WUNC's General Manager to leave the station

Don't go to your local NPR station for this scoop: the N & O reports that Joan Siefert Rose, the general manager of WUNC, will leave the station in August to become the director of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, a business-oriented nonprofit in RTP. Siefert Rose came to WUNC in 2001 riding the crest of their transformation from something like a quaint, bookish music-lover to a journalist interested in business, health, and science.

Personally I used to enjoy the musical programming and wasn't too pleased with the switch that started in the late 90's. I'd certainly agree that we could all use more news about Orange County, the Triangle, and North Carolina. And WUNC has made soem attempt to provide the latter at least, but the gaps in their coverage are tremendous. In fact, their attempt to serve the entire state has really watered down what character the station had, and means that we get very little news of importance from our local NPR station. One exception to this is Laura Leslie's political coverage. Other news features on WUNC are often intersting, and always well-produced, but rarely critical to my life.

Terry Maguire has been consistently watching WUNC from the outside and posts his thoughts on his blog, http://wunc.blogspot.com. I think he has been spot-on about the meager amount of local stories on the station, and he also raises great questions about the new "public insight network" they are constantly pitching on the air. It's hard for me to tell if it's not just a free focus group for the station. One would hope it cause an increase in locally relevant information, but I haven't detected any such change.

I listen to WUNC a lot (maybe an hour a day on average), but it's mostly via the Internet, where they have to compete with other great stations like WAMU, WNYC, etc. When I needed state news the most - the 2 weeks leading up to the NC primary - they spent half of it on yet another beg-a-thon. I was going all over the country to get my North Carolina news! (Especially to the now-defunct NPR News Blog.) If WCHL had a live stream (and less ads) I'd probably listen to them instead so I could actually find out what's going on in Chapel Hill.

So yeah, I have some frustrations with WUNC. I don't know how many of them are tied to this general manager's administration, but I have heard some criticism of her management of the station in the past. I'm curious what other think about the station, and about what this personnel change may mean for North Carolina's flagship NPR station.

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They had me on The State of Things w/ Frank Stasio live on primary day.  While there were people from across the state (like 6 of us) it was mostly people from around Chapel Hill and the triangle and call-ins from across the state too.  Several people talked about the presidential election, but I also tried to stress the importance of local elections.  Admittedly I focused on the Jim Neal for US Senate campaign (a Chapel Hill businessman who ran for senate) that I was working for at the time as an intern.
http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot0506a08.mp3  I think that was the first implementation of the public insight network earlier this month so there is still definitely time for refinement.  I like that the station does have a broad appeal, I got hooked on it while living in Raleigh, but a little more local flavor couldn’t hurt either.

I am a recovering NPR junkie. When I lived in Tallahassee and Norfolk, I was totally addicted. Both communities had more diverse programming than  WUNC currently has--even though there are some programs here that I like a lot.  I really miss Clay Jenkins and The Thomas Jefferson Hour, The Parent's Journal, the Legislative Update, and Radio Reader. I especially miss Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. I hope the new general manager likes music and more diverse programming.

She presided over an era of increasing corporatization at WUNC. It is no surprise that she is continuing her career in the business arena.

 

She and the station were always very protective of Progress and Duke Energy. Many of us had communication with her during the run-up to the Iraq War and in the early months. She was not sympathetic to our concerns that the "news" that they were broadcasting was narrow and often flat-out deceptive. I doubt that anything will change with her move. It is a corporatized entity.

Interesting news. I hope WUNC will take this opportunity to re-evaluate some of their assumptions.    I understand that the station needs money to operate, but (much to my family's amusement)  I charted the pleas for money last year and determined that the station was doing some type of on-air fundraising every 6 weeks, whether a one day "Valentine's" request  or a reminder from the announcer.   Even the recent "shorten the fundraiser" plea did NOT shorten the fundraiser really---even on the days without "live on air" fundraising,(in the middle of the campaign)  the announcers  kept reminding you about the break from the fundraising that you were getting and teling you how to make a donation.   

