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Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Response to NPR Resignations – WKMS letter to Michael Pape, the District Director for U.S. Congressman Ed Whitfield

with 2 comments

WKMS Station Manager Kate Lochte has sent the following letter to Michael Pape, the District Director for U.S. Congressman Ed Whitfield.

Dear Michael,

This week’s NPR resignations lead me to write you with encouragement that Mr. Whitfield stand firm for public broadcasting based on the service of Kentucky stations like WKMS. We are a system reaching into ruralmost Kentucky with the kind of information that elevates a listener’s awareness of the world close to home and far away. Information that lifelong learning, engaged citizens need. With Kentucky’s striving for a better educated citizenry, this is no time to diminish the service of public radio.

We are in a time when public radio and public television are really more important than ever. The world around us is being fragmented with communications that are not based in fact. That’s not what we do. We stand for fact-based journalism whether it’s from the WKMS newsroom or the BBC. If we get it wrong, we go back and correct.

It is disturbing that the defunding issue has centered on NPR without respect for the great national asset that the system of stations are not only in Kentucky but across the country. Part of our vision for WKMS is to one day have a generator at our LBL site (a proposal for funding assistance for this has been in FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant queue for 2 years) to be able to deliver region wide emergency information when we are needed.

Our team is also uniquely able to offer fact-based public safety information as we continue to work with the Local Emergency Management systems in western Kentucky. We continue to upgrade our knowledge of these systems by taking courses offered through the Homeland Security system. We take our responsibility seriously, and with the resources and support of Murray State, including telecommunications and campus generators, we are better positioned than most of our regional commercial broadcasting colleagues to serve effectively and efficiently when needed in this capacity.

Over the years we have upgraded and extended our transmission systems with the Congressman’s assistance. Looking into the future, we will need to continue to do this, much like the Commonwealth is continuing to upgrade its Kentucky Early Warning System. We work with KEWS all the time as its transmission equipment and ours are co-located. KEWS has equipment on the 8th Floor of Price Doyle Fine Arts near WKMS studios that provides remote telemetry to our transmitter site in LBL. We depend on this for FCC required meter readings and so the partnership/collaboration is an efficiency.

Without the Public Telecommunications Facility Program, WKMS will be ill-positioned to maintain its transmission systems and its partnerships with vital public safety entities. So the Congressman’s support for PTFP is deeply sought and muchly needed by stations in Kentucky llike ours.

This support is vital even in the face of the enormous federal deficit that we must work towards together. It’s vital because our services are 24 hour a day contact with Americans who may not be able to afford other sources of information. Public radio is not a luxury: it is a vital part of our listeners daily lives.

We serve an estimated 25,000 listeners weekly, stretching from those who tune in from Union City, TN, to those who are getting us near Owensboro, KY. We are in southernmost Illinois and Paris, TN. Our depth and breadth represents a region underserved by state-wide media. We are far from capitol centers. For our Kentucky listeners we collaborate in a Frankfort bureau with other Kentucky stations to bring news of the state out here. We subscribe to the AP to keep our TN and IL listeners informed. We serve farmers, pest control workers, college students, educators, grocery checkers, housewives, seniors, low income and high income people. Our audience is diverse in circumstance but united in the need to know more about the world – and that’s why we serve.

Our listeners are contributing individual support totalling just over $200,000 a year now to help fund WKMS. Our business underwriters are contributing just over $100,000. This year’s CPB Community Service Grant for WKMS is about $160,000. Murray State, directly and indirectly, is providing the rest of what it takes to run our 3 stations, HD system, and 3 translators. We employ Murray State students with fundraised dollars, at a cost of over $50,000 a year.

The majority of these students serve as news interns and continue to win awards of excellence. Our latest Society of Professional Journalists’ award winner is David Schmoll who recently learned that one of his feature stories is going to national competition. Our former graduate student reporter, now Paducah Sun reporter, Rebecca Feldhaus, won national recognition last year in this very competition. All our students must serve as part of the overall station business team and many have gone on to success in communications across the nation.

During this spring fundraising season we are continuing our tradition of partnering to benefit another not-for-profit in our region. Previously WKMS has generated, at no cost to the station, support for Habitat for Humanity, and the Murray Hospice House, but offering our underwriting time in exchange for business support for these entities. This spring each pledge received by WKMS is generating a private gift of $1.50 from the Cappock family of Paducah and that $1.50 is being investing in Project Aids Orphan, a Paducah-Kenya partnership started by two nurse practicioners. $1.50 feeds an elementary child in Kenya three meals a day. So there’s no cost to WKMS, but there is an added impact to each contribution aside from supporting WKMS.

Thanks for your service and time, Michael. I appreciate the opportunity to update Mr. Whitfield on what’s happening here. I hope the Congressman will come visit when back in the District. Here’s to warmer days and less contentious times.




Written by Matt Markgraf

March 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I concur.

    Bryan Bartlett

    March 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    • Very well done, thanks.

      Doug Halloran

      March 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm

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