BREAKING: WDUQ News Reports on Foundation-led Regional News Project

You’ll be quick to peg this as unvarnished good news:

Using grants totaling $578,000, the Pittsburgh Foundation this summer will launch an on-line initiative “to preserve and strengthen the delivery of local news and information.” Foundation President and CEO Grant Oliphant says the initiative will offer in-depth reports on “key issues impacting the Pittsburgh region and cultivating broad community involvement.” (WDUQ)

Blast! Just when I gave up on journalism…

According to Oliphant, this venture will seek to work closely with regional partners in the mainstream broadcasting and print media, and initially will use a core of independent freelance journalists. (ibid)

It’s about time. Partners, eh?

“Independence and impartiality are critical requirements for the successful and credible operation of our on-line news service and Pittsburgh Filmmakers is an ideal partner, providing a resourceful base from which this initiative will continue to develop and grow.” (ibid)

Three cheers for independence and impartiality in the media. I heard this news story reported on 90.5 FM WDUQ in my car before I spotted it online. It happens to be pledge drive season, so before and after this news, pledge hosts were going on and on about the intelligent, non-agenda-driven, high-caliber news available on NPR and DUQ. Anyway, if the Foundation and the Filmmakers are embarking on a new regional news venture, they are to be congratulated and encouraged to roll things out on the best possible footing.

Speaking of WDUQ, it is in the process of being sold from Duquesne University to a new media venture, Essential Public Media. It could mean some changes for the station’s programming.

WYEP, Mr. Cardamone added, has talked informally with local foundations to gauge interest in supporting the new public radio station.

“The foundations have been on the scene from the very beginning. We need to build a sustainable radio station,” Mr. Cardamone said. (Marylynne Pitz)

Hmm, there again are the foundations. Might there be any connection?

Asked by WDUQ-FM staff member Kevin Gavin if the new station will offer jazz, Mr. Cardamone replied, “We don’t really have specifics. We understand the legacy that jazz represents in Pittsburgh.” (ibid)

So it was written. See, it’s the jazz listeners here, who must make up a sizable portion of WDUQ’s member base which is harvested from these very pledge drives, whom many see as potentially having the most to lose in this sale.

Well, who knows. Hopefully it will all work itself out, as good people with extremely laudable intentions have productive conversations which lead to to smooth processes and regional innovation based on sound grassroots principles.

*-SEE OTHER: Slag Heap, Chris Potter.

31 thoughts on “BREAKING: WDUQ News Reports on Foundation-led Regional News Project

  1. monk

    The Burgh looked splendid tonite!

    For all disagreements of past…

    North-Shore, South-Side detour…

    Full moon and moon roof. Inclines?

    The City just looked spetacular!

    Thanks all, past and present Elected Officials: Tom Murphy!

  2. oldpittsburgh

    this is a hostile takeover….wduq is being STOLEN by carpetbaggers from colorado….wyep is a front for the group public radio capital. jazz will be eliminated….their silence on the subject speaks volumes…..and in the future donor dollars will go to the carpetbaggers as a return on their investment

  3. Bram Reichbaum

    I like WDUQ. I love all the NPR, and their local coverage can come in handy and they are literally the ONLY way in which I am aware of jazz music. Now I know I like jazz (although I'm not all elbows over teacup about it). Uh… Coltraine. Ella Fitzgerald. Brass solos.

    I like WYEP too, but WDVE is tough competition any time of day.

  4. oldpittsburgh

    the attitude on the part of the local foundations ,who are going to be helping prop this new station up, is that jazz and the people who enjoy it are inconsequential. The important thing for them is a chance to set the agenda for public discourse, to determine what's important enough to merit the public's attention. The jazz audience is measured in the thousands..the new audience will be in the hundreds..but the “right” hundreds in the estimation of the unaccountable few who control vast sums of money and are unfettered my a moral compas

  5. Bram Reichbaum

    “oldpittsburgh”, your points are all very interesting.

    I would not be surprised, if to some among the Foundation community, they're like JAZZ AGAIN? NO MORE JAZZ! I bet they've poured millions into jazz projects over the past um, century — more than millions — and maybe finally some of them are like, “Enough with the jazz projects! They never blow up like they say!” I can see how maybe LESS jazz on a particular outlet, wrapped in MORE candy and/or bacon, might be a good thing long-term for the local jazz music.

    And/So I feel like WDUQ is destined to retain a jazz imprint.

