Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guest Blogger: Gabe Bullard on WFPL & Louisville Public Media


Gabe Bullard is the Director of News and Editorial Strategy at WFPL and a dear friend.

In the final hour of this fall's membership drive, I said something silly about my coworkers. I called us "true believers," like I was Stan Lee introducing a new Avengers adventure. 

You hear it a lot during pledge drives. "What we do is kind of crazy." We spend money buying national programs, sending reporters across the city and state and paying DJs, administrators and technicians. Then we ask people who have been getting this content for free for six months to voluntarily call us and help pay for it. No bills mailed to your house, no set amount to pay. It takes true believers to work in an enterprise like this, but it also takes true believers next to their speakers or computer to make it work. It's amazing to have a community that supports us, and I can assure you that every time you hear someone on air say thank you, they mean it.

The last pledge drive brought in $435,000. Now what? Well, we continue bringing you the shows, programs, music and coverage you listen to. But we're not resting. That would be too easy. It would be easy for our reporters to come in, read some press releases and knock off early. It would be easy to play the same hit songs over and over. But what we do here is a little crazy. We want to make things. We want to dig into stories. We want to develop new podcasts and shows. We want to find new music and uncover big news. We want to find more shows and bring them to you. And we hope that you'll help us pay for all this later on. 

I know this sounds a bit "group hug," but it's true. To spare you, though, I'd like to mention a few things I'm excited about. 

First of all, news. I have been a journalist my whole career. I always wanted to be one. Now I get to work with some of the best journalists in the city. It's great to be in news meetings and hear the ideas for stories that we'll be reporting in the next hours, days and months. Also, we're building an investigative reporting center.

Second, shows. We love the shows that have defined public radio for years, and we're always looking for what will define our sound in years to come. WFPL was among the first stations in the country to play some of my favorite programs: Q and the Tobolowsky Files (note: I didn't make the decision to put these on, but I certainly celebrated it). We also have Bullseye on Friday nights and WTF on Sundays. Both are must-listens for me, and they're hard to find on the airwaves in other cities. And there are also great pieces out there coming from independent producers. I go through the website prx.org the way record collectors dig through bins. You may hear short and excellent pieces from the Memory Palace, 99% Invisible and Decode DC when you listen to WFPL, because we want to showcase things we like. 

Third, more shows. We love finding great shows and bringing them to you. We also like making them. Phillip M. Bailey's Noise & Notes is a new addition to our Saturday night lineup, and our new podcast Strange Fruit: Musings on Politics, Pop Culture and Black Gay Life just launched. That's in addition to new reporting series: The Big Break, Unique and You Again. 

We want to bring you stories and shows that we find interesting and important on air, and we want to do it online and in person, too. Look for us to be in the community more. We're launching new blogs. Check out our Instagram, where we're showcasing photos from This...Is Louisville magazine. 

None of this is meant as a knock on anyone else in media around town. We share the same goals. We all want a robust media, and we all benefit from it. But this isn't a great time for media. Things are tough and we're always making sure we spend our money in the most beneficial ways possible. We're happy to be expanding. We're happy to be building a reporting center. We're happy that we can do all this through support from local people who like what we do and who want to keep it going.

Sometimes it helps to be a little crazy.