Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Intrepid Engineering

A listener recently told us that his favorite thing to do on a cold winter morning is to stay in bed and listen to VPR on his alarm much so that he had to change the station to something less appealing so that he would actually get up and go to work!

Next time you're all cozy and warm and enjoying VPR, I hope you'll send good thoughts to our crack engineers, who work tirelessly throughout the year to keep VPR and VPR Classical on the air. Here's a picture of Eli from Prescott Towers on Mt. Equinox last week, helping install a new FM antenna for VPR Classical at 95.1 WVTQ, which broadcasts from Sunderland/Manchester.  Brrr!

Mike said: "Temps were in the low teens with some wind at the time.  It was an interesting trip up the mountain. Brian (Marshall) and I got almost all the way to the top only to get the tracked ATV totally stuck in a rather large snow drift. We ended up having to winch the ATV through the drift. Fun! 

We were able to test the new transmitter in analog mode for a minute or so into the new antenna, so progress is being made."

You'll find more photos of the work on WVTQ at our Flickr site!

Happy new year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best ____ of 2008, Pubradio-Style

One of my very favorite things about December are all of those year-end "best of" lists -everywhere you turn, there are tidy bundles of of the best music, movies, TV shows, books, gadgets, and yes, even best public radio moments of the year. 

I find these lists not only to be fun to explore, but fantastically redemptive.  I get a second chance to catch up on all the news and culture I've missed or neglected throughout the year. It's like A Christmas Carol for the modern media junkie. 

While I recognize the irony in creating a list of lists, here are links to best-of lists from NPR and VPR this holiday season. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best of Public Radio 2008

This Saturday, December 27th, VPR will air The Best of Public Radio. This is the first year this program is being offered and VPR is exited to give listeners a look back at 2008. And just so you’re not surprised, the program will also give listeners a chance to make a gift to VPR. Yes, it’s a fundraising program, and here’s why...

Vermont Public Radio is seeing underwriting support decline for the first time in its history. Here we are near the end of December, with underwriting revenue of $140,000 this month compared to $170,000 last December, nearly a 20% decline. Businesses are having a hard time keeping their doors open, never mind having their business heard on Morning Edition.

We receive about one third of our annual revenue from business underwriting, nearly $2M of VPR’s $6.5M budget. As business support continues to decline, we’re looking at other ways to raise the money needed to continue to cover the news, pay our share for NPR programs, and broadcast VPR Classical. We’re cutting costs, by nearly 10% so far, but we’re also trying new approaches like the “Best of Public Radio” end of year fundraiser that offers listeners an opportunity to keep VPR strong for 2009. I hope you’ll listen in and let me know what you think.

Robin Turnau
Vice President for Development
Vermont Public Radio

Stop and Listen

Today I was doing the usual morning things to get ready for the show (preparing the weather - as if anyone CAN do that!, pulling CDs, reading through the day's news...) when the familiar sounds of Willem Lange's perennial favorite, “Favor Johnson” came through the radio. I was immediately drawn into the nostalgic world of Hercules the Hound, drifting smoke through the falling snow, and soup cans filled with fruitcake. I stopped what I had been doing to sit for a moment and listen - just listen, undistracted - to the rest of it.

When I'm asked, 'how do you choose programming?' it's experiences like this I recall. Is it meaningful, or relevant? Do I care about it? Can I learn something? Does it make me think, or feel something extraordinary? When the answer is 'yes', the choice is made for me. It's that easy.

Whatever else your holiday plans may include I hope that the hand-picked sounds and stories you find on VPR and VPR Classical help to make your experience that much more special. To paraphrase Willem Lange, "it's just our way of saying 'Merry Christmas'!"

Best wishes for the holidays and New Year from all of us at VPR!

Cheryl Willoughby
Interim Director of Programming

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Scoop on School Closings

Remember when snowy mornings meant sleeping in and hot chocolate? For most of us they're now more about soggy pant legs and a long commute, but we still want to you to be warm and safe. That's why at VPR we post school closings on our website, so you don't travel unecessarily in bad weather.

