In Seattle, 94.9 FM KUOW is about to swallow 88.5 FM KPLU. What does that mean for KPLUs journalists?
In Seattle, 94.9 FM KUOW is about to swallow 88.5 FM KPLU. What does that mean for KPLU's journalists? sashi/Shutterstock

There were once two dueling newspapers in Seattle. But in 2009, the left-leaning Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut down, leaving us with the Seattle Times, which employs some excellent journalists but is owned and published by old, conservative farts.

Still, we had two National Public Radio (NPR) affiliates in town—88.5 KPLU and 94.9 KUOW—each with their own team of reporters covering the city and state.

Until today:


Notably, KUOW's Q&A page about the buyout says KPLU will be converted into an all-jazz station, but says nothing about what will happen to the dozen or so reporters working for the station—including, to take one example, Kyle Stokes, who provides indispensable beat-coverage of the educational issues in Seattle.

UPDATE 2:15 p.m.: KUOW still hasn't answered my question on Twitter. The station's president claims in an interview with the Seattle Times that the acquisition is a "big win for the community," which means "more news for the Puget Sound region, more great jazz."

But a source within KPLU told me:

We do not know when we go off the air. The FCC has to consider this first, it could be a month or 6 but likely early next year. There will be 20 positions (including positions already posted by KUOW) available. We do not know if those will be jazz or news positions. None of us have guaranteed employment... In what world does less competition mean better content and coverage? People are staying strong but no one is in a good mood over this. It is a lot of shock.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: Another KPLU source says employees weren't told about the acquisition until today, in a staff meeting with representatives of Pacific Lutheran University, which is selling the station. Those representatives were asked three times, according to the source, whether the university's financial position was prompting the sale. "And three times they said it was not."

In other words, PLU, with its $85 million endowment, says it's doing fine, as tempting as it may be to assume that economics necessitated the sale.

The announcement blindsided everyone, including senior managers, according to this source. "There was no drumbeat leading up to this, no groundwork being laid... We have a fundraiser scheduled for two weeks from now."

The source called the notion that KPLU's closure means more news for Seattle "a bit of fluffy rhetoric that has very little discernible basis in fact... You're losing a fully staffed newsroom here."

The assumption is that the twenty jobs available at the new all-jazz station on 88.5 FM (which will have new call letters and be run by KUOW) will be music and administrative jobs, not reporting positions. There are currently 36 full-time employees and 15 part-timers at KPLU.

Staffers went to their usual hangout—Mama's Mexican Kitchen, a few blocks south in Belltown—to commiserate, the source said. "At least we have four to six months to figure out what we're going to do."

Support The Stranger

They are supposed to come in for work tomorrow. Courts reporter Paula Wissel just posted this:


UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: If you're in South Seattle/King County and you relied on KPLU for news, send me an e-mail about what the station's sale means to to you: ansel@thestranger.com.