Saturday, August 2, 2008

Max's Excellent Adventure: Denver Public Radio

The Lesson Provided by the Colorado Public Radio Board

Colorado Public Radio is announcing new Board Members this week (see previous story), giving us time to stop and examine this beast. It is quite instructive. This exercise has academic overtones . . . but, is this: Geography 101? Statistics 101? Demographics 101? Non-profit Board of Directors 101?

When you weigh the distribution of representation on the CPR Board across areas served, a disproportionate amount of support for CPR comes from "the 303" area code, and a disproportionate amount of CPR's financial support is distributed in much the same way. Old habits die hard.

But there is a bigger story here. How many CPR Board Members come from Western Colorado? From places not fitting CPR's target financial demographic (yes, contrary to lip service they do have one). Do we have anyone serving Colorado Public Radio Board from: Silverton, Meeker, Craig, Cedaredge, or Parachute?

In 1991, after nearly a decade of maneuverings, and manipulations of technical facilities and people, CPR was started in that shotgun wedding between KCFR and KPRN (the orchestration of that would have made Montovani proud) -- much detail was placed on including CPR Board Members from Grand Junction (and then Montrose). Doctors, lawyers, and dentists were among their ranks.

Now that the KPRN take-over fall-out has evaporated (because the Grand Valley now has KAFM for a solid community voice), have the number of Western Slope CPR Board members kept pace? And if the numbers are still respectable, where are the sheepherders, the orchardists, the small town artisans, the wildcat oil and gas rig workers or the coal miners?

When you read the names of CPR Board members, know this: no matter if it is an Anglo, Hispanic, or African-American name, their economic level litmus test for this board has been passed. They are on the economically-successful side of life. They are REQUIRED to shell out thousands of dollars to sit on such a board (to subsidize CPR's operations) . . . and hopefully, to speak for more than the demographic sector from which they were chosen.

Is there a correlation between the make-up of CPR's Board, and on-air programming content? CPR management profusely rejects that idea, and perhaps they are correct, only because the over-all "culture" of CPR is already set in stone and those serving on the Board have been hand picked to fit that model. We saw what happened when former Board member Frances Koncilja tried to shake things up a bit.

CPR's twisted concepts for true public service have also been applied by dozens of other "big" public radio outlets across the land. It is a twisted departure from a time when The Public Broadcasting Act (1967) was created and funded by Congress. In its own way, this tainted culture mirrors what has happened to the nation; a nation which has seen a continued rise in the power and influence of our upper class, at the expense of people below them. In a sense, the people involved with Max's Excellent Adventure are right in step with history that History Professor Newt Gingrich would approve. End of lesson.

As Frank Zappa used to say in his dry, sarcastic tone, "Never mind, shut up, rise and salute the flag."

-First Responder

Friday, August 1, 2008

Colorado Public Radio Board of Directors

The Rocky Mountain News reports today that Colorado Public Radio has new members and it has reshuffled its officers and directors for its Board.

"Colorado Public Radio named
Katherine Archuleta, Laura Perry Barton, Robert Contiguglia, Mary Lou Makepeace, Arnold Salazar and Forrest Cason to its board of directors. Virginia Berkeley was named board chair, Dean Salter was named secretary, and Warren Olsen was named treasurer."

It seems that Colorado Public Radio's own website isn't even (as of 12:00 p.m. on 08/01/2008) up to date yet. How long does it take to run the press release down from the propaganda minister's office to the web guru? I guess longer than it does to email and fax the presser to the fish wrap?

Also, it looks as though CPR has finally taken Francis Koncilja's (former CPR Board Member) advice about adding more diversity to the Board. With names like Archuleta and Salazar on the board, how long before CPR hires some people of color for the news and music departments? White People Love Public Radio!

This just in . . . Someone is updating the CPR website at 12:15 p.m., however, it doesn't look finished. Virgina Berkeley is still listed as both Chair and Treasurer (among many other double-title listings and other typos); that would be quite a coup. I guess Colorado Public Radio DOES breaking news after all -- kinda. So, getting accurate is just optional?

This just in . . . again . . . It's really hard to imagine how the Board Member page on the CPR site can have so many errors; people with different titles, typos, missing web links, bad spacing, omissions, etc., especially when CPR provided the correct information (we assume) to The Rocky. I mean, Colorado Public Radio Blog is a BLOG -- not a news company. We make these mistakes all the time! But, we expect better from the professionals. Don't you?

KGNU Launches Blog to Cover the DNC, Election

Very much in keeping with its independent, community-centered public radio format, KGNU 88.5-FM in Boulder and 1390-AM in Denver launched a blog. Today, you can see "KGNU’s Joel Edelstein and Maeve Conran discuss the station’s upcoming coverage of the 2008 election, the DNC and the launch of their new blog." Once again, KGNU shows that high-quality public radio can be done on a shoestring budget when public radio stations work harder and smarter.

Also, my guess it that KGNU will balance out coverage of the more conservative branch of public radio, represented by Colorado Public Radio, with a budget or more than $10 million dollars per year. All that money and they STILL cannot produce a blog for their website? Oh that's right, if you want to participate in public radio news with CPR, you have to register with the Public Insight Network. How corporate is that?

