Thursday, August 14, 2008

7th email: From J. Olson

RE: FW: Cancelling my pledge to WBEZ
Monday, July 28, 2008 1:58 PM
From:"Jeanne Marie Olson"

No worries about sharing, Torey. I'm happy to try and help. Here's the recap:

From the public's view, Vocalo was presented as a separate entity from WBEZ. WBEZ is presented as synonymous with Chicago Public Radio. Vocalo is presented as being funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Surdna. The station manager assures staff that there will be a "firewall" between the two entities. Station manager explains in an industry source that there will be no cross-marketing of the two entities, implies that they will be separate. (See attachments for examples of the visual branding designed to create that impression. It's symbolic of the lack of communication about the connection between Vocalo and WBEZ.)

Both entities experience financial shortfalls for the year. One entity has programs and staff that are cut (WBEZ). The station manager declares that the new entity (Vocalo) is not really separate financially. And that they are also sharing IT resources. And fundraising resources. And that current WBEZ staffers will be training the Vocalo staffers. Actually, they are more connected than they were presented as being initially.

Station manager explains that, along with redirecting some of the resources of WBEZ to Vocalo, Chicago Public Radio will use previous donations and other funds to the synonymously branded WBEZ/CPR to make up the shortfall with Vocalo. This situation gets reported in the Chicago Reader and not released initially by Chicago Public Radio.

Member wonders why WBEZ did not mention the potential of funding Vocalo or other projects during the time when she was considering pledging. Begins to look into Vocalo project. What is it?

Member gets the impression that the station manager wanted to keep Vocalo away from WBEZ members because he suspected that some current WBEZ members would question the quality of the project and might not want to support it. And that Vocalo wasn't eager to associate itself with WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio because they considered it to be "old guard", unhip and stale.

Yet, while the programming, members and brand identity of WBEZ isn't welcomed by Vocalo, the money that makes Chicago Public Radio possible seems to be essential for the survival of Vocalo. So the money is very welcome. Criticism of what they are doing is not.

Member wonders what is going on at Chicago Public Radio and decides to suspend her pledge until she is clear on what is happening and where her pledges are actually going. She is concerned that her donations go to WBEZ's continued financial success as a priority over Vocalo because that is where it was implied that her donation would be channeled.

She would like to know which of the following will happen:

* Vocalo will share resources and funding with WBEZ and that this will be made more clear to WBEZ members by the CPR Board.
* Vocalo will be completely separate from Vocalo and will be funded by CPB and Surdna. And that this will be stated clearly by the CPR Board.

Then she can make an informed decision about whether to re-pledge.

In regards to the comparison to Minnesota Public Radio and Current, that relationship is MUCH more clearly stated in the materials and online content of those entities. You can see an example of how this compares in the attachments below. It doesn't seem that a donor to MPR would be taken by surprise when it comes to funding Current.

That seems to be it in a nutshell.

Hope this helps to clear your fog.

Jeanne Marie Olson


Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) portrays The Current, News and Classical Music Stations as being under the umbrella of MPR. This is made clear to the listeners on its website, for example:

In regards to funding AND communicating to the donor/listening public, MPR is in alignment. It portrays the relationship between MPR and its entities like this:

In its communication materials and online, Chicago Public Radio portrays itself as synonymous with WBEZ and WBEQ and their programs. In fact, Chicago Public Radio and WBEZ share the same website. Vocalo? Nowhere to be seen...

...until it comes to funding Vocalo with resources, staff and money behind the scenes. Then you want to portray the relationship like this:

You just don't want WBEZ listeners and donors to know about it. Strangely, when I received my donation conformation letter from Chicago Public Radio this past June (2008), the footer of the letter listed WBEZ and WBEQ. But not Vocalo.

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