Three years ago, I wrote an opinion piece in the Puget Sound Business Journal about the troubling retreat of local news. At the time, KUOW-FM had reduced its hours devoted to local coverage. KING-TV scrapped “Up Front.” KCTS-TV canceled “KCTS 9 Connects.” AOL ended its Patch network of online community news.
Bleak news indeed. And so it looked like another sad chapter would be written when Pacific Lutheran University announced in November that it wanted to sell public radio station KPLU-FM to KUOW-FM, a service of the University of Washington. KPLU would change call letters and become an all-jazz station. KUOW would be responsible for all Northwest news, which didn’t give boosters of local coverage much reason to celebrate. In recent years, KUOW reduced local news programming from more than three hours daily to one – keeping to their same high standards but leaving many longtime listeners wanting more from their favorite journalists.
But then something sort of amazing happened. Supporters of KPLU rallied, and now propose to purchase the station from Pacific Lutheran University and operate it independently. All they need is $7 million in six months. Otherwise, the deal between PLU and UW goes forward.
And so the fundraising has begun.
Why should we care? For the first time, the community has been allowed to enter into the conversation about local coverage that has so far been dominated by accountants and media owners. We get to say: Enough consolidation. Our community is stronger with more professional news gatherers informing the discussion, helping shape debate, and keeping the powerful wary of public scrutiny.
For the region’s public relations industry, here is an opportunity to give back. All of us realize our relationship with the press is symbiotic, not adversarial. For us, any news is good news.
At The Fearey Group, we are proud to be among the donors who are stepping forward to help KPLU write a new chapter in local station management, music programming and, yes, journalism – one that includes the word “more” instead of “less.” We would all be better off if this amazing effort succeeds.
If you would like to donate, here is where to go: kplu.org/save-kplu