  6. oldpittsburgh

    There was talk last year among musicians and fans that Charlie Humphrey,speaking on behalf of local foundation interests, stated flatly that jazz would be reduced to very late at night and/or an hd channel. Now Charlie is quoted saying that “this deal is what I've been working for” Jazz gets very little from foundations. A fraction of what goes to PSO , Opera, etc BNY/Mellon carries on the Mellon Jazz tradition. I wish they would make a statement about all of this.

  7. Anonymous

    Jazz is popular. But the only money supporting it was the DUQ listeners.
    Maybe Mellon a little bit, but mostly the listeners. I heard that Jazz had more listeners on DUQ than classical or YEP.
    But read this article. It was not about jazz. This is all about taking control. The out of town people, NPR, CPB, Marco and Charlie and some of the others (and who are they??) – they know better than we do.
    If they wanted to learn what “we” in the city wanted or needed, they would ask. They already know.
    This is how QED got to where it is today. The people at the top are in charge. get over it.

    The people at DUQ did a great job for many years with out the foundations helping them, the university against them and the public not knowing who to trust.

    I hope these new people have half as much class.

  8. MH

    The kids today don't get the jazz because they always listen to new music like the Thompson Twins and Mr. Mister. Now get a rake and repeat after me. “You kids get off my lawn.” [wave rake]

    By the time the last Boomer gives up the radio, I'm going to long for the fresh beats of Lawrence Welk.

  9. Anonymous

    this much fuss over radio is almost laughable… radio is so 20th century… marco, charlie, and the carpetbaggers talk about multi-platform this and that… all well and good, and a noble effort to emphasize local journalism… i just hope they're not going to accept shoddy fact-checking from “citizen journalists” looking to be the next woodward and bernstein… this also doesn't have to come at the expense of a sizeable and supportive (financially) audience who have made duq the most successful public media outlet in town… it's OUR station…. we paid for it… it takes giant cojones on duquesne's part to even think for a nanosecond that it's acceptable to sell to anyone looking to make wholesale format changes… it's OUR station… we paid for it… shame on duquesne… they talk about reaching a younger audience and the web stuff may do that… there is nothing to suggest that young people (or ANY people, for that matter) are clamoring for this local journalism effort… a couple of things are certain, however… yep is baby boomers… baby boomers run it… baby boomers pay for it… baby boomers listen to it… it is NOT a young people's station by any stretch of the imagination… same as duq… and young people don't use radio… period… so then why blow up duq to reinvent public radio in pittsburgh by targeting young people when young people don't even bother to turn the radio on… boomers and x-ers have the cash to keep the thing going… millennials and younger don't listen at all… i don't get it… but for those of us who do still listen, we're getting screwed by a cadre of dilletantes, demagogues and out-of-town carpetbaggers who put the ME in media… shame on all of them!!!

  10. young jazz listener

    Hey i just want to say that some young people DO listen to radio.. Many duquesne students worked at the station and LOVED their experience there and many still listen — although most young people probably listen to the internet broadcast.

    but i can agree with you, the young people are not paying for it.. the young people donate 10 or 20 bucks here and there.. but it is definitely the older generations that have the money to fund the operations with large contributions..

  11. Anonymous

    Well… here is a fact that seems to be escaping some readers, pundits and lurkers here: WDUQ is PUBLIC radio and if the PUBLIC does not like what the folks in Denver do to the station that the local PUBLIC has built into the LARGEST public radio station in the 'Burgh ($, members, listners – take your pick), the PUBLIC will not support it. Wonder what those Mile High (handed) takeover artists (and humble 'lil 'ol YEP too) will do then? Where will the licence go? Who will foot the financial loss (unlikely that Duquesne will get paid other than on the installment plan, one assumes)? I'm betting the university gets stiffed, “Essential Public Media” goes bankrupt and “Public Radio Capital” gets the license for nerly free.

    And to think that Duquesned turned down WDUQ's mgt led team (all of 'em LOCAL!) which bid $6.5M in order to accept Denver's bid of $6.0M.

    Any Duquesne University board members read this stuff?

    While I'm at it, if any local media folks read this stuff, are you: (A) Too meek to look into this; (B) Not getting that the loss of something like 60 yr old WDUQ is NEWS; or (C) Brain dead?

    Whatsamatter? Foundations got your tongues?

  12. Anonymous

    “HAVE THE MONEY”? Does anyone HAVE $6.5M? Not only did the mgt team not have the money, but the successful bidder doesn't either. HOWEVER,

    the mgt team has repeatedly shown that it can get the local PUBLIC to provide money – something which the “Essential Public Media” corp has NOT proven.

