Friday, January 30, 2009

Mark Vogelzang's farewell thoughts

Dear VPR friends & family:

I wanted to let you know that I am stepping down from my work at Vermont Public Radio after 15 wonderful years. I’m heading to NPR in Washington to help our larger public radio system raise new philanthropic support in partnership with member stations. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for some time now, but this was the right moment.

The decision wasn’t easy. We all love this region, as Vermont is a terrific place for public radio, and with such wonderful staff, listeners, and supporters, it’s a bittersweet moment. The station leadership will continue to be in excellent hands as the VPR Board of Directors has chosen Robin Turnau as our new President and CEO! The transition will be a smooth and seamless one as Robin assumes her new role on February 1st.

Fifteen years is a long time in the life of an organization, so when I look back and see what VPR was like in 1993, and what our listeners thought of us then, it's clear to me that Vermont Public Radio has changed enormously, but so has VPR's impact on our community. The station has a leadership role in journalism and the cultural life of this region, with all the responsibility and hard work that comes with the territory. I'm immensely proud of the programming VPR offers every day, and how it’s focused on you, our listeners, far away and close by, who quietly and enthusiastically continue to support us year after year.

Our team at VPR has completed a number of important milestones in the last few years – the change to two distinct networks in October ‘07, along with the growth in listeners and financial support in the past year. The expansion from 3 to now 9 full-power FM stations, with state-wide NPR news and classical networks reaching more audiences than ever before, and the daily news programming of Vermont Edition and more…all worthy efforts that continue to make a difference for Vermonters.

Change is in the air these days, but I'm a firm believer in a bright future for public radio, for VPR and for all of us – here's to VPR's next 15 years!

I’ll continue to support this great organization, and I know you’ll keep supporting it too! Many thanks....

Mark Vogelzang

Have You Seen One Of These?

A listener recently wrote to VPR, describing an unusual sighting she had witnessed...

"A couple of weeks ago, I was driving home, through Morrisville, when an unusual sunset caught my eye. It was a fairly cold day, following a fresh snowfall, and the moisture in the sky gave the far off appearance of mist. The horizon was light pastel--mostly blue--except for a wide, deep strip of orange light beaming directly up from the sun; this striking phenomenon was unlike anything I have ever seen. It was like a Star Trek beam- or a spotlight, shining straight up to space. What specific conditions caused this phenomenon?"

...and Eye on the Sky meteorologist Chris Bouchard shed some light on the mystery:

" What you describe sounds like a "sun pillar" to me...sun pillars are caused by clouds of ice crystals of a particular shape, reflecting the sun's light toward your eye. Hope this helps! Best, Chris Bouchard"

So, the next time you see something unusual in the sky - contact VPR and tell us about it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VPR Commentator Willem Lange Honored by Fairbanks Museum

VPR Commentator, storyteller, contractor, and adventurer Willem Lange was honored this week with the 2009 Franklin Fairbanks Award from the Fairbanks Museum. The award recognizes individuals who contribute to our awareness and understanding of the natural world through contributions to the arts, humanities, and sciences.  

You'll find an archive of Willem's VPR commentaries here. Congratulations, Willem!

Friday, January 23, 2009

VPR's Steve Zind Reports from Iran

VPR's Steve Zind is back in Iran this month.  Steve first visited the country in 2004 in search of his family history. He is a descendant Karim Khan Zand, who ruled Persia in the mid 1700s. Ever the reporter, Steve shared his remarkable experience in the VPR series, Iran Journal. He's been back several times since, filing stories for VPR and other public radio programs in 2005 and 2006. On Wednesday's The World, Steve reported on Iranians' reactions to President Obama's inauguration.

At VPR we always look forward to Steve's emails to us, so we thought we'd share this one with you:

I'm safe and sound in Tehran.  Its been the usual "hurry up and wait" dealing with all the press permissions, arranging interviews, etc.  But things are going smoothly so far and much of the time has been filled hanging out with friends - an experience that provides the keenest insights into what's going on here.  Translator Pedram and I did a few interviews today at the Martyr's Museum across the street from the old American Embassy in Tehran and at Ayotollah Khomeini's Tehran home.  I interviewed a man there who was visiting because the Khomeini had come to him in a dream the night before and held his hand.

