Friday, January 25, 2019


Dave Edwards
As many of you know, Dave Edwards will be retiring soon from a job he loves. 

For more than 30 years Edwards has been Director and General Manager of WUWM [link] in Milwaukee. 

He said, in a PubRadio message to the system:

"I'm leaving behind a wonderful station, a great team, strong programming, and finances, plus a University administration that understands what it takes for a public media organization to thrive.

Thrive is the key word. 

Edwards has built an incredible series of relationships with the people, organizations and commerce that makes Milwaukee  purr. 

WUWM currently has annual revenue of more than $4.5 million. 

Approximately 80% of that amount comes from “listener-sensitive sources” – membership, underwriting, major donors and events.

Relationships in the community also lmake possible what Edwards calls “reporting initiative centers.” These are partnerships between WUWM and entities and people in Southeastern Wisconsin who have topics areas they feel are underreported. Then UWM hires a reporter to in covering the beat.

Of course, relationships between news providers and news makers must have firewalls. Edwards explains how it works in an interview with Spark News:

Images are from WUWM's media kit
“Lets say you find a foundation that is very interested in social justice issues. Perhaps they could help fund a reporting initiative center around race and ethnicity issues." 

"We are upfront with them that they don’t get any editorial control. We also tell them that we are going to report on this topic in a fair and unbiased way.”

“We also make pitches to individuals. We know WUWM has donors who contribute $1,000 or $5,000 a year of more. And they are very involved in certain issues. Perhaps they are involved with education. We tell them we are launching an initiative to promote more coverage of education issues. We ask for their contribution of $5,000 or $10,000 or more to help us launch the initiative. They get the credit and visibility they deserve.”

"We would not have the growth we have had in our newsroom without this initiative.”

WUWM has ongoing "initiative centers" that cover education, the environment, innovation, race and ethnicity and business.

(WUWM is now doing a national search for WUWM’s next Director and General Manager. Please scroll down in for complete information.)


WUWM was a much different station when Edwards was hired as GM in 1985. Spark News asked him to paint a picture of WUWM at the time:

“Edwards laughs) “In 1985 we had an on-air fund drive that raised $15,000. We were so happy we went to the bar across the street to celebrate.”

Edwards replaced George Bailey as GM. 

Bailey wanted to return to teaching at UW-Milwaukee and his research business was booming. 

The relationship with Bailey meant WUWM had a front row seat in the use of research to guide programming decisions.

Edwards knows the importance of a consistent program format from his work in commercial radio.  Before he became GM of WUWM, Edwards was an anchor and reporter for all-news WRIT-AM in Milwaukee. He also did freelance reporting for WBBM, Chicago, Mutual and NBC radio news networks. Plus he produced public affairs programs for Milwaukee Public Television. These experiences and Bailey’s research meant programming changes were coming to WUWM:

Lake Effect is WUWM's daily news, talk & interview program
“From the very beginning we decided that we had to fix the programming. We needed local programming that matched the quality of NPR. We dropped Classical music and worked to improve our news programming. Once you get the programming right, the revenue should follow.”

Dropping Classical was controversial move at the time. Dual or triple formats were fine for an earlier time but there wasn’t much growth potential.

As a believer in public radio’s partnership with private business, Edwards wanted WUWM to be a self-sustaining entity:

“Back in ’85 all public radio stations were heavily dependent on the federal government and state and local sources. I inherited a station that was successful for its time but 98% of the station’s budget was money that was coming in from our university or CPB. You can’t do much that way without independent support.”

“I’ve always felt that the market will help you build your success if you are doing a good job.”


Spark News asked Edwards why he recommends that people apply for his job:

“You know, it is a great gig. The station is financially very stable. There is money in the bank. We have a great position in the community. Our media peers in Milwaukee know us and respect us.”

“But another thing that is very special about WUWM is that we have a wonderful relationship with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.” 

Edwards talked about the relationship between WUWM and its licensee UW-Milwaukee:

I have tried to cultivate our relationship with the university over the years. Part of the job is building strong relationships with people inside the university community.

It is important for university folks to know the impact of the station on the community. We are the obvious and most successful way to position the university in the minds of the public. They need to know that many more people listen to WUWM than ever visit campus. Here at WUWM, the university knows this fact and believes it.

Complete in formation about becoming WUWM’s next Director and General Manager is available here.


According to the Nielsen Audio Fall 2018 PPM ratings, WUWM has continue to grow its audience compared to the Fall 2016 “election book.” 

WUWM’s AGH share and estimated weekly listeners rose significantly during the two year period.

WUWM is the sole NPR News/Talk station in Milwaukee. 

Wisconsin Public Radio’s (WPR) Ideas Network station, WHAD also has a large audience for it’s public radio talk format.

WYMS is a gem of a music station. They operate a second channel dedicated to regional Milwaukee Music and it does quite well. College station WMSC is the life of the party with their Alternative Rock music mix.

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