WTJU: the short version

June 23rd, 2010 · 4 Comments · By

Here’s a brief, concise summary of what’s going on at WTJU:

The new General Manager of the station wants to make big changes, several of which are terrible ideas that are destructive to the fabric of the Charlottesville community. Change can be a good thing, and is often necessary, but these changes are some pretty egregious ones. Most notably: Jazz and Rock will now be played only late at night, and there will be pre-programmed playlists determining what the DJs play & when.

This came about suddenly and abruptly, it was not handled well by the new administration, and it has upset pretty much everyone who volunteers for the station (the Folk & Classical DJs are pretty upset, too). Many DJs who have been around for decades have already quit (or are effectively being pushed off the air).

These changes were initially supposed to go into effect next week, but they have now been pushed back until late August. Now is the time to let WTJU and the Office of Public Affairs know that you are upset about these changes, and that you want WTJU to continue to provide quality radio in Charlottesville. You can contact them with this info, and again I will remind you to be reasonable and polite.

More info about this situation is available from Nailgun here, and from other sources here, here, here, here, here and here. An open letter I wrote to the new Manager last week is available as a pdf here.

Tags: charlottesville · news

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve Sorensen // Jun 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Noooooo!

  • 2 Matt // Jun 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I’m pretty late to all this and what a lot of this there is…I cant even keep up. But as a musician and resident of this town with a long-standing appreciation of WTJU, I wanted to share a few of my own observations of the situation – for anyone who may be reading this:

    1)It looks to me like there are two forces colliding here: economic realists in the University administration and the passionate music-loving idealists that make the station the real gem that it is. These are two types of people that traditionally do not mix well in finding productive outcomes where all are pleased with the eventual compromise. I hope that there is a middle-ground personality that can sort through the various emotional and economic arguments and weave them together into a future for the station that retains what makes it great and adds in whatever it is that the administration thinks is missing.

    2) I don’t think changes are inherently bad but I would agree with the general sentiment that it is wrongheaded to try to make money on WTJU through a blend of more jazz during the day, programming consistency, and commercial rock repetition. This town has plenty of that already. And what is risked in the process is more valuable than a short term increase in funding – the collective efforts of dozens of DJs who sacrifice their time and energy to bring us new and interesting and sometimes old and weird music. Maybe it needs a few more scenic overlooks and public restrooms but I think of WTJU like a nature preserve or national park. It’s not there because it makes money, it’s there because it has a value beyond money. A value in diversity, unpredictability and surprise, unique personalities, bizarreness, a mix of old and new, a respite from commercial interests and predictability, etc. To delve (probably foolishly) further into my own poor choice of metaphor, when you want to promote youth and vigor in a forest ecosystem, there is a vast difference between a controlled-burn and a clear-cutting. One promotes natural regrowth while the other actually tends to inhibit the regrowth of the species that once thrived therein.

    3) This situation has all the makings of your classic scrappy loveable-underdogs-getting-screwed-but-ultimately-triumph tale. Like Goonies for instance. Has there been any discussion of looking for Charlottesville’s version of “One-Eyed Willy”? Oh man, I never realized that that was a penis joke before. Seriously though, we must triumph. Benefit concert?

    4) In a variety of ways WTJU has helped create the kind of community in Charlottesville that fosters music appreciation and, subsequent to that, the forming of bands. It helps attract and keep musicians and music lovers here. I gives them a space to express themselves and communicate with one another. It generates interest in performances. I gives students a place to explore music. I’m reaching a little here and I’m sure others have said it better but I think WTJU has that classic “multiplier effect” on the music community around it and is in many ways a lynchpin and vital hub. Maybe it could have a greater student focus. Maybe it needs to make more money. Maybe those of us who love it should be willing to put more of our money where our mouths are. All may be true. But if the stations changes too much, it could really end up taking a lot of good things besides devoted DJs (and their hundreds of free annual hours of work for the station) with it. I think WTJU as it is now, is one of those under-valued cultural resources that makes Charlottesville great. The problem may just be that it is undervalued. And as any financial analyst will tell you, that’s not a problem at all – that’s a great opportunity. I think the station’s new management would do well to really examine the resource they’ve inherited and figure out how to leverage what it is instead of replacing it because it doesn’t fit into a pre-conceived mold. I really don’t think Charlottesville is just another radio market and I really dont think WTJU is just blindly broadcasting out into space regardless of what “the market wants.” There is a passionate and loyal volunteer base and listenership who will support change that includes them. Use them.

    5) I don’t think of the station as much as a “community resource” as much as a “personal resource” and I think many people in Charlottesville will agree with me. I think I can probably say that the majority or at least a very healthy percentage of my friends in Charlottesville over the years have been volunteers or DJs at WTJU at some point. Maybe I am an outlier, but these people are not “the community” or “the listenership” – these are my real friends. On the sporadic occasions when I’ve donated to WTJU, it’s been partly out of a simple love for the station’s offerings and also partly because I know my friends will give me a guilt trip if I don’t. Friend guilt trips are a big deal in a small town. I’ve read consistency.doc and I don’t know how the “Arbitron” might place me demographically or value me, but I wont be either listening to or contributing to WTJU in the future if it’s A) duller or B) doesnt let my friends keep shows they’ve worked hard for over many years. Think about that, ye change bringers. Also, I could recount dozens of memories and reasons why TJU matters to me but here’s one that pops into my mind as being potentially relevant to someone who might care what the UVA student experience is like (the UVA administration):

    One of my first memories as a first year student at UVA 13 years ago was a WTJU volunteer coming up to me at an activities fair to recruit me to apply to be a DJ. I ended up only volunteering for the Rock Department for a few months but as a music lover and a non-Greek, it was nice to be offered an alternative activity to beer pong focused around interesting music at UVA so quickly. As bandwagon-, coattail-riding as it may be, I have to second that Malkmus emotion that getting to listen to records and discover bands in the station’s collection down in that dark old Minor Hall basement in definitely shaped my own personal musical evolution and broadened my horizons just as much as any “non-western perspectives” course ever did.

    6) I should probably direct all these thoughts to the station manager directly, shouldn’t I?

  • 3 Sam // Jun 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    That’s extremely well said, Matt. I think 2 is especially important. If we are saying that WTJU is not worth losing money over, we are dangerously close to saying nothing is worth losing money over — that any organization which does not pay for itself shouldn’t exist.

    I also agree that you should pass this stuff on to the station, or to somebody, because, as right as you are, everyone who reads this here probably already agrees with you.

  • 4 Matt // Jun 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    True.

    I think that the way the restructuring is being framed in terms of some predetermined and possibly arbitrary vision of economic viability has created an argument that just cannot be won by the DJs and I hope that those fighting this change are not drawn into it on those shaky terms. There can be a greater economic return from the station but it’s really not about money whatever the outcome, that’s what should be stressed.