The people I spoke with were very pro-revolution, pro-Ahmadinejad.  I noticed they've freshened up the painted anti-American slogans on the embassy walls probably in anticipation of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Revolution.  We strolled through an open gate onto the embassy grounds but were turned away after a moment.

There are banners throughout the city showing gruesome photos of Gaza.  The other day I came across a group of young men who were offering people a chance to throw shoes at photos of Pres. Bush, Obama and the Israeli Foreign Minister.  I guess they couldn't find an Olmert photo.

Another clear difference I'm seeing is the presence of more police - like the Gasht Ershad, which means 'search guidance'.  They patrol in north Tehran to enforce proper hejab for women and correct dress for men.  Friends tell me the crackdown on dress is much more ongoing than in the past, when it's been more intermittent. In spite of it women seem to have pushed the limits of the dress code even further since my last visit.  It's always important to remember that these are things you generally see only in parts of Tehran and a few other cities. Many, many women wear the enveloping black chador out of custom and for religious reasons - and even for women who object to the imposed dress code, there are much more important issues that concern them, regarding their rights under Iran's laws, which still lag behind men's.

Yesterday I went to the holy city of Qom to interview Ayatollah Sani-e, a clerical big wig (or big turban?) and one of the more progressive senior clerics.  He's in his 80s with a wispy beard, a bullhorn voice and a mischievous smile.  He's one of ten Grand Ayotollahs in Iran. Ayotollah Khomeini said once that he considered Sani-e a son.  But Sani-e's call for reforms in Iran's electoral system and more rights for women is out of step with the conservative mainstream.  I asked him how much debate there is over these issues in the madresseh's of Qom and he said very little:  a student who speaks up is likely to have his financial support withdrawn.

Last night I watched the inauguration on VOA and BBC Persian with the family of a friend.  People here are excited about Obama but worry that he may not keep his promises.

Today I spent some time talking with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi.  She's recently come under increasing attack from conservative, government backed elements here.  Her office, which is also her home, has graffiti scrawled on the walls accusing her of being an "American witch" among other things.  She told me she called the police when the vandals were spray painting her walls and they just came and watched.  A few weeks ago the office of a Human Rights organization she founded was closed.  

As you can see, I'm having a great time talking to people, but its always a challenge getting all the pieces necessary to do a complete story (or two or three) and that's a struggle right now.

The weather here is actually very pleasant.  It's cold at night, but during the day gets up to about 50, which is perfect walking around weather. (I hear its been very cold there. Sorry.). I've been taking the Tehran subways and buses everywhere, which is much faster and cheaper than cabs.

Warm regards,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Inauguration Coverage on VPR

Join us on Inauguration Day for coverage of the ceremony, inaugural address, analysis, and sounds with all the familiar voices you’ve come to trust: Steve Inskeep, Michele Norris, Robert Siegel, and Melissa Block. Coverage begins at 10, followed by NPR's broadcast of the official swearing-in ceremony at 11:30. Post-ceremony, we'll have reactions and analysis, a national call-in special and coverage of the parade. All Things Considered will offer a wrap-up of the day beginning at 4 p.m., including a rebroadcast of Obama's address.

Visit our website for a detailed program schedule and to share your inauguration stories.

Listen Sunday afternoon for NPR's live coverage of We Are One:
The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. The concert begins at 2 p.m. and features performances by U2, Herbie Hancock, Bruce Springteen, Stevie Wonder and many, many more.

Studio 360 moves to 7 p.m. for this Sunday only. In this edition, everyone wants to connect with Obama. Poets, artists, and performers leave voicemails for the new president with a lot of special requests.

Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why VPR Classical is Off the Air in Middlebury

The VPR Classical translator at 99.5 fm is currently off the air due to technical problems. I asked our director of engineering, Rich Parker, to explain some of the challenges we’re facing.

