This week we’ll launch some new programs that will debut on KUER. The majority of these programs will be added as a result of our decision to discontinue jazz music programming. Readers of The Salt Lake Tribune and listeners to Steve Williams’ jazz program already know about the change to the jazz music format. We’ve responded by e-mail or phone to everyone who has contacted us directly, and have reached out to some people who posted Facebook comments and messages as well.
Of course we recognize this is disconcerting news to many loyal jazz listeners. Some are asking: why is KUER abandoning this decades-rich tradition? You’re a public station, why didn’t you consult your listeners before taking this drastic step? First classical music and now jazz, what does KUER have against music? Isn’t your mission to serve the public? And finally, no one wants more news…news can be found everywhere, not so jazz - you’ll lose all your evening listeners. These represent the most repeated sentiments listeners have expressed to us, fair comments and questions all.
There’s absolutely nothing I can say that will calm those people who listen to KUER primarily for music. They simply feel deeply betrayed by the format change. Decisions like this one elicit emotional responses - no set of facts adequately addresses emotional loss. I understand that. Change is difficult to process.
It is our fundamental belief that information and public engagement enrich a community. To that end, KUER is intensely committed to building a community of world citizens through story and art, discussion and debate, sound and creativity. Our mission is to enhance the lives of our audience with a blend of news, information and entertainment programming in an un-biased non-commercial context that creates an ongoing source of service and support vital to community organizations. KUER’s Mission Statement guides our organization’s day-to-day work and our vision for the future. We believe every single word.
When disappointed listeners tell us that news can be found everywhere, and refer to the storytelling programs featured throughout our schedule as so much yak, yak, I’m taken aback. NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition are both unmatched in their ability to report on the news of the day, often brutal and complex events, with the added elements of why they’re occurring and how they affect all of us. I’m listening at this moment to NPR’s reporting on the South Carolina church shooting tragedy, specifically what the Confederate flag means to people of different backgrounds and races. This reporting is not available anywhere else.
Regular listeners would never describe Doug Fabrizio’s interviews on RadioWest or the stories heard on This American Life, Radiolab or Snap Judgment as more yak, yak. They, like all of us at KUER, cannot fathom such thinking. Our schedule is full of programs that keep us stuck in our driveways, inform and inspire us, celebrate the human condition and expose us to artists, educators, writers and a variety of everyday people who appeal to our gentler nature.
In addition to the programs we’re adding to our schedule, we’ll be offering NPR’s midday news magazine program Here & Now from 10 to 11 a.m. This means replacing the second hour of Diane Rehm – a beloved host by KUER listeners. We’re doing this because Here & Now is a live news broadcast from Boston’s WBUR. If there’s a breaking news event, NPR relies on Here & Now to provide live anchored coverage. We’ve missed opportunities to provide breaking news coverage because we didn’t carry Here & Now (this occurred during the Boston Marathon bombing and the recent Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality). We’ll continue to bring you both hours of Diane’s Friday news round-up each Friday from 9 to 11 a.m.
KUER’s news team continues to grow – several reporters just won awards from the Society of Professional Journalism, and the station just hosted the national PRNDI (Public Radio News Directors) conference. RadioWest has expanded off-air with VideoWest, an online documentary film portal. And over the next three years, we hope to add an international business reporter and create an investigative reporting team. Our vision for the future is to do more of what we do best.
The audience for jazz music has been in sharp decline for many years. This has nothing to do with Steve Williams – he’s one of the best, most knowledgeable music hosts in radio. But rather a whole lot to do with generational issues and, for those who love music above all else, the ubiquitous availability of music on a variety of digital platforms.
Those who say the size of KUER’s audience shouldn’t matter are simply mistaken. It does matter. Rather than asking our listeners what they like and don’t like, we closely monitor a statistically representative sample of how and when our listeners use the station. We’re not honoring our mission and achieving our public service if we don’t reach significant audiences. Those who argue that listeners don’t want more talk programming in the evenings are also mistaken. If the new programs attain public radio’s high standards, the shows will attract a substantial audience.
KUER will continue to promote Utah’s jazz music events, musicians and organizations, just as we do with classical music. With a growing audience, we’re more effective with such promotions now than when we actually broadcast classical music programming.
These changes to our programming schedule are the most significant since we discontinued classical music in 2001. Of course we don’t enjoy upsetting our listeners – after a legacy of 30+ years of jazz music on KUER, we understand there will be some heartache and disappointment. We’ve personally responded to everyone who has contacted us directly. We count on and appreciate your passion.
KUER is a very different station than it was 15 years ago. We currently reach more people on more platforms than at any time in the station’s 55-year history. This current growth and anticipated expansion in the near future fuels our community service.
Thank you for listening to KUER, and for supporting the station. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us.
John Greene, KUER General Manager