil would have said.

I saw the attached photo on Neil's Facebook page. 

KEN SAYS: What I learned from Neil was sales survival skills. Though I had been involved in business prior to working at Transtar, I had never received any sales training. Here are some skills I learned from Neil that I use everyday:

• Where did you prospect today?

Neil knew the importance of identifying new clients, a practice known in sales as “prospecting.” Neil’s tips for prospecting are essential to the success of my consulting business, now in it’s 20th year. Consulting is like a roller coaster: When you are at the top of the cycle, it is easy to get lazy.  When you are at the bottom, sometimes things are so grim you don’t know where to start. The way to deal with the highs and lows of sales is to have new clients in the wings.

• Are you talking to the monkey or the organ grinder?

This is an old-school way of saying “make certain you are talking to a decision maker.” In other words, don’t waste time by pitching to people who don’t have the authority to say “yes.”

• Have you checked the “intel” before contacting a potential client?

Neil stressed the importance of knowing the person and company before making a sales pitch. He was a believer is “G-2” word-on-the-street perspective sometimes offered by competitors. On of Neil’s favorite ways of getting information on a prospective client was to call the station after hours and talk with a part-timer who can tell you the “temperature” of the place you want to pitch.

• Make certain to arrive early at the airport and be your gate on time.

These are things Neil seldom did.  When I traveled with Neil, I was his “bag man” and helper. Before 9/11 air travel was more informal.  While waiting for a flight to depart Neil often had a few more calls to make.  This business was most often done in an airport bar. Neil typically wanted make calls and have a drink until the very last moment.  It was my job to make certain he got on the plane.

Thankfully, he always made it. However, I found Neil’s habits raised my blood pressure into the sky.  Now, I am always at an airport early and at the gate before boarding begins.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Neal Conan
Recently I have bemoaned the lack of new programming for the radio platform in the pipelines at APM, NPR and PRI. Today we are featuring an excellent new program that doesn’t come from any network: Truth, Politics & Power. This is a DIY independent show that is in the best tradition of public media.

Truth, Politics & Power [link], hosted by Neal Conan, brings together folks from the team that produced Talk of the Nation

Each week host Conan interviews historians, journalists, scholars, poets and even comedians who explore the context and meaning of the Trump era.

Truth, Politics & Power is available to stations via PRX.  Podcasts are available via iTunes and on the program’s website.

Guests on the first five shows include Scott McClellan, Ted Koppel, David Livingstone Smith, Robert Kaplan and Toshi Yoshihara. 

The most recent edition in the series is The Politics of Fear [link]. The program analyzes the meaning and purpose of hateful language and the failure of imagination., that’s left so many Americans without meaningful employment and the failures of leadership.

According to carriage information on the PRX website, Truth, Politics and Power is being heard on WNYC, KQED, WGBH, WKAR and WFAE. Community stations such as KPTZ, Port Townsend, Washington; KVNF, Paonia, Colorado and KFCF, Fresno are on board.

Of course, host Neal Conan is an important part of the appeal of Truth, Politics and Power. NPR listeners have heard Conan for over 30 years. He was the long time host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, served as NPR Bureau Chief in New York and London and has covered the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House. He now lives on the Big Island of Hawaii where he farms macadamia nuts, works as a news analyst for Hawaii Public Radio in addition to hosting Truth, Politics & Power.

Sue Goodwin
Program producer Sue Goodwin worked at NPR for over 25 years. She was the Executive Producer of Talk of the Nation, the Senior Producer of Weekly Edition, and Editor at NPR’s Science Desk. Goodwin was also a producer for PBS and Al Jazeera America.

Conan puts the new administrations policies and practices in historical perspective. Topics of future editions of Truth, Politics and Power include:

• What’s the purpose of an “ongoing war” with the media?

• Why would a new president choose to undermine his own intelligence services?

• What is the origin of the “America First” movement and how does it fit into Trump World?

• How will the president respond to dissent and the checks and balances of the American system?

• How does Trumpism fit with the rise of right wing movements in Europe?

• How will the Administration’s pattern of deception, exaggeration and lies affect public trust in basic institutions of government?

KEN SAYS: I’ve listened to two editions of Truth, Politics & Power and I highly recommend it. Conan sounds totally comfortable. This is programming that matters and will resonate with listeners.


College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI), the organization that represents the leading college stations in the nation [link], is looking for entries for their annual National Student Production Awards. Winners will be honored at the upcoming National Student Electronic Media Convention, November 2 - 4 in San Antonio. 

The National Student Production Awards provide a great opportunity for college students to showcase their work in a nationally recognized competition. There are 25 categories in audio, video and multimedia - including promos, news reporting, comedy, entertainment, sports, best DJ, station imaging, website design and more.

