2020 is only half over but easily wins the award for the strangest year at WORT, and after 25 years I should know! When we decided to limit access to volunteer DJs, it put us in a completely, pardon the expression, novel situation. We’d been working to have a stash of evergreen programming but never had a need for an entire schedule’s worth of prerecorded shows, so though we had no advance plan to proceed, we knew our mission was to carry on as best we could.
The first few weeks Aaron and I worked around the clock, 7 days a week to edit and rebroadcast 20 hours of daily programming. That time’s just like a blur now, where we learned a whole lot of stuff really fast. Some very tech savvy hosts were able to begin recording from home, then helped show others the way. As weeks turned to months of lockdown more and more of our hosts joined in. Many of you downloaded software and plugged microphones into computers to record shows at home. We also got some generous donations to cover licenses and microphones for temporary use by volunteers, which are now being distributed.
We’re lucky our fantastic engineering committee created a workable archive system which pretty much saved our ass when things went dark. We still use some archived shows but are actually broadcasting almost all new recordings now!
Our mighty volunteers rallied and now are running the airwaves again. We continue to learn new things every day. We do see time starting to open up for us to address some ongoing issues, such as Spinitron, our digital library and the program host annual renewal form.
Aaron concludes and I agree: I am very proud of our staff for holding on for the ride but I am most proud of our volunteers who have again shown us what community radio is all about. Many listeners have thanked us for maintaining a sense of normalcy through this time but we sure couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you.
–Sybil Augustine, Music Director
NEWS, TALK, and PUBLIC AFFAIRS
The News, Talk, and Public Affairs department has certainly changed in the last year! Last summer, our news producer, Nina Kravinsky, left after two years to return home to Washington, D.C., where she quickly became a producer for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
Last fall, our News Director, Molly Stentz, left after many years to become the Executive Producer at Wisconsin Public Radio’s morning drive show. Chali Pittman became Assistant News Director to replace Nina, then quickly became Interim News Director when Molly left. News, music, and talk volunteer Shaun Soman became the new news producer on an interim basis. A hiring committee spent nearly four months on the hiring process, and recommended Chali Pittman become the new permanent director in January. Shaun Soman was offered the permanent job as news producer but decided to leave in April. News volunteer Jonah Chester was then hired to be the new news producer.
Over the past year we have had several reporters hit their one-year anniversaries. We have added numerous volunteers to the 6pm evening news along with many collectively-produced shows. Notably, Haywood Simmons and Princess Michelle have left the Tuesday 8 O’Clock Buzz, and the slot was filled by Dr. Damita Brown, Restorative Justice Coordinator at the Dane County Time Bank. Stan Woodard has also hosted and helped with the transition. Additionally, Stu Levitan became the host of new show Madison Book Beat, replacing Monday’s Letters and Politics.
The News & Talk Department has faced and adapted to significant challenges in the wake of COVID-19. Most volunteers have continued to create programming, either live or prerecorded, while we are shut down. The 8 O’Clock Buzz, A Public Affair, the 6pm News, and occasional evening shows are live, while collectively-produced shows are prerecorded shortly before air.
Some activities we spent winter planning have been impacted by COVID-19, such as the Summer Journalism Workshop for underrepresented communities slated for this summer, and coverage of the DNC in August. We’ve grappled with COVID issues while also covering the surge of civil rights activism in the wake of George Floyd, and have tried to be on the ground and contextualize as much as we are able.
We know volunteers have questions about when they’ll be able to return. The COVID-19 Task Force is examining strategies and a timeline for when we’ll be able to reopen. Thank you, everyone. Be patient, be kind, be skeptical, be well.
–Chali Pittman, News, Talk, and Public Affairs Director
TECHNOLOGY and FACILITIES
In the past year, WORT has made some big strides with technology.
The largest example of this is, of course, the new transmitter which was installed and powered up in March of this year. Along with this install we now have an automatic fail-over system that kick in with similar-to-the-timeslot content if the station on Bedford goes dark.
The other major accomplishment is that the website has been moved to a new server which allows greater flexibility and speed. There were a few hiccups along the way, but we are there. Next up is the live stream and the archive system to make them more stable and secure.
Additional quick shots of progress are:
1) Our show archive storage moved to the cloud for long term retention.
2) Middle studio is set as an additional space for recording if needed.
3) Our liability insurance is no longer in crisis mode as it was after the events of 2018.
4) The digital library is now backed up to forestall data loss caused by failing hardware. This protects years of CD ripping efforts.
5) All PCs in the station have been updated to Windows 10 and all have been connected to Active Directory which is a way of centrally controlling each system.
There is still much to do in the upcoming year. Hopefully the pandemic will cooperate to allow us to do it!
