Inside: Mapping the path, an interview with KSJD's Executive Director, Wynn Jones, shifting trends, and more.
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“Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now.
I know we don't deserve it but we need it anyhow.”

-- Mary Gauthier

Hard to believe we are staring down the entrance of the third month of the year already. At this writing, our team at NFCB is awash in findings from our membership survey, Greater Public’s DEI progress survey, and general nonprofit trends and findings. The jury is in. The pandemic has changed the way we see our work, our lives, and our world. It is no wonder that Mary Gauthier’s wonderful song, Mercy Now, keeps looping in my brain. It comforts me to embrace such a simple concept in the face of so much upheaval.

Observing that fault lines have been exposed in our society and our industry is already old news. We’re walking through the fault line terrain now and a bunch of deep breaths, combined with a whole lot of mercy, are essential ingredients for mapping the path. Like all challenges - opportunities are embedded if you expand your view. Community stations are providing great service in a time when it is urgently needed. There are pressures with that, but also invigorating options. Read on and soak up some inspiration - you got this!

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters

Churn, Churn, Churn

How do we retain talent? What’s up with the trend of people leaving public media?

Major staffing changes in public media have been happening over the last couple of years. Big names have left the industry, moving to commercial entities or changing careers entirely. Names like Sam Sanders, Audie Cornish, Noelle King, Lulu Navarro - major talent leaving for other opportunities outside of public media.

Following these departures, we’ve heard professional and respectful explanations - better money, more agency, “time for something new.” What is causing this exodus of major talent? Why are so many men and women of color leaving the industry? What’s under the surface? 

These shifts don’t come as a surprise. Over the last 2 years, publications have reported on growing challenges that have led us to this point: stories about journalists burning out, work redesign as a way to stave off burnout, newsrooms layoffs and furloughs due to the pandemic, a significant number of BIPOC hosts leaving in a short amount of time, "The Great Resignation,"  and burnout as some have worked to forward DEI initiatives. But it hasn’t been all burnout news. In that same Current article about challenges in forwarding DEI work, the stations that experienced burnout felt optimistic that their stations were moving forward and learning from the process. Local news has been experiencing a rebirth in Chicago, radio ratings overtook TV in some demographics, and the next generation of media makers are eager.

How can stations make meaningful changes towards mitigating the churn? I’ll quote Sally Kane here: it feels like building the plane while flying it. Community radio has a responsibility to take a good look inwards - how are our stations doing things? When’s the last time we evaluated our hiring and onboarding practices? Do staff have access to professional development? Who are the voices we hear on the air? How are we managing legacy planning - who do we choose to nurture for future leadership of our stations and industry? 

Treating staff equitably, with respect, empowering a broad range of voices in leadership positions, transparent pay equity, and supporting talent as they move up are hallmarks of a healthy station. Community radio has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to lead the charge.

Shifting Trends in Public Media

In the opening salvo of a forty-eight-page Nonprofit Trends Report, Salesforce writers condense findings that paint a picture of the shifting sands of change that have engulfed our sector since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold two years ago., in partnership with Ipsos Research, surveyed 1,250 nonprofit employees in ten countries to discover the biggest challenges nonprofits face today and in the future, trends in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how organizations are traversing the extreme shifts in the workforce.

At NFCB, we were struck by how much the data aligned with our recent member survey. It served as a potent reminder that perhaps we are more alike than different in our triumphs and challenges. The issues that were of greatest concern for global nonprofit employees included: controlling expenses, adapting to remote/virtual programs, hosting in-person events, implementing new technology tools and solutions, hosting, creating content, promoting virtual/online events, retaining volunteers, and changing the size of the organization to meet increased demand for services. Sound familiar?

Generally speaking, the report found that perception and reality are disconnected in the area of DEI work. Similarly, Greater Public’s recent survey on DEI work in public media finds the same thing. It seems that people in management positions rate progress higher than other workers in organizations. You can check it out for yourself in the links provided above.

Interviewed by Lisa Kettyle, NFCB Program Director. Interview edited for brevity.

Lisa: How did you get started in public media?
Wynn: I was getting my Master's in Journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and they were mostly focused on a track of network television news. And when a guy came in and said, “This is how you write television news, tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them.” I was like, No, this is not going to work for me. I don't remember who it was that suggested I check out KGNU in Boulder, and I did. I started by answering phones, and then they wrangled me into being a Morning Edition host as a volunteer one day a week. In journalism school, I used radio news as my project for graduation. My thesis project was on women in media and one of my stories was on women and guns. It's still a relevant story. Like, marketing pink guns to women. I would look at that. I have it on cassette. It's hilarious. Even in the 90’s, there was already a gun for every man, woman and child in the country.

