“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold … so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.”
Cleve Callison, general manager of WMUB, Miami University’s National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, read these lines as a fitting eulogy for the loss of the 58-year-old station’s local programming before a small gathering of administrators, faculty and concerned community members Tuesday night.
Approximately 50 people braved unexpectedly blustery winter conditions to express their dismay and concern with Miami’s Jan. 22 announcement to shift management of the public radio station to Cincinnati Public Radio (CPR).
President David Hodge opened the forum by outlining the university’s investigation into the station’s financial viability in 2007.
“We came to conclusion it was no longer tenable to support WMUB with university funds,” Hodge said. “Discussions we’ve had with Cincinnati Public Radio provided assurance that we’ll be able to maintain public radio. We will lose much, but not all, of the local programming that has made WMUB special to us in the region.”
Of the $22 million Miami must currently slice from the budget, Hodge said cutting WMUB will save $550,000 in direct expenses and about $300,000 in indirect costs.
David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services, said that Miami will continue to hold the WMUB license for the short-term, but will give CPR the option to purchase the license in a minimum of five to 10 years from now.
This loss of local programming seemed to be the primary concern of many in attendance, including Tom Strock, a senior account executive with WHIZ-TV in Zanesville, Ohio, who worked at WMUB as a Miami student from 1981-82.
“What gives any station its identity or its heart is how it relates to the communities it serves,” Strock said. “Turning everything over to CPR does a great disservice to not just Oxford … but to all of us alumni who hold it so dear in our hearts.”
Rich Eiswerth, president and CEO of Cincinnati Public Radio, said the eventual inclusion of local programming is entirely dependent upon listener support.
“What we intend to do and what we can do is dependent directly on finances,” Eiswerth said. “Challenging times require dramatic acts. They’re taking a gamble that this partnership agreement will work. We’re taking a gamble that this arrangement will garner enough support from the community.”
Creamer said Miami intends to keep at least one studio in operation at the Williams Hall radio station, requiring one worker out of the seven full-time employees and three part-time employees currently employed at WMUB.
The station will still be available for use by journalism and communication students through public media projects, which pair Miami classes with professional news outlets, according to Richard Campbell, journalism program director.
Campbell envisions a news bureau running out of Oxford in the future.
“In Oxford, the trick will be how soon we can put this in place and how we will pay for it,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of exciting things here. I always look at these really tough times as opportunities … It’s going to take some work and persuasive power on a few people’s parts, but I have a lot of confidence that we can make this work.”
Strock remained concerned about the loss of student opportunities for meaningful internships in Oxford despite Eiswerth’s promise of internships with CPR.
“When I worked at WMUB, we operated on a wing and a prayer,” Strock said. “We had to wear many hats. I learned more being thrust into a situation where there wasn’t a real hierarchy … we had to do it all. I don’t think there could have been better preparation for what I’m doing now.”
Callison expressed his disappointment that WMUB will cease local operations, but acknowledged that WMUB’s attempts to whittle down expenses were not enough.
“It wasn’t enough to get us off that budget line,” Callison said. “That’s not Miami’s fault, there’s no villains here.”
Callison closed his remarks with a reading of Frost’s poem and a plea for WMUB listeners to turn their support to CPR.
“The truth is that this is a said day and it’s a sad time,” Callison said. “The other truth is that Cincinnati Public Radio runs two good stations and they’re going to do the same with this station.”
Creamer said the final arrangements of the new operating agreement could be hammered out at the board of trustees meeting Feb. 6.