Some listeners have asked us if we could deliver this in a different way, like reading the complete list on the air. VPR is a statewide network, and all of our stations are simulcast from our main studios in Colchester. With well over 1,000 schools in the VPR listening area, even if it took the announcer just 5 seconds to read each announcement it would nearly 90 minutes to read them all! Even if only half the schools were closed or late, it would still take 45 minutes. This is why we must rely on to convey this information.

We've also been asked about providing an RSS feed of school closings. Since the list at our website is pulled directly from the Vermont Association of Broadcasters' database, at this time we are not able to provide an RSS feed or make any other changes to the information as it comes in.

We do take care to provide an overview of the counties affected on the air throughout Morning Edition.

Technology is ever-evolving, and we'll continue exploring better ways of getting you school closing information quickly and accurately. In the meantime, bookmark our school closings page, bundle up, and enjoy the snow!

Michelle Jeffery
Communications Producer

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who's Right?

Ken in Newbury is a sustaining member of VPR who asks.... "Another sustaining member believes that VPR sends an annual gift to
such members. I believe that the gift received in the first year of a sustaining membership is the last. Who is right?

Thanks to both of you for supporting VPR! As a sustaining member, you may request a thank-you gift every year on the anniversary of your pledge. Also, sustaining members are automatically entered in all of VPR's drawings. As a sustaining member, you help VPR save on mailing costs and help keep our membership drives as short as possible. To learn more about sustaining membership and sign up, click here.

As of today - 3,861 sustaining members help make great public radio happen on VPR!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NPR's Senior Vice President for News on recent cuts

National Public Radio announced Wednesday that it will cancel two programs and lay off 64 staff members -- its first staff cuts in 25 years. Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior vice president for news, discusses the cuts and the recession's worsening effects on the media. Click here for a transcript of her interview with PBS Online NewsHour.
Click here for a transcript of her interview with PBS Online NewsHour

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NPR Cuts Jobs and Programs; VPR's Financial Picture

It’s clear that public radio is not immune from the economic downturn…NPR announced a major cutback this week, reducing its workforce by 7%, through a layoff of 64 employees due to the weakening economy. It’s also cancelling two programs: Day to Day, and News and Notes.

Day to Day is broadcast on VPR weekdays from 2-3 p.m. Although the program won't end for a few months, we’ll start a process of looking for a replacement in our news lineup that provides the same level of national and global perspective during those hours.

The layoffs at NPR came because of a decline in national underwriting revenue and foundation support that makes up about a third of NPR’s $158 million budget. Member station fees make up about half of NPR’s revenues. Here is a link to NPR’s press release, and a story by NPR’s David Folkenflik on All Things Considered.

And the economy has affected VPR as well. We ended the 2008 fiscal year on budget, and had a very successful fundraiser in October to begin FY 2009. But there have been some warning signs: the average membership pledge during the last drive was less than in previous years. And for the first time in a decade, revenue from business underwriting declined by about 4%. Three months into our fiscal year, those same trends appear to be continuing. As a result, we’ve revised our revenue projections downward by more than $400,000.

We’re looking carefully at all areas of VPR’s budget to make up for the projected shortfall. I’ve put a hold on any vacant full and part-time positions, and everyone is looking at other ways we can reduce expenses this year.

No one knows how much worse the economy will get, but I think VPR is in relatively good shape to weather this storm. We have strong programming, a talented staff, and lots and lots of loyal listeners across this region. We know you’re counting on VPR and NPR to keep you informed about the economy and all the news of the world. I want to assure you that we will continue doing just that, while being prudent and creative with our resources.

Mark Vogelzang
VPR President

Live Jazz a hit on VPR

VPR recieved many comments about the live jazz on George Thomas' show on December 10th. 

On listener wrote: " Loved your live program....took my winter blues away...and Ellen Powell was GREAT as was her guitarist...will go to Leunigs on Thursday night in Jan to hear in your laid back style..will continue my membership because of this performance...thanks."