But first, a primer on translators: translators are low-power “booster” frequencies. They do not broadcast on their own, instead, they must be able to pick up the signal from an existing transmitter and rebroadcast it. Translators are easier to procure than full-power transmitters, and can be great for improving reception in a small, concentrated areas.

It has always been challenging to pick up the VPR Classical signal from 88.1 WNCH at the Middlebury translator, but we usually managed pretty well under less than ideal circumstances. However, some new construction near the site has added just enough more interfering reflections that it has tipped things past the balance where a reliable off-air pickup is possible. 

We are looking into mounting a receive antenna on another location that would might have better pick-up, but this will take some time, coordination, and there will undoubtedly be some costs. We are also looking to find out whether we can pick up a better audio signal for 99.5 from 90.9 WOXR from the Champlain Valley.  

The good news is that Vermont Public Radio has been awarded a license for a new VPR Classical station in Middlebury at 90.1 FM, for which we applied to the FCC during a rare non-commercial application 'window' in 2007. We're confident we’ll be able to raise the $250,000 - $300,000 needed to build the transmitter and begin broadcasting within the next year. At 1,000 watts, we are hopeful that classical music fans across Addison County will be able to hear this new station. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Leadership Change at VPR

A leadership change was announced today at Vermont Public Radio. After 15 years as President and CEO, Mark Vogelzang is leaving VPR. The Board of Directors has unanimously selected Robin Turnau to be VPR's new President.

Mark is leaving for a new venture to increase philanthropic giving to public radio on a national
 scale. Robin, who has been at VPR since 1989 and currently serves as vice president of development, takes over on February 1. 

The announcement was made today during Vermont Edition. Host Jane Lindholm interviewed Mark and Robin about the reasons for the change and what we can expect. You can hear the interview and read more online here.

Mark's accomplishments during his 15-year tenure at VPR are too numerous to count. We'll miss his vision, leadership, and his personal involvement with VPR listeners and staff.  But we're thrilled that Robin will be moving into this new role - her long experience at VPR and demonstrated leadership puts VPR in a great position for the future. Congratulations, Mark and Robin!

Monday, January 5, 2009

VPR at the Statehouse This Week

John Van Hoesen, VPR's vice president for news, shared these thoughts about the new legislative session, which begins this week:

This is a big week at the Statehouse with the arrival of the new legislature and the governor's inaugural address. Our legislative coverage got underway today during Vermont Edition, when
Jane Lindholm talked with GOP Senate leader Bill Doyle, the longest-serving senator, and one of the newest members of the House of Representatives, Kesha Ram, who's 22. Tomorrow, Jane will host a discussion about citizen participation in the legislature.

On Wednesday, you can see and hear VPR's news team in action at the Statehouse as the session gets underway. Vermont Edition will broadcast live from the lobby area just outside the House gallery. Jane will speak with Bob Kinzel, and she'll parse out the top issues for this session with former House Speaker Michael Obuchowski and new Republican leader Patti Komline. 

A live broadcast is always an exciting event - a lot of preparation occurs in advance to make sure the microphones, broadcast lines, and computers are all in order and that the guests are in place at just the right time. And when we all hear the words "First the news..." at noon, the energy level is high as the live broadcast is just minutes away.

On Thursday, Bob hosts Governor Douglas' inaugural address live,  shortly after 2 p.m. We're thrilled to be able to provide this important public service. Also, if you've never heard VPR's legislative streams, this is a great time to check it out - you can listen in on the proceedings whenever the House or Senate is in session.

If you're in Montpelier, say hello to John Dillon who will also be at the Statehouse. Veteran reporter Ross Sneyd is VPR's news editor, and he'll be looking for best way to provide in-depth coverage of the important issues throughout the year. Let him know if you have news or a
good story idea.

Of course, VPR will also keep you up to date throughout the session with our regular newscasts, which air at 6:06, 6:34, 7:04, 7:34, and 8:04 in the morning, at 12:04 p.m., and during All Things
at 5:49 p.m., with occasional special coverage at 5:30 p.m.