The scariest prospect about Marcy Burstiner’s Nov. 5th piece (“Media Maven”) is that the KHSU staff might take her recommendation “to rip up the programming” seriously.
KHSU depends in large part on listener contributions and underwriters (and I suspect the NPR stations that I have supported from Kent, Ohio to Albany, N.Y. do as well). If NPR and KHSU did not air programs that their listeners want, contributions (including mine) would vanish.
I’m really struggling with the notion that “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” or “Thistle and Shamrock” appeal only to the over-50 set. Or that “any show that has been reaching the same audience for the past 40 years” should be jettisoned, as Burstiner suggests. On the other hand, I continue to turn the dial when “A Prairie Home Companion” airs, just as I did 25 years ago. The common — and defining — characteristic of programming on KHSU and NPR is and should continue to be quality rather than the question of “does it appeal to the under-35 audience?”.
So KHSU, keep up the rich diversity of programming. Put the best of the Facebook set to work honing their local news-gathering and news-reporting skills, as Burstiner recommends. But do not “let young people take over [your] airwaves.” Burstiner may be right: “We probably won’t like what we hear.” Hard to believe that folks who don’t like what they hear would continue to donate to or underwrite the station.
Duncan B. MacLaren, Fieldbrook
For an assistant professor of journalism at HSU — and presumably a person familiar with young people — Marcy Burstiner betrays a surprising ignorance of their habits and preferences. A short walk around HSU or any college campus would find students glued not to the radio but an iPod. Only 1 percent of NPR’s listenership comes from people 18-24, and radio listenership in general continues to drop in every age group except 50-54. This is not because radio is doing such a bad job. It’s because youth has numerous other choices for the delivery of news and entertainment. Those choices serve to draw young listeners away from radio.
In short, while radio is magic, it’s old magic. I submit that little would be gained by radically changing what has made KHSU the highest-rated radio station in Humboldt County. “Youth” seems to be busy elsewhere. (In the interest of full disclosure: I have hosted a weekly radio show on KHSU called “Alternative Therapy” for the past 8 1/2 years. It airs on Saturday night from 7-9PM on KHSU/KHSR.)
Moreover, Humboldt does have a youth-oriented radio station — KRFH — which is both student-run and youth-oriented. Humboldt County has Blue Ox Radio, another youth-run radio station. Is Burstiner saying we need yet another?
Which brings us to another more practical consideration for dumping us fuddy-duddies. Garnering young people who can make and keep a commitment to a weekly radio show at KHSU has proved next to impossible. Leaving aside the caprices of youth — their summer vacations, final exams and class-loads — are what necessitated the station switching to a more professional basis in the first place. For better or worse, we older folks are simply better placed in our lives to make such commitments.
The news is not all bad. KHSU’s younger listenership, which has remained flat for years, has shown signs of growth in the latest radio survey. And “youth” is getting older everyday. In the 24-34 age group NPR’s listenership jumps to 9 percent. At 35-44 it’s 13 percent, and at 45-54 it grows to 23 percent of all radio listeners (Source: Public Radio Tech Survey 2008). When they are ready for KHSU, we’ll be here.
Matthew Knight, Eureka
My husband and I are old KHSC/KHSU deejays. We met there in 1974 and are still crazy/married after all these years.
I couldn’t agree more about your opinion that it’s time for a change at KHSU. It needs to be open to more experimental music, and I’d love to see students have individual shows again where they can pick their own stuff. While I love the classical music in the mornings, I’ve long felt that the announcers have somehow lost their love of the beauty of the music they are playing because they all sound so deadpan. The music is wonderful. Why not sound excited about it?
Sharon Graves, Arcata
Sweet Spot: Matt Knight wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.