I'm glad you connected with last night's show. It's always a treat to have live music and the quiet melodic sound fit my mood too. Do introduce yourself to Ellen Powell when you see her live, she'll
be happy to hear you enjoyed her performance with Geoff Kim.

Thanks for listening & writing,
George Thomas

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stream VPR and VPR Classical on your iPhone and iPod Touch

In October, I wrote a blog post to address the question from listeners as to whether or not they could listen to VPR and VPR Classical on the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The answer I gave then was basically "coming soon". Well, that day has arrived.

Last week, American Public Media launched the Public Radio Tuner. This is a FREE application that allows anyone to listen to the LIVE streams of VPR and VPR Classical on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Vermont Public Radio is just one of almost 200 public radio stations participating in this project (the list is growing), so you'll find many other stations in the directory in addition to VPR. Click here for information on how to get the Public Radio Tuner »

Some of you may be wondering why is this useful, given that the iPhone isn't even available in Vermont yet. Well, it looks like the iPhone may (finally) be on the way to Vermont. But even though it's not officially here, lots of folks have the iPod Touch and many have even figured out ways to have working iPhones in Vermont. For the latest on the iPhone coming to Vermont, check out this recent post on the 7Days blog "Blurt".

If you have an iPhone or Touch, I hope you give the Public Radio Tuner a try and let us know how it works for you. If you've got any feedback - positive or negative - contact APM directly, here, or contact me at Vermont Public Radio.

Thanks for listening,

Jonathan Butler

Vermont Author on Vermont Edition

A listener writes...

"Dear Old VPR
Enjoyed hearing about author Bill Schubart and his book "The Lamoille
Stories" on VT Edition? How do I get a hold of Bill's stories?"
- Chris, Lyme, NH"

We did have Bill Schubart on Vermont Edition on 11/26 to share his new book, "Lamoille Stories: Uncle Benoit's Wake and Other Tales from Vermont." I think you can find the book at local bookstores and online. Click here for a link to Bill Schubart's web site for more information.

Patti Daniels

PS: Click here for a link to the audio of the interview with Bill Schubart.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Don't Talk So Fast!

A fan of Exploring Music (7pm weeknights on VPR Classical) asks.....

"I hear the name of composers, conductors or musicians and the names flow off the lips of announcer on Exploring Music on VPR Classical, BUT you have no idea how the name is spelt. And if you want to name for music by the funny sounding name you have no idea where to look."

Exploring Music's website contains cue sheets for each program. They're
mainly used on our end, to verify that the correct program is airing, but
you can check them out as well. They contain all the information you

Hope that helps!

Joe Goetz
VPR Classical

Simple Gifts

At the end of Willem Lang's commentary "Simple Gifts," the Shaker song "'twas a gift to be simple" was played. It was simply beautiful. What was the singer's name and the album it was from?

The version of "Simple Gifts" you heard was by the cellist Yo Yo Ma with
vocals by Allison Krauss.

You can find it on the CD "Classic Yo Yo".

I hope you enjoyed it.

Also, click here to hear Willem's commentary.

Thanks for listening!
Mitch Wertlieb

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why doesn't online audio synch with my radio?

I listener recently asked: “I want to know why the sound from my computer
is not insync with the radio station? I was hoping to augment my little radio
with the sound from my computer. Not possible?”

The broadcast audio and the streaming audio will never be in synch - our
audio signal is sent to our transmitters on dedicated links which have
very low delay. Web streams are sent over the public Internet and,
depending upon how may networks and routers they must pass through
before they reach you computer, they can be delayed by anywhere from 1
to 2 minutes compared to the broadcast audio. The broadcast audio is
only slightly delayed in it's trip to the transmitter (8 seconds on the
analog side to match the delay inherent in HD radio), and then from the
transmitter to your radio. But the delay will never be as long as it is
for the audio streaming over the Internet!

Hope this helps answer your question!

Thanks for listening -

Rich Parker, GSEC
Director of Engineering
Vermont Public Radio