More on KRCL format changes

As I’m sure you’re aware, based on my post earlier this month about KRCL, I’m not happy with recent changes at the station; in fact, I started a petition on change.org titled KRCL Radio: Think Globally, Program Locally to help voice frustrations that I (and other like-minded people) have been feeling.

I got the following response yesterday from Amy Dwyer, who is the Membership Manager at KRCL, addressing some of the points in the petition, which I have permission to repost, unedited:

Hi Steven,

I got an email to KRCL’s “comments@krcl.org” from you that was automatically generated as part of a petition at change.org. Unfortunately, for most of the people who have signed the petition, we have no contact info.

I hope it’s ok that I reach out to you about the concerns expressed in the petition. I hope I can explain some of our thinking, but please know you can call anytime. My direct line is 801-834-6722. Or, the main office number is 801-363-1818. Vicki’s direct line is 801-834-6717. (Just so you’re aware, she’s out of the office until June 4.) And, as I mentioned, you can email comments@krcl.org. Your feedback is very important to me and to everyone here at KRCL.

As you know, KRCL is especially locally-focused: on local music, local conversations, and partnerships with other community organizations. We also bring the best music and information to the airwaves that we can. All of this is done with the hopes of being the touchstone place for the community to hear great music and pertinent stories.

By bringing World Cafe, listeners will have access to exclusive interviews and live versions of music not heard anywhere else in Utah…by artists that are a perfect fit on KRCL. We would love to have a large sound studio and the notoriety to get the interviews David Dye does on World Cafe each day – and someday, we may be able to do just that. But for now, this is the only way to get such programming to our community. It’s also far less expensive to run World Cafe than to do it ourselves.

The 6am to 8am time has consistently had low listenership. We hope to add listeners by bringing a nationally popular program, and want them stick around for the rest of our shows, too. In addition, our DJ’s Jamie and Ebay will have more time each day to dedicate to the station in new ways like short features, which will help KRCL provide more community service in the long run. Stay tuned for what some of that will sound like.

Currently, our music team (Ebay, Jamie and Brad) is working toward having a more consistent daytime sound. The music we play is and always has been a work in progress, and we always appreciate feedback about it. In fact, we ran a survey just last month that solicited input from listeners about their preferences. We anticipate being able to do many more of these in the coming years. The music library is always growing and we’re always trying to find the right balance.

Everyone associated with KRCL loves community radio and has dedicated themselves to it. In the petition, Vicki Mann is called an “outsider” and states that she has worked for Clear Channel in the past, as if that’s the only world she knows. The fact is, she has spent her entire career in broadcasting. She has lived and worked in Salt Lake City at numerous stations, public and private. She chooses to work at KRCL because she loves the station and its connection to the community, and we’re feeling very lucky to have her.

I hope I’ve been able to speak to your concerns. Again, feel free to call anytime. Thank you for listening!

Amy

I responded to Amy as follows:

Thank you for getting back to me on this.

Before we proceed, I sincerely hope that comments@krcl.org is not getting an email each and every time someone signs the petition. If you are, I’ll see if I can change the setting, because I’m sure the station doesn’t appreciate spam anymore than I do … and part of me definitely thinks that the law of diminishing returns would set in if you are getting spammed.

I absolutely have no problem with you reaching out to me, as I am the person who started the petition. I put myself out front on this, so people reaching out to me is to be expected. And while I cannot necessarily speak for anyone else, I think I have a pretty good handle on what people’s complaints are.

There are a number of different issues, so let’s address them separately.

First of all, with regards to World Cafe: I will admit that there are certain aspects of the show which are appealing. Unfortunately, the aspects of the show are the typically 20-30 minutes which are posted to NPR.org as the podcast, like the profile/interview of the Lumineers which will be included in tomorrow morning’s rebroadcast of World Cafe, but which I’ve already heard.

