August 6, 2009

Changes at KUT

A friend of mine recently sent an email about a gathering to protest changes in the KUT radio schedule, which includes reducing the hours of several long-time DJs, including Larry Monroe, Paul Ray, and Jay Trachtenberg, and using a syndicated show during overnight hours. I responded to him, and posted a comment on the Austin American-Statesman website as follows:

I've been listening to and supporting KUT since I moved here 17 years ago. I just got an email from KUT (which they should have sent earlier, it's true) explaining the reasons for the recent changes. They are financial and listener based.

"...listenership to our weeknight music programs has been flat for 10 years while the station’s total listenership has more than doubled. The programming that we ended, along with canceling an online podcast, will save KUT more than $120,000 a year—money that needs to be invested where more listeners can benefit."

KUT is changing the weeknight shows because not enough people were listening. Radio is not a static entity, and it's not like that comforting old paperback novel that you turn to every couple of years when you can't sleep. Without listeners, radio dies, and however great Larry's, Paul's and Jay's shows were, people took them for granted and quit listening, and new listeners didn't take their place.

The percentage of KUT listeners who are members (i.e., they give at least $40) is shockingly low, although as they have gained listeners, NPR has charged them more for news and other programs. People who give money and fill out the membership surveys affect the programming. Folks who are really interested in keeping certain shows on the air, and not just preserving the status quo for its own sake, should give, write management, and get involved. Listeners aren't contributing enough to pay for programming, so KUT is increasingly turning to corporate support to run the station.

While I like a lot of things about all the old shows, having the same three or four baby-boomer men dominating all the station's music programming for thirty or forty years is pretty monolithic and doesn't allow for new or different points of view. It's a good idea to start finding newer DJs that can carry on the best of the KUT tradition but also bring a fresh sensibility. We all have our memories of the perfect summer, but I don't expect to find a local radio station that will pretend that it's 1985 for the next 30 years, and the aging hippies can't expect to have Armadillo HQ redux forever, either. Things do change, and because they do, we can look back with fondness. The provincial, small-town, Austin-is-better-because-it-never-changes attitude gets tiresome.

I love that "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" was added to the schedule, and I try to listen every week. I don't begrudge anyone who just loves folk music, but I can't say I'm a big fan of "Folkways" or the fact that it takes up such a big chunk of Saturday.

However, I have enjoyed John Aielli's Eklektikos show, and I don't know how anyone thinks he's a moron--if anything, he's almost too didactic and well-informed for radio. Back when he used to do theme days, every day, I marveled at how he could come up with so many different ideas for tying the morning together. Sometimes I have caught him in a good mood and sometimes he's cranky as hell, but overall, I've heard a lot of great music and obscure album tracks I wouldn't have known about otherwise: Fountains of Wayne's "Bright Future in Sales," for example! While I did sometimes get tired of hearing umpteen versions of one song, it's too bad that his playlist has become so homogeneous. All those free-association riffs took listeners on quite a thrilling ride.

KUT, thanks for the memories.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

At least they could allow them to keep their employment with different responsibilities.

From what I have heard they are just cutting their hours and therefore their benefits and retirement.

It reflects crappy values for the station to discard people that have given their careers to the station.

ArsenicJulep said...

I think it's hard to define what "full time" is for radio personnel, because no one is on the air for eight hours a day. All of the old DJs are still employed by KUT, just with different responsibilities, and in some cases, less air time.

I don't know what their benefit situation is, but since they've been working for UT, and are all over 65, I imagine they have handsome state pensions and are already able to draw on them. They would also be eligible for Social Security and Medicare, so they wouldn't need separate health insurance. In that regard, they're a lot better off than most people!

No one expects to work forever, especially not radio DJs.

Nicholas said...

Your mom couldn't afford health insurance on her modest teacher's salary? Teachers have some of the best health insurance in the country. I should know, my father is one. So that's a lie, what else is that you have to say? I see you're a fan of an atheist's blog. I consider myself agnostic because atheism is tantamount to religion. I suppose you'd claim you can PROVE that god doesn't exist in a more compelling fashion than religious people can PROVE that god exists? You clearly see the world in a black and white fashion, which means you're colorblind when it comes to reality. Good luck!

ArsenicJulep said...

Nicholas,
Not all teachers work at public schools. My parents founded and taught at a small independent school called St. Michael's Academy (now St. Michael's Episcopal School) in Bryan, Texas in 1972, and so were not part of the state teachers' benefit system. For a while, they bought Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, but the cost went up to over $500 per month (this was in 1982, mind you) and they just couldn't afford it. They decided to put the money aside that they had been spending on insurance, and hope that they didn't have a catastrophic illness.

Of course, my dad was diagnosed with MS shortly thereafter, and then my mother with cancer, which was at a stage where she required surgery, because she had put off going to the doctor. My dad's illness eventually advanced to the point that he needed full-time care, which, for financial reasons, my mom had to provide until a month before he died.