–Thom Jones, Technology and Facilities Director
There were 1100 New Donors in 2010
There were 500 New Donors in 2019
Percentage Decrease from 2010 to 2019 55%
Although WORT has seen a 30% increase in individual donations over the past six years, this increase has served to hide the substantial decrease in new donors that has been taking place. New donors made up 33% of all WORT donors in 2010; in 2019 that percentage was down to 16% and will continue dropping if we don’t do anything to address it.
How are we increasing individual donation income with fewer and fewer new donors?
First, we’ve increased the number of monthly donors from 409 in 2014 to 849 in June 2020. Our monthly donors continue to give year-to-year at a 98% rate. Non-monthly donors give at a 57% rate from year-to-year. Second, many of our lapsed donors have begun giving again. These two phenomena have helped to hide the crisis in the decline of new WORT donors. People think we gained a lot of new donors in 2011, when we were actively covering the Act 10 protests at the Capitol. But we only had 71 more new donors than we had the year before, and 50 less than we had the year before that. Although pledge drive income increased substantially in 2011, this was a result of former donors (lapsed donors) donating to WORT once again. If our extensive coverage of the Act 10 protests didn’t increase the number of new donors, what will? That is a question that WORT needs to solve, soon.
There were 500 new donors in 2019 and 2650 returning donors. Returning donors are making larger average annual gifts, including monthly donors, donor estates, and charitable gifts made from donor IRAs to WORT.
In 2010, 24 donors gave $1000 or more to WORT.
In 2019 there were 49 donors, a 100% increase.
In 2010, 78 donors gave $500 or more.
In 2019 there were 141 donors, an 80% increase.
In 2010, 315 donors gave $250 or more.
In 2019 there were 480 donors, a 52% increase.
The average annual individual donation has increased, while the number of donors and new donors is decreasing. At some point this is not sustainable.
–Susan Sheldon, Listener Sponsor Liaison
Business Development has had a challenging year. With the Covid crisis, events have come to a complete standstill. Before the crisis, Musicians for WORT events were seeing increased income, and great work by Ralph Shively, Tina Nelson, Raka Bandyo, and the entire event volunteer base for a great year of music events. We are excited to get back into the swing of it as soon as we can safely.
Since rescheduling WORTstock, it has become apparent that we must hold off until 2021.
Although large Summer events are cancelled, Bob Queen is still holding the Grand Sessions Raffle. Tickets are available to order and pick up at the station by emailing or calling me at the station. Info will be up on the website in a week or two.
Underwriting has been somewhat stable, though we have lost all event-based underwriting. Inquiries and some new contracts have come in for virtual events and other businesses who remain open.
I have been working closely with our bookkeeper, Suzanne, who is doing a fantastic job by the way, to complete daily check deposits, ensuring changes to Evergreen donations are completed, and checking payroll. Suzanne works from home, and the ability of linking desktops to home computers has been a great help in keeping staff safe.
In addition to the Payroll Protection funds we received through the efforts of Dave, Suzanne, and many others, we received a stimulus of $75,000 from the CPB, who already gives us an annual grant of approximately $90,000. This will go a long way to ensuring our financial health during this crisis.
I have stretched my engineering abilities and continue to engineer for the 8 O’Clock Buzz on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I have also repainted the bathrooms a deep purple with orange accents.
–Doug Holtz, Business Development Director
Thank you, mighty WORT volunteers for your dedication to the station and the community and especially for continuing to produce amazing programming remotely since the station closed in March. We look forward to welcoming you all back to the station as soon as we can safely do so.
We were very fortunate with the timing of the Winter Pledge Drive which ended on March 8th, right before COVID began to impact our community in major ways. To the best of our knowledge, no one was exposed to COVID at the station during the drive or since. On March 17th the staff decided to suspend volunteer receptionist coverage and closed the station to all volunteers with the beginning of “Safer at Home” on March 24th.
We were unable to utilize in-station volunteers during the recent summer pledge drive. We are hoping that it will be possible for volunteers to take pledges from their homes for the fall drive.
Organizers of the outdoor festivals that we usually participate in have currently canceled those events though the end of August, so we have been unable to be out in the community with our outreach booths. Plans for participating in September festivals are tentative until the organizers of those events make their determinations later this summer. We have rescheduled the WORT Volunteer Picnic to Wednesday, September 16th at the Brittingham Park Shelter and will only proceed with the event if we determine that we can do it safely utilizing social distancing and other precautions.
Promotional exchanges pretty much came to a grinding halt due to COVID with the exception of a few events which were reorganized as “virtual events”. NAMI Dane County has arranged for a promotional exchange for their walk on Oct. 4th, which they believe they can do safely with social distancing and by providing masks for participants.
Thanks to Stephen Lord for organizing monthly Socials through February. We have discussed the possibility of holding “virtual” socials in the coming months until it is safe again for in-person gatherings.
Finally, big thanks to WORT’s Community Advisory Board for their work with the station.
–Glenn Mitroff, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator