I’m going to take a minute to step entirely out of character and write about something local – the effort to save KPLU, a highly popular non-profit radio station.
KPLU has been owned by Pacific Lutheran University since its founding. It’s a jazz and news station, with very good local coverage – something sadly lacking in mass media. However, the university decided to sell it; they see radio as a declining-value asset, and the school needs the cash. But they negotiated this deal in secret; the first hint that they had any interest in selling was an announcement that they’d reached a deal with KUOW and the University of Washington.
Now, once upon a time, KUOW – UW’s NPR outlet – was a decent station. Not the best, but not the worst, and I was a regular donor. That time is long past. They have virtually no local programming or news anymore; I stopped listening to them because since they hired their new east-coast programming director and station manager, they sound like an NPR corporate station operating out of Washington, DC, not a UW station operating out of Washington State. And, all too predictably, they immediately announced their intent to fold KPLU into their broadcast network as an all-jazz second station, eliminating KPLU’s very good independent local news and information bureau.
We are already suffering – as are most of the US-controlled territories – with a near-collapse in anything that can be seriously called journalism. In-depth coverage is all but absent, and local coverage in particular loses out. Media consolidation sucks.
For all of these reasons, a large local movement arose to demand that KPLU be given the chance to buy itself out, and go independent. You see, despite what PLU likes to say, KPLU is entirely self-supporting now. It just had a record fundraising drive during the secret sellout negotiations. Its listenership is quite large. Its citizen advisory board demanded to know why they’d been kept out of the process, once it was announced, and asserted immediately that the sale was deeply inappropriate.
So, following massive protest – well, massive, given the scale of non-profit radio – we’ve been given a shot. It was begrudgingly given; KUOW really wants to own KPLU’s transmitters. But it was given, so we have a chance.
We have six months; they need seven million dollars. I’ve already pledged. If you’re interested at all in supporting Puget Sound news coverage, I hope you will too.