 It did not help my attitude toward their fundraising efforts when, despite my very clear "change of information" discussion with the organization, not once, but twice,  they sent my tax-deductible contribution receipt to my ex-husband.  :}

 

 

Ah, yes, WHYY, WAMU...good large stations where listeners can still get weather and traffic. I do enjoy Laura Leslie, and I know we're lucky to have Rose Hoban's terrific health coverage. But when I listen to WAMU (the station that taught me to love NPR) during WUNC pledge drives, I become jealous of their actual weather and traffic reports -- you know, things that are actually useful to people who live in the listening area right then that very morning! WAMU is a large station that covers an equally broad geographic area, but they somehow manage to be nationally important and locally useful at the same time.

Wouldn't it be great if WUNC took some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spends on the Dick Gordon show and invested it in its news room instead?

I forgot to even mention my favorite misses by Ms. Siefert Rose! At least twice she denied or altered an underwriter's message because she deemed it too controversial. Once because it had the word "reproductive rights" and again because of the word "rally."

I know advertising isn't the same as reporting, but I still shudder to think about how this culture of meek self-censorship might be affecting the news desk at WUNC. I certainly don't expect to hear them do any hard-hiting investigative journalism that might actually bother someone.

And "amen" to Kirsten's comments. Do we really another nationally-syndicated feel-good interview show? How exactly does that serve North Carolina?

Also miss the music, especially the jazz; but apparently they decided not to take on WCPE or either of the two jazz stations (from Shaw and NCCentral). And although the BBC is the best source around here for global news, do we really need quite as much as we have -- i.e., all night long? Traffic, weather -- esp. alerts -- would indeed be useful to us hereabouts, too.

However, remember that the station is also 88.9 Manteo and 90.9 Rocky Mount. Much as I love and miss the NPR stations in the metropolises, WUNC isn't quite comparable. It covers a large portion of a relatively rural state -- you can see the map on wunc.org/about (sorry, haven't figured out how to insert a .jpg in a post here). And as an arm of the state's educational system, it has a mandate to attend to local -- as in state -- issues and interests.

Otherwise, I share others' concerns about fundraising -- are audio-thons really the only way they can do this without turning entirely to corporate funding? And share others' concerns about self-censorship -- really wonder where the pressure for some of Rose's decisions actually came from. Anyone know or care to speculate?

And any hint about how/where they'll look for her successor?

 

And being born and bred in rural eastern NC those towers all the way out to the sea are - to me - the most exciting thing WUNC has done lately.
Ruby, good point,  I had forgotten about the "reproductive rights" issue.  I guess my question is whether Ms. Siefert Rose has left the station better than she found it.   I don't know enough to speak  to that issue.  I know that I morphed from a solid to a lukewarm supporter, but that's just one person's opinion. 

I'm perma-hooked on NPR and WUNC "bringing the world home to you."  God knows what they're paying Dick Gordon for The Story which is rarely a story but another hour of his endless loop of repetitive questions.  Yet I stay tuned in every day, all day except Saturday when I move all the dials in the house to WCOM from 8 to 8.  Highly recommended!  103.5 F. 

My take on Joan Siefert-Rose's tenure is that she raised hackles throughout that organization.   Most of the syndicated shows are good, especially Wait Wait Don't Tell Me which makes me laugh out loud every week.  The Puzzler with Will Shortz distracts me briefly from the Sunday NYTimes. The re-run of A Prairie Home Companion on Sunday afternoon is much less depressing than having to slog through it as a Saturday nite consolation prize.  For me, this is prime cooking time.  

 I hope they promote from within and see what happens.  Who are "they" is one big question.  Joan got in the fundraising marathon trenches, to her credit.  On this pass, we need a passionate insider.  Note that the facilities are quite nice -- Friday Center and American Tobacco alike.   Surely somebody wants to fly this plane!  

 

I have to disagree with the theme of these comments.  I've lived in other cities with a mix of NPR stations, and while admittedly I'm biased towards the news-talk format, I really like WUNC. I'd say it's second only to Louisvlle's Public Radio Partnership in terms of places I've lived -- WBUR was better before it imploded.

We have terrific non-profit classical and jazz stations in the Triangle, plus very good college radio stations. Strikes me that WUNC serves the right niche in re a news/talk focus. I would like to see local traffic, though.

I stopped giving to WUNC-FM (over 20 years loyal giving) when Rose brought back the incipid MARKETPLACE program (so-called business news for air heads).  For me it was time for someone interested in the "fresh and new" programs to open their wallets.

I donated an extensive collection of WUNC logo wear to GWI.

I'm hearing more fundraising bumpers on the station.   Does anyone know if their last fund drive met its goal?  
 

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