New or revised categories this year include Best Podcast, Best Vodcast (video podcast) and Best Live Production. The deadline to enter is May 12, 2017.

Submission information is available here. If you have questions please contact Awards Coordinator Steven Hames at

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


KVMR, the spunky community station in northern California that also competes in the Reno, has found the perfect tool for listener engagement: beer. The Beer Show debuted as a one time special on KVMR for St. Patrick's Day complete with Irish humor and tastings of craft beer.

The Beer Show [link] focuses on the ever-expanding craft beer industry locally and around the globe. The hosts of the show, Tom Dalldorf and Wesley Robertson, know what they are talking about. Dalldorf is editor and publisher of Celebrator Beer News magazine, and Robertson is an experienced radio pro who has downed more than few brews.

The St. Patty’s Day show featured The Brewery of the Month, news about beer tastings and events, plus a segment called "Your Foamy Future," the hosts interpreted astrological signs as they relate to the beer palate.

"Pisces tend to like lighter, fruitier beers," explained Dalldorf.

"Suds Buds" Tom Dalldorf and Wesley Robertson
Then Dalldorf and Robertson, both are musicians, performed a parody song "Hop This Town," a spoof of the Stray Cats' "Rock this Town."

The inspiration for The Beer Show was Car Talk. Dalldorf loved the banter between the Tappet brothers and sought to take it to the next level:

"If they can make an hour show talking about cars, imagine how much fun we can have talking about beer."

Dalldorf and Robertson were two self-proclaimed "Suds Buds" when they first met at a social function. When Robertson mentioned his ties to KVMR, Dalldorf said “I want to talk to you about doing a beer show.” By the end of the conversation, they had a plan for what became The Beer Show.

When asked about his qualifications, Dalldorf replied: “I have a face for radio, a mind for beer.”

The Beer Show’s St. Patrick’s Day special is available as a podcast online [link].

Moving forward, Dalldorf and Robertson are contemplating doing monthly specials. KVMR Program Director Steve Baker is encouraging them.  Baker told local media:

"After all the excitement over the first show, we want to see if they can pull off another one. I'm pretty certain they can do it. We thought the first show was a hoot, but we want to make them sweat a little."


Neil Sargent
When I opened the newsletter Tom Taylor NOW [link] on Tuesday morning I saw the kind of news you hate to see: The death of a friend and mentor to whom I owe much my success: Neil Sargent.

Neil passed away in Phoenix at the age of 85.  To no one’s surprise, he died from complications of lung cancer.

Almost exactly thirty years ago today Neil hired me as a Regional Affiliations Manager at Transtar Radio Network. I told Neil that I had recently earned my Master’s Degree at Arizona State University. “Well, you are about to earn a doctorate in radio.” This turned out to be an understatement.

Transtar was one of two big radio networks specializing in 24/7 satellite-delivered radio programming. (The other network was ABC’s Satellite Music Network.) The pitch to commercial station managers was: Lower your expenses, have quality programming, and bank on dependable satellite delivery while you make money.  Hundreds of stations did exactly that.

Transtar had two hubs: Colorado Springs for sales and clearances; Sunset Boulevard in LA for programming. At it’s peak, Transtar distributed eight full time music formats, CNN Radio News and several weekly specials. The “star” format was soft-rock Format 41 which replaced “Beautiful music” on many top market stations.

The Transtar “USP” was music research by Bill Moyes, the guy who many observers say invented call-out and auditorium music testing. Transtar’s internal secret was that client stations were required to air hourly commercials in exchange for the programming.  Because Transtar’s programming aired on stations with many, many listeners, the revenue generated by the commercials was amazing.

That was the environment when I started working for Neil: High pressure, deals to be done and constant urgency to Do It Now. The sales commissions for people like me were incredible.

Neil added knowledge, intuitive feeling for making a “deal” and fun. From Neil I learned the basics of broadcast syndication, the fundamentals of sales and corporate survival skills. These are lessons I still use everyday.

Sargent’s wisdom and friendship was a gift to me for which I am truly grateful.

Want to see what it was like at Transtar? While doing research for this story I came across YouTube home movies of Transtar’s studios on Sunset Boulevard: 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) is organizing a task force to defend fundamental free speech rights. Voice of the First Amendment Task Force [link] will convene meetings with news directors, journalists, networks and managers of news organizations later in April at NAB Convention later in April.

A tweet by President Trump saying “The media is the enemy of the American People” and other threats by Trump and his associates, galvanized RTDNA memebers according to Sheryl Horsley, co-chair of the initiative.

Her co-chair, Scott Libin said: “It has become politically fashionable to bash the press. These threats should not go unanswered.”

The goals of the task force include the development of a strategic plan to protect and promote the vital role of journalism, reacting to threats to First Amendment Freedoms, proactively supporting journalists and educating the public about the importance of a free press to our democracy.

