Last week alone, I received 33 emails from people around Puget Sound, from Everett to Olympia, reacting to KUOW's planned acquisition of KPLU. Here's some of what they said:
I rely on KPLU for news. Driving from Auburn to Enumclaw, it was the only one of the two NPR stations that stayed consistently tune-in-able throughout the drive. If KUOW doesn’t boost its signal, I won’t have an NPR option for my commute.
I think the KPLU sale is messed up. I live in South Seattle and Listen to KPLU every afternoon, for the news. The NPR is fine but you can get NPR everywhere. What makes KPLU special is the local reporting. I am afraid with the merger, we're going to lose that local reporting.
I live on Maury Island, about even with Burien. We’ve been listening to KVTI, 90.9, a Westside outpost of the NPR network East of the mountains ever since KUOW changed. They broadcast classical music and run NPR news with local coverage. They seem to be Anna King’s home base and she’s my favorite local reporter.
Caryn Mathes (KUOW’s boss) came from WDET, and made huge ugly changes there, turning a music station into a all news/talk station.
I literally grew up listening to KUOW from rural Pierce County. Public radio is part of my biorhythm. I even used to listen on-line to Weekday sometimes when I lived in Oregon, to hear the in-depth investigation that format allowed. But then they changed their format and cut Weekday. I mostly tuned out after that.
My family donates to both stations and both stations irritate me at times. But I rely more on KPLU for local news. I find KUOW more disposable unless they are airing national programming. Their local programming is a mish-mash of re-runs. It is designed for people with no attention spans. KPLU acknowledges that there are stories that matter in the entire state and region by regularly airing stories from Anna King.
Sorry, KUOW—this move will actually drive me more to the podcasts that I increasingly listen to and financially support.
The sale of kplu makes me tear up a little bit. My grandparents met at PLU and have lived in federal way together ever since. I can't listen to kplu without thinking of them as has been and is the only station ever on at their house. I still have vivid memories of hearing it playing on their giant radio over the years of visiting them as a kid. Even today they still don't have cable in their home, they use dial up Internet and listen to the radio often. I know it will a loss for them.
Hi - I’m not in S. King County, but absolutely rely on KPLU for news. I’ve served on their advisory board for a couple of years and there was no indication this was in the works (as management noted).
My biggest concern - and you should talk with Steve Sher for sure — is that KUOW has dismantled what was a very good set of local shows. They are not listening to locals, but to consultants about what “works” for NPR stations. Therefore, they cut up the national shows with things from PRI and APM — destroying the flow of well-produced programs. I hear that the national shows really hate this, but can’t control it. This was done in order to stretch the morning and evening drive times — and it’s just ugly.
Where do shows like Fresh Air land? On KUOW2? Ugh.
I am a fan of podcasts and use them frequently now, but there is no way to get good local reporting (as you noted) when there is a lack of competition and a cutback in newsrooms. Another thing to check Ansel - the announcement from KUOW said something like “this is happening in many markets around the country.” Really? DC has two stations, I believe that Chicago does as well? That is an interesting angle.
I live in Highland Park, and work in Burien. I listen to KPLU because the reporting is much more relevant to me than KUOW, especially local politics. It is thorough without as much bias as other progressive publications that lean so heavily to the Urbanista viewpoint. Sorry Stranger. This is awful news and Saturday mornings will never be the same. I loved Sound Effect and the piece about the most under and over reported stories of the week. Given KUOW's current record it's hard to imagine that level of quality and perspective bring met over there unless they hire KPLU's news director. Not holding my breath.
it is not just South Seattle/King County that depends on KPLU for NEWS —- here in Olympia, we also get our news via KPLU (technically KPLI 90.1; KUOW signal just not dependable), so the loss of KPLU for the South Sound is DEVASTATING!
Thanks for publishing your article on the changes coming for KPLU.
It is a part of my morning ritual. I make coffee, feed the cats, and watch the sun come over the Space Needle while listening to the team report the news. On my way home (if I am in a car) I listen to Bel report the traffic. I even suffer through Fresh Air but turn it off when the content is too depressing.