I'd venture to guess too, that when KGNU speaks of public participation during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado that they will more often refer to demonstrators rather than protesters, unlike the staff at Corporate Public Radio. But what's in a word? Public radio listeners are not fussy about vocabulary -- especially when it comes to free speech -- right? Four-syllable, eleven-letter word that is a synonym for fussy? Hmmmm, where is the puzzle master Will Shortz when you need him?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cacophony Public Radio

Radio is an intimate medium, say the fundraising tools at Colorado Public Radio around pledge time. They say a lot of stupid, syrypy shit like that about the sound of radio when they want your money. It's a fantastically subjective statement; one with which you may rightly agree or disagree. Of course if you agree with it and fall prey to its persuasive effect, then you'll probably feel guilted into donating to CPR. If you are like me, you just shake it off, turn the dial, and donate -- if you want, when you want -- to whatever public radio station that actually sounds intimate, if that's what you like. Me? I like substance. You? You may have many good reasons to subscribe to Colorado Public Radio, but I'd bet that intimacy surely isn't one of them -- at least not the type of intimacy you get during Morning Edition.

Case in point. If you ever listened to KCFR News during Morning Edition, you have probably heard the cacophony of voices at around :19 minutes past the hour. This is a time, an opportunity for local stations, to break away from NPR news in order to provide local radio content. Or in KCFR's case, to inject message after message, from disparate voice after disparate voice. Listen to this 3 minutes and 10 seconds of audio from 7:19 a.m. to 7:22 a.m. from Colorado Public Radio's Morning Edition for Monday, July 28th. This is what you will hear; 9 intimate voices; with two repeats. Enjoy!
  1. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (NPR News Foreign Correspondent, Afghanistan) finishes her report.
  2. Renee Montagne (NPR Morning Edition News Host, NPR West) segues out of Nelson's story.
  3. Bob Lafley (KCFR News Host) reads a news promo for an upcoming KCFR story.
  4. Mike Lamp (KCFR News Host) reads an underwriting spot.
  5. Charley Samson (Host and Executive Producer of Colorado Spotlight on KVOD) reads an underwriting spot.
  6. Anna Panoka (KCFR News Host) introduces and re-brands a documentary for KCFR Showcase that Colorado Public Radio never produced (see 7 and 8 below).
  7. David Dunaway mentions Pete Seeger and Public Radio International in his promotion about the documentary produced by David Dunaway and distributed by PRI, not KCFR (see 6 above and 8 below).
  8. Anna Panoka (KCFR News Host) re-promotes the documentary and mentions that KCFR is now on "crystal clear signal on 90.1-FM" (see 6 and 7 above).
  9. Bob Lafley (KCFR News Host) reads a KCFR weather spot, returning CPR back to NPR.
  10. Deborah Amos (NPR Foreign Correspondent filling in as Morning Edition News Host) introduces a report for David Schaper.
  11. David Schaper (NPR Reporter, Chicago Bureau) reports from Chicago.
Where to begin! First of all, this SOUND BRILLIANCE is brought to you through the miracle of automation and preproduction. NPR prerecords its stories overnight. Then, NPR Hosts inject their bit of magic in between the stories; you know, banter, clever intros and outros, and of course, insipid transitions between stories to tie the really big show together. Then, NPR feeds the show to member stations over satellite and/or the internet.

Days and weeks before the day's Morning Edition broadcast, every one of CPR's on-air hosts record underwriting and promotion spots to sprinkle throughout the KCFR and KVOD broadcasts. Unlike National Public Radio however, CPR cannot seem to learn that a single voice (Frank Tavares, if you didn't know) prerecording almost all of the NPR underwriting spots sounds a lot smoother than 5-7 different people doing it.

If that isn't enough of a chorus, KCFR adds more disparate voices by re-working promotions for other public radio shows to make it sound like KCFR produces more content than it actually does (KCFR Showcase). CPR calls this "re-purposing," which actually means recycling others' work and making it your own. Sounds like stealing to me. Like watching the credits roll in a movie with 10 different producers, directors, distributors and movie studios, it makes your head spin trying to figure out who actually did what to bring you the news. Why don't they just keep it simple; "A Colorado Public Radio Joint," a la Spike Lee?

If that isn't enough, Colorado Public Radio has to make a blatantly false statement about "crystal clear 90.1-FM." Last time I checked, analog radio isn't crystal anything! Sure, KCFR News on 90.1-FM may be a lot clearer than it was on 1340-AM, but please! The digital stream from KCFR is a lot clearer than FM radio, setting aside all the noticeable clicks and pops I hear when streaming their highly compressed, lo-fidelity 32 kbps sound. Maybe this is CPR's oblique reference to HD radio, if so then just say it for chrissakes. By the way, have you noticed that KCFR News on 90.1-FM isn't even broadcast in stereo? Also notice that KCFR stopped saying 1490-AM and the KCFC call letters for Boulder entirely. Guess they don't want you to know that 1490-AM isn't that clear -- crystal, that is. Sounds like an FCC violation to me, but what do I know?

Finally, after nearly 2 minutes of solid soap-selling, KCFR News gives you some actual news content -- a weather forecast that is hours old. Notice how Colorado Public Radio NEVER reads the current weather conditions? They won't do it because they can't do it. Automation is running the show, and it never sounds more obvious than at around :19 minutes past the hour during mornings on Monday through Friday. If radio is really an intimate medium, then the boffins at Colorado Public Radio are geniuses at making it sound completely distant -- like a crowded cacophony of crap. Or, how about just plain PHONY!

Salacious Snob-on-Snob Action

Brad Weismann, of the Colorado Daily, gives us some salacious snob-on-snob action. Be damned, broadcasting boffins of Colorado Public Radio! How long before CPR turns KVOD into NPR News too?