    In fact, if you search on the non-profit filing for Public Media corp, (their Form 990) you will see it has been LOOSING money for quite a while.

    No, it would by far be less riskier for Duquesne to go with a known group with known resources who are all local than an unknown, out of town group whose real motiver are a compete enigma.

    Just another facet of a deal that is so obviously news, yet so sadly evident in the fact that no one in the media seems to be interested in covering. Or is it that no one is gutsy enough to cover it?

  13. Anonymous

    Citypaper is publishing something today. I look forward to some insight into what is looking like a black eye for all parties involved. Except the management, staff, and supporters of WDUQ!And they're the ones who will be the losers. Unless…..

  14. Anonymous

    Public Media Company has never filed a 990 because it didn't exist six weeks ago. Perhaps you mean Public Radio Capital?

  15. Anonymous

    huffington post had a piece last week ( be_b_823146.html) on public radio capital swallowing local stations (it used the phrase “assimilated”)

    these guys have listeners and supporters of local public radio outlets all around the country outraged with their greedy, bullying tactics…. it used to be enough that they just brokered deals…. now they want to be owners and profit from their nefarious work

    there's a link to a white paper that is the blueprint for stealing local stations ( out from under their management, staff, supporters, listeners and communities in a clear channel-like nationwide consolidation of public radio… that white paper seems to have been the model for the creation of public radio capital 10 years ago

    a few particularly disturbing excerpts:

    “A Larger Delivery System. Millions of listeners cannot hear some of public radio's strongest formats and most successful programs because there are simply not enough public radio stations to deliver them. With virtually all FM channels in well-populated areas already assigned, the only option is to obtain outlets from those who already have them, including commercial, religious, and educational broadcasters outside the public radio system.”

    “New Operating Models. Public radio currently consists of primarily independent licensees. As a system, public radio is beginning to explore new operational models that make the most sense–consolidated membership operations, underwriting partnerships, and the merger of stations in North Dakota are examples of how stations within the public radio system are rethinking how they operate.”

    “Operating Partner

    Identify an operating partner in the market. The cost savings for acquisitions come primarily from the combined operation of two or more stations together–the same operating structure now used by commercial radio.”

    this whole thing just stinks to high heaven… wyep is being used… the people of pittsburgh are being screwed… and duquesne university, the pittsburgh foundation, the heinz endowments and others in the “philanthropic” community are going to have an awfully hard time washing off the stink

  16. Anonymous

    Why is this blog the only one touching on this subject. I agree with the statement that carpetbaggers are stealing from Pittsburgh.

  17. Anonymous

    Public Radio Capital is by FAR the largest stakeholder in Essential Public Media, which is the JV of PRC (sic!) and WYEP that is purchasing WDUQ. As such, PRC has been filing Form 990s for a number of years and has been loosing money for most of them.

    You can download the 2009 PRC Form 990 (newer ones are more well hidden) at:

    At the bottom of the very first page, you can see they LOST a half million that year.

    So Essential Public Media is owned by a corp that looses money and the third largest (that is, the smallest) public radio station in the 'Burgh.

    And Daugherty at Duquesne says to us (condescendingly of course) that Essential is more likey to actually come up with the money than the WDUQ management team which has been doing just that (coming up with the money to run the station) for the last decade?

    And you thought that Vaudeville was dead!

    Duquesne University students reading this are, of course, free to let their school's board of directors know what they think of this kind of spiteful decision making. Its YOUR university folks! Why let them screw up that public radio station that many of you have interned at?

  18. Anonymous

    There's a cover story in City Paper today. Potter was on with Lynn Cullen and they devoted 18 minutes to it.

    Here's for the last three 990s for PRC:

    Seems what PRC does best is pay themselves big salaries.

    Here's WYEP's 990s:

    They lose money too. Charity Navigator rates them in the bottom five among public broadcasters nationwide.

    You will probably need to register with the sites to see this information.

  19. Travis

    I can't believe there is so much intrigue with the online news thing and DUQ and all. This needs to be a public station, and the grassroots need to be involved.
    There are important stories that don't get done. Glad to have Pittsburgh Bloggers poking a stick at things.
    City and County politics matter a lot. I think the people at DUQ have done a pretty good job at it, but I hope they do more.