Honestly, personally, I would far prefer that a semi-fluid segment be made available during the daytime shows to play the podcasted highlight of each day’s show than listen to the entire show, which I find rather pedestrian and tedious. Of course, this is my opinion, but judging by comments that I’ve read on the petition, on Facebook, and have heard from talking to people, I’m not alone in this overall view of World Cafe.

Secondly, with regards to low listenership from 6:00-8:00am: Rather than broadcasting a generally mediocre music show with a few highlights, perhaps a different tack altogether should be struck, such as broadcasting news; preferably with locally produced segments, but perhaps using some of the shows from NPR, PRI & APM that are not broadcast by KUER, such as the Marketplace Morning Report & Tech Report (from APM), Here & Now (from PRI), or Tell Me More or On Point (from NPR)?

Thirdly, with regards to consistency (and of all the issues, this may be the most important): I remember when KRCL was completely free-form prior to the daytime format change a few years ago, and while it was fun not really knowing what I was going to get when I turned on the radio, there is definitely a benefit to consistency; knowing that if I turn on the radio every weekday at the same time, I’m going to get a consistent DJ style.

That said, what I want to hear at 6:30am when I’m waking up and getting ready for work is vastly different than what I want to hear at 4:30 or 5:00pm when I’m leaving work and am on my way home.

While I didn’t get to listen to Ebay’s show nearly often enough due to work, the impressions that I have from when I have been able to catch his show is that his style slots in well between Jamie’s and Brad’s.

To me, it always felt as if the KRCL day started quietly and built to a crescendo. Jamie opened the morning with jangly indie-pop from bands like The Shins, New Pornographers and Band of Horses, as well as new soul from Sharon Jones and similar artists; then Ebay started building up the edginess by mixing in EELS, and the Black Keys, as well as alternative hip-hop artists like Sage Francis, B.Dolan, Atmosphere & Aesop Rock.

Then, starting at 2:00pm, Brad brought it back home by getting crunchier, adding Dan Sartain, the Black Lips, Tom Waits & Ty Segall to the mix, but also reminding us of where it all came from with the Stones, Iggy, Link Wray, and John Lee Hooker.

Just like I wouldn’t expect (or want) Jamie to get into Albert Collins or Jon Spencer’s deep cuts, I also don’t expect (or want) Brad to get poppy with XTC or the New Pornos (as he did today), and I especially don’t expect or want to hear Brad playing top-40 commercial music like Adele or Norah Jones.

Finally, with regards to Vicki Mann being an “outsider”; all I know is what was published in the Tribune article back in March, when her hiring was announced, seemed to emphasize her experience with Clear Channel, Trumper Communications, and the 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee.

Then, when her first quote of prominence is that she feels she can be a “stabilizing force” who can “steer this station in the right direction”, even though the station just came off what I understand is its most successful radiothon in station history, and immediately starts making changes to homogenize the styles of the weekday crew … well, that sounds like an outsider who doesn’t really understand what KRCL is about.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who feels that way. In fact, what has people the most upset about the recent changes is that in the misguided quest for consistency, what you’re actually achieving is mediocrity and in the process, you’re alienating your core listener base … especially those of us who do consistently pledge year-after-year. Even more upsetting is that the changes were implemented without any real public discussion, much like what the Utah State Legislature has a tendency to do every year.

I took the survey that was posted on the KRCL website last month. I don’t recall there being any questions regarding whether or not I was a contributor, or asking what might convince me to start contributing if I wasn’t already a contributor.

I can tell you that what will convince me and a number of like-minded people to STOP contributing is if KRCL remains on this particular path to homogeneity and mediocrity.


If you agree that KRCL is on the wrong path, please sign the petition, but also please let KRCL know directly how you feel via one of the contact methods that Amy outlined in her email.

By the same token, if you feel that I am on the wrong path, and like what KRCL is doing, then please feel free to tell me so in the comments to this entry, and (again) by letting the station know directly. This is about local community radio, which means that local community involvement is required, one way or the other.

