Metro Detroit: In The News Dec 17-19

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An Open Letter To WDET Listeners From Michael Coleman, General Manager

In the past few days, I and other employees at WDET, have heard from many of you. The letters, phone calls and e-mails were thoughtful, heartfelt and passionate. I understand the role WDET plays in your life, and because of that, every time the station has made changes over the years listeners have been very vocal about how they felt. This time was no exception. I've heard from people who were disappointed in the new programming and from people who are very supportive of it. Regardless of how you feel, know that these decisions were painstakingly difficult, made with tremendous consideration and focused on the mission WDET has to serve our entire metropolitan Detroit community. The rationale for the changes were very straightforward - to save and strengthen this important public radio service. That being said, change of any kind is seldom easy.

Many listeners have been critical of the new programming based on an idea that "WDET got rid of all the music programming and is all news and talk." While I appreciate such comments, they demean the many fine, dedicated music hosts of which WDET is quite proud. It's unfair to dismiss the great contributions to Detroit culture by ignoring people like Ed Love, Gene Elzy, Ralph Valdez, Chuck Horn, Liz Copeland, Michael Julien, W. Kim Heron, Jon Moshier, Matt Watroba, Larry McDaniel, and Robert Jones. These talented hosts continue to produce, what is without question, the most comprehensive radio music programming in Detroit. The focus on the loss of the mid-day music shows neglects the contributions of these other outstanding programs. WDET is not, nor ever has it ever been, about only a couple of individual shows. Rather it's a collection of programs taken in its entirety that make up a public radio service. We have 11 unique music programs that offer 77 hours of locally produced, Detroit focused, radio that feature all kinds of music.

Other listeners have questioned the timing of the new programming. I'll share with you that following the close of the fiscal year on September 30, in which the station had a deficit of $300,000, the fall pledge drive that immediately followed fell more than $100,000 short of its goal. Those factors, in addition to the steady erosion of listeners (including listeners to mid-day music programs) demanded action to be taken quickly in order to save this valuable radio service.

When Walter P. Reuther, then president of the UAW, handed WDET over to Wayne State University in 1952, he asked the University to continue to use the station "to make a contribution to the advancement of the overall cultural and educational activities of our community." I believe our programming continues to address that mandate and it has the support of WSU President Irvin D. Reid and the WSU Board of Governors.

Detroit is my hometown. I believe it deserves a premier public radio service that is sustainable financially and that's what we're planning to provide. You may have already noticed the increase in our local newsbreaks throughout the day. Stay tuned in the coming months for a new local public affairs program that will allow us to sincerely examine the many complex challenges facing our community in a way that only public radio allows. Also, look forward to a new local cultural affairs program that will feature performance, insight, news and conversations about our community's rich arts and cultural life. These programs will set new standards in public and cultural affairs programming.

I want to thank you for taking the time to write, call or e-mail. If you have now come back to WDET or continue to support the station, I'm looking forward to your help in building a stronger, more inclusive and dynamic Detroit Public Radio. If you are disappointed with the new programming, I hope that you will reconsider and give us the opportunity to present to you all the fine music and news programs we now offer.

Respectfully,
Michael Coleman
WDET General Manager


Fans of WDET organize to protest changes

A group of WDET listeners have banded together to protest last week's changes to the station's daily program schedule- bumping daytime music in favor of talk and news programming. The group has created a web site, savedetroitradio.com, which contains the following release:

Last Chance To Save Free-Form Radio-
We, the Public, are deeply disappointed in Wayne State University’s decision to change the format of WDET. We should have a say in what is aired on WDET, OUR public radio station in Detroit. We have supported, promoted, and cultivated WDET for 35 years. It is a part of the fabric of this city, and was the last station whose format truly served the best interests of the public at large. Music is art, and it is also an integral part of Detroit’s history. Therefore, it should remain a large part of WDET, OUR public radio station.

If Wayne State had made its drastic plans known to the public during the last fundraiser, we believe the public outpouring of support would have raised enough money to sustain the station. Instead, without warning, the daily music programming built by 35 years of OUR public donations has disappeared. It has been replaced by the same cookie-cutter format as NPR's Ann Arbor affiliate, WUOM-FM (91.7), which can already be heard in Detroit! This is not innovation by any measure of the word, and does not make WDET unique in any way!

We, the Public, are asking Wayne State University for a compromise, and to give us a chance to raise the necessary funds to keep WDET operating in the format we have cherished for years. We are willing to accept some changes, but not a complete dismissal of all daytime music. If the matter truly comes down to funding and ratings, this second chance will bring in more funding and ratings than ever before, and with much more publicity than news and talk radio will ever get.

We, the Public, would like to have a “Last Chance Fundraiser” to start on any Monday at 9am, live on WDET. If We, the Public, don’t raise the necessary funds to sustain the station, we’ll concede and Wayne State University can make any changes it wishes.

If Wayne State University allows this fundraiser to take place, We, the Public believe the outpouring of support for WDET will be incredible. The station would be more cherished than ever -- in fact, it would blossom.

Our Campaign:
On Monday, December 19th we are filing a class action lawsuit against WDET for fraudulently taking donations for programming that have since been discontinued.

There will be a public meeting, followed by a protest march on Tuesday, December 27th, at 7pm, beginning at the Magic Stick (Majestic Theatre Center), 4120 Woodward, Detroit. Please bring friends, artists, and music lovers.

If Wayne State University does not agree to some daytime music, we are prepared to protest during the North American International Auto Show. Failure on the part of the University to compromise will result in high profile protesting during Super Bowl Week.

We plan to rally against the spring fundraiser for WDET, and are committed to protest against any fundraising efforts in the future, until we have had our chance to restore some daytime music.

WDET is OUR public radio station, and we should have some influence on the programming.

We need your help:

* Write, call, and email the people listed on the website
* Come to the meeting/protest march on Tuesday, December 27th
* Volunteer your time, your resources, and your money
* Sign up for weekly updates on our website
* Download this press release and forward it to everyone on your email list.
* If you donated money during the last fundraiser, ask for it back.
* Boycott WDET.


Detroit Free Press:

A group of about 100 irate WDET listeners wants to be heard. The protesters gathered Sunday afternoon at the Magic Stick nightclub in Detroit to plan strategy on how to get the station to return to a music format it changed last week. They planned to file a class action against the public-radio station, 101.9-FM in Detroit, and to picket high-profile events like the North American International Auto Show black-tie fund-raiser and the Super Bowl... WDET protesters air ideas, (Mon 12/19)

 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on December 19, 2005 7:00 PM.

Changes at ’DET confound local listeners was the previous entry in this blog.

Format changes: week of Dec 21, 2005 is the next entry in this blog.

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