From KGNU I went to KZMU in Moab. I was the program director for, like, three months and then I went to Durango. I only stayed there two years. I moved away and didn't work in radio. I had kids. My husband was working in Cortes and told me there's a radio station there. I listened to the radio station, I heard they had a job opening, and applied for it.

L: What was it like making a re-entry into radio?

W: A little tough, because when I left radio, we didn't have the internet. Community media was really a voice for the people. And still is, but it's stiff competition with the internet. Maybe that'll change. Anybody with a computer has a voice now. I really wish that there was a boot camp manual for new executive directors.

I've been at KSJD for 3.5 years. I have a great staff. They were incredibly welcoming and very patient with me while I learned things and didn't hesitate to help me understand the history and the way things have been done. There was a little bit of discord from the previous situation, so that took some mending, but I feel like together we all did a really good job. We implemented some fun things like staff breathers, which were ways to connect, but not be working. We let the staff choose whatever they wanted to do. Tom and I both wanted to do mindfulness meditation. So we did some mindfulness meditation with a woman in our basement over the computer. Another person wanted to play Uno. So we sat downstairs at lunch and played Uno. I've worked real hard to make them feel valued and they were open to it. They all love their jobs. I had to eliminate a position when I got here because we were just hemorrhaging money, but nobody's quit.

L: What inspires you in your work?

W: I am still blown away by the humanness of community radio. To hear all this different music, have all these different people making the news, about places and people I knew. I love the whole grassroots mission of community radio. That still inspires me. I feel like, as Sally said in her closing remarks at RMCR, we can't super-serve our white liberal audiences anymore. We still don't know how to do that, we always try because we're in a rural community. We got the America Amplified grant, I'm hoping we can create some connections there. We’re looking for that inspiration to figure out how to serve our audience on a broader level.

L: What’s new for 2022?

W: We got awarded a grant, a joint collaboration grant with KSUT, another public radio station. There was a grant opportunity to share a reporter to report on indigenous issues in our areas. We have 3 tribes here, we cover 5 counties. We're going to share a reporter and create content, and that's really, really exciting. It's great for our organizations to be working together like this because we share a broadcast area. It's an opportunity to serve our different indigenous tribal entities here, because as much as we tried to reach out, it's a struggle. We're hoping that giving a voice to what's going on in their communities will create a connection. We do report on tribal issues, but this is a dedicated reporter. We are excited to continue to reach into the broader community, to the people who we don't normally hear on the station, and that includes indigenous people and could also include some of our more conservative rural community members. I'm trying to figure out what we can do, content wise, for our listeners. The beginning of the pandemic, we would get notes that say "we'd be lost without you," you know, things like that. What else can we do? What is comfort for your soul through the radio? People want to know where their next meal is coming from, or who's on the school board, or how the fire started, you know, the things that day-to-day are actual touch points. We exist on a budget of $500,000. Eight employees, six full-time, two part-time. It's rough. You know, what if we didn't get that stimulus money? I don't know what we’d have done. We’re stretching it.

L: Do you end up focusing more on grant writing because of that? How do you decide how to diversify your fundraising there?

W: We cultivate our donors. We do underwriting, but underwriting isn't very successful right now. Since we ramped up the [local] news, people want to underwrite the news. We've also delved into corporate support for projects. We got a little bit of grant money from the county and from the hospital to do health and prevention reporting. We started it during the pandemic, and it's been really good. We don't just focus on COVID. We talk about veterans' health. They just created a telehealth center here for veterans. There's a lot here and the vets love us because we do that. We do a veterans affairs show, but we haven't been able to do it [recently] because of COVID. The veterans used to come in and answer phones with their Trump hats on. That's a good way for us to make friends, because we care about all the things going on in our community. 

L: What are you listening to or reading right now?

W: I'm listening to a band from Athens, Georgia called Pylon. I'm also listening to the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. I'm reading Resistance Women - it's about women in World War II who helped with the resistance against the Germans, and they are all in Germany. It's based on true story. I love The Alice Network, which is about women spies. I'm taking a crochet class on Saturday with a bunch of friends. Maybe we’ll yarn bomb our community.

Mark Your Calendars
Upcoming Webinar

NFCB's next members-only Community Media DEI Meeting will be Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 4p ET/1p PT. Community Media DEI meetings are held every other month on the third Thursday.

Not a member station and want to learn more? Visit our website at

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