10 Comments

  1. Steven,
    this response rings true for me in EVERY area discussed. Thank you for taking the time to be a voice for those that are feeling a bit disgruntled and betrayed.

  2. I agree completely. And I did go to the 2 public hearings at the Library where I left disenchanted by being told in far more less eloquent words, fuck you and like it because we are doing what we wnt to so give us your money. I had no idea that KRCL had hired a ClearChannel exec. This just shows me that it is going to get even worse. Steven, you are not alone. And if it was one of the most successful drives in krcl history, why do they do the mini unofficial drives in between the 2 annoying big ones? Seems contradictory to me. Thanks Steven

  3. Hello to All!
    I hope to be brief here, as it is a workday and I have much to do. Let me just start off saying that I have been active with KRCL since the ‘Blue Mouse’ days and have been, up until these recent format changes, a hearty contributor for 25 years of so…
    I really don’t have a clear solution to offer in this ‘debate’; I love many of the true supporters of KRCL and also love those DJ’s who were summarily dismissed during this commercialization process. And yes, I choose these words carefully; I was recently asked by a KRCL board member what I thought of these changes. I replied that, ‘I think your playlists are showing’…
    I would guess that my biggest complaint with these ‘modifications’ is that if it is truly our radio station, why were we not included in the deliberations? The die had been cast and then we were informed as to what was to happen next; a perfunctory questionnaire AFTER the changes had been decided.
    I would suggest that at this point in the deliberations, you might consider bringing in LOCAL progressive ‘creatives’ to hammer out a format that will honor your needs of revenue and increased listenership, and without alienating those of us who were here ‘way back when’ and are feeling mostly disenfranchised now. I would also remind the powers that be, that it is an incredibly competitive field of non profits vying for my donations, all mostly deserving, and those that represent me and my ‘visions’ are the recipients of my largesse. There are probably thousands of us who would return to KRCL as contributors, if we really could trust that it is OUR station. Sadly, that has proven to be only a sales pitch for fund raising…
    I have signed the petition created by Steven, pleading that it is time to INCLUDE the community in ‘community radio’..

    Thank you for listening,

    Most sincerely,

    Andy Monaco

  4. A few weeks ago, before I even noticed the change in the music format I turned on Brad’s show on the way home from work, a daily commute ritual for me, and noticed that Brad seemed different, like he wasn’t ‘into it’ the way he always had been in the past. Gradually I realized why, as the tracks that he was spinning were no longer Ty Segal, Personal and the Pizzas, Ethiopian garage rock….but rather Nora Jones, Radiohead, and The Decemberists. (WTF!?)

    I feel somewhat silly that a radio station can have this kind of impact in my life. It seems I’ve spent considerable effort, as have others, in recent days and weeks, in attempting to put words to the feelings we’re having about the ‘new’ KRCL. But, the thing is, it is kind of a big deal to me. Steven and others have more eloquently expressed what I think we are all feeling better than I can….but I will add a few thoughts

    At the beginning of Radioactive is a quote that says something along the lines of: “So often in Western corporate culture, the dominant voice becomes the only voice”……I find it ironic that KRCL seems to have succumbed to this disease and I don’t like it.

    I also want to add that I (and I think we), are in FULL support of Brad, Jamie, Ebay, Circus, Dave, and all the other dj’s….this is not an attack on them. They have been involved in local music and arts for a long time, which was part of the appeal to me….to play a show at Brewskis in Ogden and see and hear Brad and his stories of the old bluesmen….it was exciting to turn on my radio and hear those same stories, and get to take part in what seemed like a very special record collection being played right over the air! I know when we learned of KRCL going more commercial a few years ago, getting rid of ‘Drive Time’ and other long running shows, I was worried that the station would suck. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. I love Jamie, Brad, and Circus especially, and found that the last couple years have been my favorites from KRCL. I know others may not agree……but I think we can agree that what’s happening now is not good and I hope that if we continue to unite our voices I am hopeful that we can make an impact for positive change with KRCL…..or in other words, make it how it was.