I do not think that the over-educated liberal white Seattleites in their Keens need EVEN MORE JAZZ. I think they need more objective reporting that helps them stay abreast of the region and the world. And Bel's traffic. Love that.
Please say it ain't so.
Mandy, avid listener since fleeing Dallas TX in February 2014
We live in Seattle and have made substantial annual donations to KPLU and to KUOW over the past couple of decades. However we listen to KPLU 90% of the time as their local news reporting and programming is excellent and superior to KUOW. They are also much more fun! Bird Note, Nancy Leson and Dick Stein, Art Thiel, Cliff Mass are all greta vignettes that we look forward to. We have supported KUOW at the same level only because we believe there should be more than one public radio station here. Our donations were to be sent out today but we have put them on hold as we do not want to end up only supporting KUOW and the University of Washington.
This is a totally screwed up situation and our thoughts go out to the wonderful staff at KPLU. How do we stop this?!
KPLU is just a symptom of a larger problem with PLU. A new president who can’t lead, can’t raise money, and resents the PLU that was there before him. He has fired or driven off most of the vice-presidents and a good share of the middle managers and replaced them with suck ups who don’t know PLU and don’t care. He continually preaches transparency, but like the KPLU sale, does most things in secret. The VP for communications is convinced radio is doomed and is delighted to have killed KPLU. The president is sensitive about his inability to raise money and can now brag he added $8 million to the kitty. Meanwhile enrollment is lagging due to completion from U of W Tacoma, money is tight (PLU was just had its bond rating downgraded), the university is drifting, and the board is asleep at the switch.
I live in Madrona and commute south to Renton to work. KPLU is on my radio the vast majority of the time. I've listened to its jazz programming for about ten years, ever since I moved to Washington for my undergraduate degree, and I've kept a place in my NPR-loving heart for it ever since. I give money once a month to KPLU to show my appreciation. The programming and news is really great - I like the weekly talks with Art Teal the sports guy, Matthew Bromley the travel guy, and the self-consciously cheesy food people whose names escape me but whose recommendations I've tried with friends. The reporters produce excellent coverage of local news, and I've noticed in recent months that when the national NPR page features news from Washington, they seem to be adapting the stories from the KPLU team. I've also noticed an uptick in the national NPR reporting on the region and I don't know if that's because KPLU has done anything differently or just circumstance, but I would like to think that local reporters are getting noticed because their work is top-tier.
I'm very worried about the reporters losing their jobs in the transition. I will still listen to KPLU quite a lot as a pure jazz station - the jazz DJs are great - and I don't necessarily think that a transition is a bad thing. I just want to be sure that the reporters are okay. (Obviously I'm also interested in the music folks keeping their jobs too, but it seems less likely that they are at risk given what we know now).
The sale is pretty devastating- being in West Seattle KUOW is spotty, but even if it wasn't, we'd still be KPLU supporters. The format is better, and I really like the local reporting they've been doing lately. Like every one has been saying, there's just something "annoying" about KUOW.
If KPLU goes to all jazz, which there are some great shows, I hope they keep The Art Of Jazz with Ken Wiley- that guy is a motherfuckin TREASURE.
We will most likely discontinue being sustaining members after the first of the year.
I'm a professional jazz and church musician who trained at PLU in the late nineties. This KPLU sale is bullshit. I'm sure plenty of other people have covered the loss-of-local-news angle, the KUOW-slash-and-burn angle, and the unnecessary-consolidation angle. But in addition to those, this is also bad news for the PLU student body and the university itself. I have friends who got their start in radio careers working the midnight shift at KPLU. (RIP, Andy.) I was there when jazz superstars like Diana Krall visited campus to record interviews at the station. KPLU was part of the culture of PLU and a shortsighted sale to benefit an already-healthy endowment is categorically insane. You can be sure that the university will receive an earful the next time they call me begging for money. This is a sign of a university that has lost its way and strayed from its core mission and values. If the Board of Regents truly believed that this was an ethical decision, they wouldn't have made it in the dark.