NPR Pledge Drive Drastically Affected by the Economy

By: Callie Mendenhall

How the economy is doing affects most everything in the United States and the National Public Radio (NPR) pledge drive is no exception. When the economy is in a recession so is the pledge drive by affecting it through listener and corporate support.

A pledge drive is an extended period of fundraising activities for public broadcasting stations to increase contributors for their station. Pledge drives are used so the station can receive the majority of their funding. Local NPR stations are known for their enthusiastic and persuasive pledge drives, but pledge drives funding can quickly dwindle when the economy is in a downfall, as any NPR employee knows.

“The pledge drive is an event we have where listeners and companies give back to the station for what we do for them all year. Listeners and companies donate money and or gifts to the station to insure we can pay for everything because it is where we receive most of our funding.”  Said Rebecca McInroy, Producer for KUT— local Austin, Texas NPR station.

Other funding “..come from foundations, and business support, what we call program underwriting,” According to John Greene, General Manager of KUER.

The NPR pledge drives are a “special time when I feel good about giving money to the station that I absolutely love to listen to on my way to work.” Said avid KUER listener, James Meisinger.

Although many NPR listeners feel that they should give back during the pledge drives, it’s hard when the economy isn’t booming which causes the pledge drive to be drastically affected.

Tristin Tabish, Program Director of KUER, said, “Our fund drives are affected by the economy in two major ways: listener and corporate support. The economy affects the pledge drive as it affects every other aspect of society – consumers have to make priorities about their purchases. Philanthropy tends to be an area that is perceived as a “luxury” and so people will either give less to their favorite charities, focus on a single organization or choose not to contribute at all.”

Pledge drives may be perceived as luxuries as Tabish vocalized, but that doesn’t mean that the NPR stations reduce the need for funding when the economy is down. NPR stations need more money every year due to the increase in living prices which means that stations can’t afford to lose any funding no matter how bad the economy may be doing.

According to Tabish, instead of lowering their pledge drive goal they instead, “..have to work harder at being consistent with our message, and tell our listeners exactly why we need their support and where their contributions are going. We try to connect with our most loyal donors to give what they can, so we send e-solicitations and direct mail to give them as many opportunities as they can to give.”

NPR pledge drives are no different than any other aspect of life. It’s a simple fact, when the economy is low so is the funding that stations receive during their pledge drives.

The Rise of The Audience

By: Callie Mendenhall

 “Journalists are increasingly becoming the audience and the audience is increasingly becoming the journalist,” said Matthew LaPlante on Thursday, October 26. KUER’s own Radio West was recorded in the Hinkley Institute of Politics and the topic of the show was how journalism is shifting and how it’s affecting the audience. Doug Fabrizio hosted the show alond side the panel of four others: Matthew Ingram, a senior writer at; Holly Mullen, a writer and former reporter; Matthew LaPlante, a journalism instructor at Utah Sate; and Holly Richardson, a member of the Utah House of Representatives and an active blogger.

The way citizens receive information is changing. Journalism used to be an article about every event, but now even Jeff Jarvis, an American journalist, is saying, “Today an article is no longer needed for every event.” What that means is now piece of information or journalism might be a tweet or a Facebook status instead of a well-written and edited news article. News is now on a 24-hour cycle and it can no longer be an industry where news and stories are only updates every morning when the paper comes out. If a person wants information about anything they are able to get on the Internet and find it out. Ingram said, “We are turning the Internet into a small town where everyone knows everything.”

Because everyone knows everything, journalists have had to change the way that they interact with their audience by making news a process and not a product.

“The relationship between journalist and the audience was fundamentally disconnected”, said Ingram with the concurrence of Mullen and Richardson. Before the wave of social media, a story was written and then unless a journalist got a letter from a citizen it was done. Now when a journalist writes a story, they get an immense amount of feedback within minutes from their readers. This change has made the journalists more accountable for their information put out. Kate VanWagoner, a senior communication major at the University of Utah said she believes that, “Journalism has reached a new level of efficiency.”

Social media is still a work in progress and therefore is still having many hiccups and discussions along the way. With Facebook and Twitter anyone can be a journalist, but discussed in the show is, is it necessary to be a card-carrying journalist anymore?  Richarson who had no college training to be a journalist said she feels a person doesn’t have to have the training of a college degree because a person can simply teach themselves. Mullen, on the other side, said she believes that having a degree and learning techniques in college in order to write is extremely important and society will never lose the appreciation for it. Traditional journalists or card-carrying journalists will always have a place in journalism, but now so do citizen journalists.

Citizen journalists report information to citizens every day because the traditional journalist can even submit a story on the same event and that is how journalism is changing.  Citizen journalists are everywhere and continue to grow everyday.

When the panel of guests were asked how to be a citizen journalist the answer was to be interesting, relevant, factual and above all seek the truth and report it.

Emily Dunn, a junior communication major at the University of Utah said, I would consider myself a citizen journalist, but I’m still taking the appropriate steps in order to get an education to learn everything that I possibly can.”

Journalism is an ever-changing industry and LaPlante put it best that we are democratizing the system of journalism by having the audience become the journalist and the journalists become the audience.

Evolution of Journalism in the Digital Age

Story by Meish Roundy

“You don’t need a license to align yourself to a media source anymore,” Holly Richardson, Utah state legislator and blogger said Thursday, Oct. 27 at a broadcast for KUER’s “Radio West.” “We can convince people to leave things out (of the news) no longer.”

Mathew Ingram, writer for, talked about a time when there was no public feedback unless someone wrote a letter to the editor.

“Twitter and Face book feedback have become a part of the job now,” Ingram said.

“Things are changing,” Mathew LaPlante, former journalist and high school teacher, said at the event. “The audience is become journalists and journalists are becoming the audience. The internet has turned the world into a small town.”

Despite these changes in journalism, a panel of experts including Holly Mullen, former reporter for The Deseret News, denied the collapse of the profession but rather a transformation.

The panel discussed that the Internet, specifically Twitter and Facebook, has made everyone a type of journalist. Richardson recalled how Osama Bin Laden’s capture was tweeted a half-hour before the media’s breaking news.

“But there is still a need for traditional journalism,” LaPlante said, “People are thirsting for a referee!”

Ingram agreed that with the amount of information available online Americans have become trained skeptics and will still search for articles from trusted journalist.

The panel also talked about how the news has improved. “News stories have evolved,” Ingram said, “Before they had a beginning middle and end. Now . . . a story shifts and feeds itself based on opinion or what someone else posts or saw.” LaPlante continuing with this idea said, “The media is all of us now.”

KUER’s Doug Fabrizio asked, “Does it matter if someone is good at writing (to be a journalist)? Answering Ingram said, “Education is good. But you don’t have to be trained to commit random acts of journalism.” Richardson agreed, “In order to twitter you don’t need and education.” Mullen on the other hand told Twitter users “You are all journalists” in that “the point of the media is to be human,” but warned that, “We cant outsource our brains to a cloud.” She said her university training was a necessity in that it helped her, “learn hot to write quickly and use active words.” LaPlante agreed stressing that with the amount of current opportunities people have now to blog, tweet and Facebook that, “there is not a lot of journalism training in our education and there should be more.”

The panel touched on the issues of online libel and payment.

Kourtney Mather, a public relations major at the University of Utah who was at the broadcast, said the meeting was, “Interesting. I have never taken Twitter seriously as a social tool of journalism.” Jim Kroe, also a University of Utah student, said he was. “Happy to know journalism is evolving and that the news will be more about the people and what they want to hear.”