  5. Well said, Steven! I especially agree with your suggestions for improving morning listenership.

  6. I received the exact same letter in response to my petition signature. I replied with the letter I had drafted to KRCL (but never sent) prior to you even starting your petition. I’d like to think they will listen… but if they never asked BEFORE, I wonder if they will bother to listen now.

  7. Thank you Steven. I tried to give World Cafe’ a chance. But last Friday they had Lana Del Rey. John Mayer was on Memorial Day. How does this jibe with Amy Dwyer’s comments from above?: “By bringing World Cafe, listeners will have access to exclusive interviews and live versions of music not heard anywhere else in Utah…by artists that are a perfect fit on KRCL.” So Lana Del Rey and John Mayer aren’t played or heard elsewhere in Utah? Are they the “perfect fit” for the new and improved KRCL? No thanks.

    By going with paid programming during a prime listening time slot, from 6 to 8am, (at least for me as I get ready for work in the morning), they are saying that local programming can’t cut it. It undermines their whole argument of connection to community. And according to Troy Williams, World Cafe’ is so Jamie G can get two more hours of sleep in the AM. Tell that to the volunteers who slog down there at 3 in the morning for year after year. For the love of it. For free.

    I also noticed they quit running Jim Hightower before Radioactive. I guess he is too opinionated. But really, we have to realize that this daily integrated format was the intent all along. It wasn’t supposed to matter what deejay was playing between 6 and 6, the music would be coordinated/planned/segmented throughout the day. It’s just through poor KRCL management since 2008, (Donna Maldonado – who hated volunteers and listeners equally; then Amy McDonald who had ZERO radio experience, then several years of “Management by committee”), that the programming change is being implemented four years later under Clear Channel Vicky

    If you have listened to stations like The Current in Minneapolis, you can hear how this sort of “vertical programming” is supposed to sound. But KRCL doesn’t have that. It has 3, (now 4 w/ non-local David Dye), deejays spread throughout the week. So we are tuning in to the personalities of the mix laid out by Jamie, Ebay and Brad. Five days a week. That isn’t what it was supposed to sound like. We are now hearing in 2012 what we should have been hearing in 2008.

    I didn’t like the idea of it then, and I hate it now.

    I dug up some of the old links to stories about this sacrilege when it first went hot in 2008. They are worth a read.

    http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-12-6491-feature-dead-air-krcl-is-getting-a-corporate-makeover-is-community-radio-done-for.html (Ted McDonough)
    http://cityweekly.blogspot.com/2008/01/krcl-update-get-ready-for-baby-boom.html
    http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8221204 (Brandon Griggs)

  8. I had been a KRCL listener since 1987. When the BIG changes happened under Donna M in 2008, there was no community input in our community radio, it was a board decision and a poor one in my opinion. I stopped listening and contributing, moved to Utahfm, KUER and even (gasp) commercial radio. Now I tune in occasionally, and recently I have been listening more. What I hear are the same songs played every day. Maybe a little more hip than commercial radio, but certainly less progressive, less opinions, more ‘cool’ coated and I find it uninteresting and falsely wrapped. I am saddened to see the corporate slant move into what was a struggling but amazing radio station that defined part of my social life in Salt Lake City for so many years. There has been no voice, no diversity, and no community in KRCL for many years now. It’s only gotten worse. I cringe when there is a community outreach event, it’s almost offensive. So, now I am listening to the many other better radio stations on the web.

    I have voiced my opinion in the past and what I can’t figure out is who is listening and who is supporting. I realize KRCL is trying to survive, and I can only think that they have been successful in collecting a younger audience and shutting out the older folks like me. The tragic part is that now that there is a younger audience, will KRCL remain true to it’s roots and educate as well as entertain? Or will they simply go the route of mindless entertainment with no regard to independent thinking and/or listening?

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