Fortunately, my mother has so far survived her cancer, but if it had been caught earlier, she could have avoided huge surgery costs and complications, as well as the effects on her quality of life. My parents devoted their lives to teaching and education, and worked harder than any corporate lawyers I know, but did not reap any monetary benefits. Their plight with regard to medical care demonstrated to me the principle of "a stitch in time saves nine," and that a little investment in preventive care goes a long way toward saving money in the long run. I believe that the current system has had a devastating effect on public health and productivity, and the competitiveness of American companies.

I do follow a couple of blogs written by atheists and/or recovering fundamentalists whose writing and POV I find interesting. I grew up Episcopalian, and attended communion and/or chapel almost every day. I do not define myself as an atheist or claim to be able to prove either that God does or does not exist. Then again, aren't we all? It's difficult to define such an amorphous concept, much less prove its existence, so in the sense that we don't know the truth for certain, I guess we're all agnostics.

I certainly don't believe in the "dude in the sky who creates and controls everything" idea of God. I don't think "things happen for a reason" or that "God has a plan," and I don't believe in heaven or hell other than what we experience here on earth. Religion is a method of social control and a cultural meme that is spread through the virus tag "if you don't believe and follow this, you're going to suffer eternal pain." In feudal societies, promise of eternal life was used to keep the peasants slaving away for their aristocratic masters. The same promise is now used to motivate suicide bombers, but I think it's all nonsense--who would really want to live forever, anyhow? Humans aren't cut out for it.

It doesn't make sense to me that an omnipotent being would allow so much suffering to be visited on the innocent, or permit bad deeds to go unpunished. For that matter, if God is omnipotent and wants people to believe in him/her, why can't he just make us believe? And why would he create people who are mentally ill and compelled to harm others? Why are all humans so imperfect? I do believe the world would be a better place if we all treated other people with kindness and respect, and followed Jesus' exhortation to "love our enemies" and "turn the other cheek."

To me, God could be defined as that which is caring, generous, and forgiving in all of us, and evil is everything that is selfish, apathetic and vengeful innus. God didn't stop Hitler or Mussolini, people did. God will not cure cancer, people will. I don't think we can or should ever abdicate responsibility for caring for our fellow man and trying to leave the world a better place. And we should do this because we care for our brothers and sisters, not because we're afraid of going to hell. No one is going to rescue us if we screw this up. We all must be stewards of our own fate.

Kraxpelax said...

N'est-que pas que la solitude elle-mème eveille quelque attente fébrile? Voici l'entrée, vide, discrètetement illuminée comme une musée nocturne – la terasse, avec ses torchères ondoyantes par un soir d'Avent étrangement doux – laissant le vestibule et les murmures de voix – la chambre immaculée immaculée et la musique de danse derrière le mur – et le bar à cocktails mondains – le bassin où le nageur s'entrâine, longeur après longeur, il en n'a jamais assez, il doit y mettre de sien – enfin, tournant vers le haut au coin du sombre couloir vient la fille noire et pâle, altière, déterminée et de style épuré, ainsi qu'un moderne avion de chasse suédois.

Poétudes

SONNET XXXIX FOR KATIE

I went downtown, saw Katie in the nude
on Common Avenue, detracted soltitude
as it were, like a dream-state rosely hued,
like no one else could see her; DAMN! I phewed;

was reciprokelly then, thank heaven, viewed,
bestowed unique hard-on! but NOT eschewed,
contrair-ee-lee, she took a somewhat rude
'n readidy attude of Sex Prelude; it BREWED!

And for a start, i hiccuped "Hi!", imbued
with Moooood! She toodledooed: "How queued
your awe-full specie-ally-tee, Sir Lewd,
to prove (alas!), to have me finely screwed,

and hopef'lly afterwards beloved, wooed,
alive, huh? Don't you even DO it, Duu-uuude!"

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Chica de Léon, en tus ojos marchan las requétés,
no ya están demasiado ejercitados a justo esto...
- Puedes que nos hayáis metido no muy buena acompañía?
- Mi obrero, quien ha hecho un jornada excelente

relata sobre las aventuras fatales de su abuelo
y sus compinches cuyo piedad estaba levemente católico;
hicieron sopa de clavos, sangre de clero y corpus christi,
se unió despuéz a la hez de Colunna Durruti. Tu ries!

no sobremanera respetuosa de las aberraciones republicanas,
según parece no tampoco del todo indiferente a vino y flamenco...
- Está un noche amigable entre otros en algun sitio,
en alguno de nos cada vez más remotos jardines Espanolas.

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Consider Sex and time, procreation, reincarnation. Trigonometry! I envisage the time axis as the repetitive tangens function. Do you see what I mean? What can be tentatively derived from this notion? Clue: orgasm AND birth pangs at tan 0.

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芥末 said...

累死了…來去看看文章轉換心情~ .........................................

無尾熊可愛 said...

Better say nothing than nothing to the purpose. ........................................