Content Advisory Committee minutes, April 9, 2020

Content Advisory Committee minutes, April 9, 2020

KFAI Content Advisory Committee

Meeting minutes for April 9, 2020

The Content Advisory Committee convened on Thursday, April 9 at 6:30 pm via Zoom. 

Present: Ron Thums (interim GM), Mason Butler (Content Manager), Michael Milligan (Board liaison), Jay Armstrong, Chris “Felix” Wilbourn, Benjamin Raye, Melissa Olson, Christopher Robin Zimmerman (“CRZ”)

Absent: Jessica Bunns

Call to order: The meeting was called to order at 6:39 pm; roll call was taken.

Approval of minutes: The February meeting minutes were approved. (There was no March meeting.)

The pledge drive, although not taking place as originally planned, went off well despite occurring at the onset of a pandemic. Our $50,000 goal was reduced to $40,000 — which we actually exceeded ($46,720). Ron originally believed $30K was “a pipe dream goal but the listeners delivered.” All credit to the listeners for delivering despite our unusual approach. Program hosts should amplify these thanks in their upcoming programs. Other stations postponed or canceled their Spring fundraising drives but we didn’t feel we could afford to, with a Summer Drive already planned for July. There was no pre-drive mailing, no pledge producers, reduced pledge rap partners… just Ron, Mason, Deb and Allison. We broke every established rule but passed $40,000 on Tuesday.  

Mason showed some stream statistics; more streams were active once the stay-at-home order went into effect. During the drive, Mason felt “soft sells” were more effective while hosts who failed to engage received (as expected) poor results. Music shows received most of the pledges while public affairs shows did not, with a few “legacy” exceptions.  

With future plans to bring more news into the programming schedule, existing public affairs shows may need some scrutiny. Is it an issue of quality? Listenership? Do they truly represent their communities?

Melissa agreed that focus on really strong news shows is a good idea. As she began to discuss revamping Sanctuary the meeting abruptly shut down at 18:50. Mason determined that the host of Fresh Fruit (coming on-air at the time) was attempting to start a Zoom interview on the same account while we were meeting.

We started a new Zoom meeting (but without Ron attending).

Building a news presence: Melissa is looking into partnering with Minnesota Reformer and applying for funding. Our partnership may assist them secure that. Mason thinks partners may help guide hosts in productive directions as well.

Mason says nobody’s content changed much for the drive. There has been some COVID-19 discussion but not necessarily news. Community conversation has its place but this may be closer to eavesdropping than sharing insight.

Jay mentioned that there are 14 different community newspapers but a “donut hole.”  Why aren’t we offering more neighborhood news?  Mason says it’s coming.

Melissa asked if the conversations from the Strategic Planning Committee were moving forward. Mason said he did not know, but the committee hasn’t met in a while. Subcommittees may have.

Melissa asked how already cash-strapped editors are going to find the resources to produce an hour of radio content? What’s in it for them? She’s not sure the question has been answered. “What I think we need is a media-adjacent organization that can do the work of setting up a “newsroom” and task them with raising funds so that we have a structure in place to make it possible.”

Mason says it may appear that we’re asking print journalists to assume our public affairs completely.

Jay agreed that editors may be overworked but individual reporters may jump at the opportunity to expand the reach of their reporting, if we offered an hour a week, for instance.

Mason offered the idea of a program that could regularly check in on reporters in bites (10 minutes?) and, with enough segments, could work. It could also help rebuild some lost connections with the community papers. Mason also suggested connecting existing public affairs hosts with reporters with dovetailing beats.

Future expansion could lead to bringing on a (funded?) producer whose sole job would be to facilitate production and act as liaison between hosts and guests… but we’d have to get the grants and the partnerships to get to that place.

Although we have no news director, we do need to “exert an editorial hand.”

Melissa says that COVID-19 may renew discussion about “local journalism” — specifically, non-corporate journalism and news from “the immediate community.” Turning back to the Reformer, Melissa discussed how its staff was able to secure their funding by sharing their vision of local coverage; something MPR doesn’t do. (Their focus is statewide coverage as opposed to metro). If we could prove that we’re filling a niche that nobody else is or would, that’s a hook for the people who fund and give grants.

Mason suggests that with the lack of a news department, it may fall on the Content Advisory Committee to provide the push. Melissa asked if that means we make recommendations to the Board?  Michael said yes.  Felix asked if we could go outside, perhaps to local podcasters who have ready content and focus. Is it worth reaching out? Melissa said we’d have to have a values-based conversation before presenting our case to those who would fund us — editorial values, actually “reporting the news” vs. reporting a stance or perspective as often happens in podcasts.

The discussion moved deep into the weeds here and I zoned out. Mason tried to bring us back to the agenda.

American Indian Month: Melissa wanted to start a conversation about American Indian Month programming but COVID-19 has really had an effect on it. She brought up KFAI’s past year’s commemoration, including past live remotes from the celebration at the American Indian Center. May is coming up fast. Mason had some ideas and some questions. With the May 1st celebration canceled, perhaps we could spread out programming over the entire month, including the open slots?

Mason said that Ken Hippler will be ending Good’n’Country at the end of April. May 2 was originally going to be devoted to Sabados Alegre’s Cinco de Mayo celebration but that too has been canceled.  With five Saturdays in May, we may devote the former Good’n’Country 3-5 pm slot to special programming for American Indian Month.  Melissa asked about Roy; Mason says Indigeneity Rising has been taped for the entire month but he has concerns that COVID-19 content that is weeks old might not be the best use of that hour.

Melissa thinks her next step is to reach out to Native-American (and other interested) programmers and form a committee. She hopes to have her hosts in place within a week.  Mason will work on a Google form.

Schedule openings: Mason shared some Soundcloud links from folks who are still willing and available. We have six “finalists” who are making their own individual pitches through their social networks. Public input is encouraged but will not determine final recommendations. We’d like to make a decision in the next CAC meeting and bring them online by June 1. With the Saturday slot opening up, Mason feels that an internal move should probably be considered as opposed to a brand new show. We’ll listen to the Soundcloud links and be prepared to discuss next month.

What happened to Good ‘n’ Country?  Ken retired his show, a KFAI legacy program for 30 years, having decided that two recent pre-emptions of his show (for Drone Not Drones and Black History Month programming) was “too disrespectful to his audience.” He was concerned about future preemptions and that program hosts were not allowed input before staff special programming decisions. Good ‘n’ Country is moving to Heartland Country Radio, a web-based country music station based in Missouri. Interim GM Ron Thums made multiple attempts to accommodate Ken, offering him the chance to continue broadcasting from KFAI while syndicating his show to Heartland, but the offer was rebuffed. The last episode of Good ‘n’ Country will be broadcast on April 25.

The meeting adjourned at 7:54 pm. The next scheduled meeting is Thursday, May 14.

— submitted by Christopher Robin Zimmerman, Secretary