  20. S.J. Antonucci

    It has been so interesting following this story and seeing all of the perspectives on it. Personally, I love WDUQ and it's current format — and I want to make sure the current blend stays with the new station. In response to the post about anonymous bloggers, if DUQ staff actually posted anonymously they would probably share more information. If it isn't the staff of the station talking, it certainly should be. The whole issue with the sale of DUQ is that no one involved with the sale is shedding light on the information to the public — and it's the public who funds this public station. I think there are really a lot of concerned listeners. And it looks like the contributing listeners – and the staff of the station – are the ones getting screwed.

  21. Anonymous

    TO MH:

    This particular “Anon” has posted several of the above, and is NOT a WDUQ staffer, BUT I decidedly AM a stakeholder in the station.

    I have been contributing to WDUQ, voting with my dollars on the acceptability of their efforts, really, for more than 20 years. And I have had the immense pleasure of being a phone volunteer in their pledge drives for the last 10.

    I'm not big in the online community, but I am greatful that we now have it as a way to talk about injustice and expose it. As the uprisings in the middle east have shown, sometimes the new media can be instrumental in the shaping of events. THAT is why I am posting here.

    As I put up on the Essential Public Media site when the opened it for comments (nice touch of “sensitivity” there guys) this deal stinks. And this time, I find that I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to sit by quietly and passively while one of our region's true assets is decimated.

    This is not the 1900s, but there is still a cabal that silently and steadily engineers how things are done in our city. Forums like this one are our only hope of countering the macinations of those who think THEY “know what is best for Pittsburgh.”

    To the news media who finally seems to be coming alive on this issue remember the simple motto of the trustbuster, Theodore Roosvelt: Be sure you are right, then go ahead!

    As the WDUQ fiasco unravels, we will ALL find out how things have been and still are done here in our city. Looking forward, things ARE evolving in favor of the common man. As recent world events have shown, typing, tweeting and posting is how the common man can bring Pittsburgh's power centers into the current century of transparency and PUBLIC debate.

  22. MH

    This is not the 1900s, but there is still a cabal that silently and steadily engineers how things are done in our city.

    Agreed, but worrying about WDUQ instead of that the street aren't paved or that PPS enrollment keeps dropping or the giant pension hole or whatever seems a bit beside the point.

  23. walker

    where is the essential public media site “open” for comments? i see where comments can be left but certainly not that it is open in any way… they remain in the shadows

  24. DUQ fan

    That's right, MH, let the foundations fund things that are truly important and let those of us who actually care about public broadcasting pay for it. Instead, the foundations facilitate highway robbery and the destruction of the public radio station the marketplace put at the top of the heap. This deal takes philanthropic dollars away from things that are far more deserving.

    As far as us worrying about it, it's our prerogative. Not an issue of import to you? No problem. But it is important to a lot of people and we've had precious little opportunity to discuss this anywhere as public dialogue on this issue continues to be thwarted by Essential Public Media and the powers that be.

    The blog entry we're commenting on isn't about unpaved streets or public school enrollment. Can't we care about lots of things, including having the station for which we (the financial contributors) have paid exponentially more than $6 million with our pledge dollars stolen out from under us by out of town interests motivated by greed and the homogenization of public radio?

  25. Pogo

    Well, there you have it!

    While all of us common people were sitting around blogging and moaning, the foundations that “guide” our cultural tastes have been buisly at work deciding what THEIR, er, YOUR, new public radio station should be.

    If you have not yet read the 2/26 PG article that TELLS YOU want it is that you want out of a local PUBLIC radio station, then you should.

    Of course, YOU want a foundation-backed takeover of the largest public radio station that you have built over 60 years with your dollars.

    Of course, YOU want to loose the jazz programming this was really all along for those “other “people. You know… the ones not like us…

    Of course, YOU want some crazy new “news brureau” apparently chaired by a man whose main credential is a film makers group mouthpiece to tell you what the news is. God forbid that you actually want PROFESSIONAL news people, who have been bringing you the national and local news for decades to bring it to you in the brave new world!

    OOppss… wait… they just might (finally) interview a few of those WDUQ folks (after a MONTH has gone by!) – just for show of course sez the PRC mouthpiece. [Those folks are all too loyal to their WDUQ team to actually be carried over, of course.]

    Of course, YOU can see the wisdom of ALL of this being backed by a not-for-profit INVESTMENT corporation (sic!) based in DENVER to tell you what it is that you want. Yes! When they want YOUR opinion, they will give it to you!

    So there you have it! Exactly What You Want – Pittsburgh-style. Enjoy it, or…


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