The University Record, March 11, 1997
Michigan Radio strides reviewed
By Jane R. Elgass
Michigan Radio may have had a tumultuous year last year, but the changes in format and content appear to have paid off, according to Executive Director Donovan Reynolds.
In a report to the Regents last month, Reynolds noted that when he arrived, "the radio stations were in serious crisis and there was a possibility that our grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) would be eliminated."
Far from being damaging, the changes---which included being the first FM news and information station in Michigan---have resulted in an increase in income and audience, as well as station morale, he said.
"Our November fund-raiser was our most successful ever---$293,526 was raised, topping our goal 32 percent. We also gained 2,600 new members. Our grant activity is up dramatically," he told the Board, "and our CPB grant is no longer in jeopardy.
"Why the success? We've developed a reputation as a place where things are happening. We have talented people and are developing our own programs."
The changes appear to have impressed Michigan Radio's peers around the state as well, as it was designated "Public Station of the Year" in a competition sponsored by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Seven Broadcasting Excellence Awards also were received for specific programs, including Best of Category Awards for public affairs, documentary, feature story, mini-documentary series and use of medium, and Merit Awards in feature story and spot news categories.
The competition was established for the state's 300 radio and television stations to encourage the highest standards of reporting, community service and production creativity.
Michigan Radio, on the air for 49 years, is actually three stations---WUOM in Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM in Flint and WVGR in Grand Rapids---with a potential audience of 5.5 million. It's an affiliate of both National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International.
Here's a quick look at some of the changes and new initiatives launched over the past year:
Installation of a high-quality phone system makes it possible to conduct an interview in Ann Arbor that will sound live anywhere in the world. U-M folks have appeared on "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," "Talk of the Nation," "Weekend Edition," "The Derek McGinty Show" and "Science Friday."
"Talk of the Nation" host Ray Suarez brought his NPR show to Rackham Auditorium.
The commitment to news and information programming has led to new partnerships, including one with the Great Lakes Radio Consortium that focuses on environmental reporting.
Special features on the arts and humanities have been made possible with new support from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Michigan Council for the Humanities and the Frey Foundation, and there's now a Grand Rapids-based reporter.
New musical ventures include the Artist-in-Radio program that featured interviews and concerts with alumna Lauren Wagner.
A partnership with the University Musical Society allows the stations to record and offer concerts to NPR's "Performance Today" program.
The next step? A major investment in equipment and facilities. According to the presentation at the Regents' meeting, "much of the technology in our studios has not changed since the day we signed on the air in 1948 . . . in some cases we are using the exact same tape decks and recording units. Our most up-to-date studio is nearly 15 years old."
Great Lakes Radio Consortium pleased with partnership
David Hammond, managing editor of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, is pleased with his partnership with Michigan Radio.
"We're in an ideal spot here at Michigan Radio and here in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is a special place for us because it's home to prominent environmental groups, regional policy-makers and, of course, the U-M. During our first two years, we've made great use of researchers as well as many student interns interested in journalism. All of these factors have helped the Consortium become a national leader in quality environmental reporting."