Journalists and organizations who wish to participate (regardless if they are members of RTDNA) may contact the Task Force at or may call RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender at (770) 823-1760.


Gil Halsted
Retired Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reporter Gilman “Gil” Halsted was presented the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog at the seventh annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner on March 30th in Madison [link].

The Watchdog Awards are conducted by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Halsted became a familiar voice to WPR listeners during his 20-years of reporting, first in Wausau, then in Madison. He covered the courts and the prison system and also wrote and produced general assignment stories for WPR until his retirement in 2016. Halsted’s examinations of the state’s criminal justice system won several awards and caused reforms in the justice system.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the following about Halsted:

“For more than 15 years, Gil Halsted turned a bright light on Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, covering everything from state Supreme Court decisions to the grievances of people locked behind bars.  He humanized those on both the giving and receiving ends of this system, earning widespread respect as a fair and conscientious reporter. He gave his job his all, and Wisconsin is a better place for it.”

Halsted began his career in journalism late in life. He spent 10 years as a social worker and then English teacher in Bangladesh, Washington, D.C., India and Wisconsin before landing his first job as a public radio reporter in Kenosha in 1988.


Joe Patti from WRTI, Philadelphia has sent word that the station is looking for a Director of Content.  WRTI is a dual-format station that airs blocks of Classical and Jazz music.

The Director of Content manages the programming and digital departments of WRTI. The director oversees the acquisition and development of all new programming, works with external programming partners and manages a staff of 10 full-time,  and 6 part-time folks, plus supervising volunteers. WRTI is a member of the Classical Music Rising initiative sponsored by the Station Resource Group.

More information is available here.


When it comes to the best journalism, media production and management programs in the nation Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, is on almost every Top Ten List. Ithaca is the home of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, a well endowed, forward thinking institution. Park School graduates are sought out by employers.

The Manager of Television & Radio is responsible for WICB-FM, Ithaca College Television (ICTV) and VIC, a student operated multi-platform program producer. The job pays just under $70,000 per year.

Interested applicants must apply online at and attach a resume, cover letter and list of three professional references. Questions about online application should be directed to the Office of Human Resources at (607) 274-8000. Screening of applications will begin immediately.

Monday, April 3, 2017


Jacqui Helbert
Jacqui Helbert, the WUTC, Chattanooga, reporter who was fired for her reporting on Tennessee’s “bathroom bill, is suing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) over her termination. According to reports by Nashville Scene [link], the  lawsuit was filed March 30th  in Hamilton County Circuit Court.

Helbert is asking for reinstatement, an apology, compensation for lost wages and up to $1 million in damages for the emotional distress from the retaliatory firing. The university and two employees are named as defendants.

We first reported [link] on Helbert last Wednesday (3/29). Here are the facts of the case:

On Tuesday, March 7th, Helbert traveled 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 Senator 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 Todd Gardenhire
State Senator Bell received global criticism for his remarks. Bell then got other pro-“bathroom bill” legislators involved, including State Senator Todd Gardenhire who represents Chattanooga in the legislature.

The lawsuit alleges Gardenhire conveyed Bell’s displeasure to UTC officials. A couple of weeks later, Helbert was fired. The university said she violated ethics guidelines.

Helbert disagrees. She believes her firing was retaliation for her reporting.  She told local media:

“Clearly I believe I was fired for reporting a story of important public interest that did not sit well with lawmakers.”

You can listen to Helbert’s report here.


In the lawsuit, Helbert alleges that the embarrassed legislators had threatened to pull funding from the station and the university if Helbert was not fired. The filing states:

“After the termination, Ms. Helbert returned to WUTC where she again spoke to [news director Mike] Miller and [WUTC staffer Mary Ollie] Newman. They appeared stunned. Mr. Miller stated the termination was done purely for fear of funding cuts (retaliation/blackmail) by UTC not for any stated integrity of journalistic standards.”


According to posts on a popular public radio discussion list, the incident has already been costly for WUTC. One post said:

We’ve gotten a glut of angry phone calls and emails from listeners cancelling their sustaining membership, and the incident has damaged the station's credibility as an independent news outlet.

We've postponed our pledge drive, which was scheduled for April 17.

The credibility of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is also being questioned. A Nashville Scene reader posted this comment:

From this article I can see no wrong doing on Helbert's part. It seems that both our state reps did indeed threaten to pull funding, though one put his threat in code.

It is not a reporter's duty to protect the feelings of public officials. In fact, it is the media's duty to expose those officials' overreaching whether the officials like it or not. It is the university's duty to protect it's students from those overreaching officials. If they don't want controversy, why do they have a radio station? Or science programs? Or a religion department?