Dan Drayer leaving Colorado Public Radio for DU gig

Dan Drayer is a public radio lifer. He's spent 22 years working in the business, thirteen of them at Colorado Public Radio. And while he left the network once before, back in 2005, he stayed in the field, and returned to the CPR fold two years later.

After tomorrow, however, he'll start a new career, as director of marketing and communication at DU's Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. And he can't wait.

The Institute, headed up by Rebecca Love Kourlis, a veteran of the Colorado Supreme Court (and daughter of former Colorado Governor John Love), offers "work that has meaning and can actually change people's lives," Drayer says. "To really make a difference for people working their way through the legal system, and also for people working in the system themselves: That's huge. And that's very, very appealing to me."

Of course, Drayer hastens to add that public radio helps folks, too -- and that's why he's remained true to it for so long. A North Carolina native, he started his career behind the microphone in 1988, coming to Colorado Public Radio in 1995. A decade later, he made the leap to National Public Radio's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he served in the newscast unit. Next, he headed to KQED in Northern California to host The California Report, which he describes as "their morning news module, which is carried on many California public radio stations."

By 2007, Drayer was back at CPR -- but the next three years featured at least one substantial disappointment.

After producing a series of news features from the Aspen Music Festival and putting together features for the news and classical sectors of the network, Drayer was asked to develop a daily call-in show that would be paired with an expanded Colorado Matters, CPR's signature program, which he'd hosted prior to his departure. After a July 2008 announcement about this two-hour info block, however, the dive-bombing economy forced CPR to dial back its ambitions. In January 2009, the net announced that the talk show would be heard just once a week, not every day. And by March, the talk show's debut had been delayed indefinitely, with the super-sizing of Colorado Matters back-burnered, too.

When asked if he was frustrated by this turn of events, Drayer says, "I think it was disappointing for all of us, because it was going to be another local news venture we were all looking forward to."

CPR subsequently laid off Minnesota-based classical host Stephanie Wendt, made small cuts in the salaries of those who remained, and stopped making contributions to staffers' retirement plans -- and its 2002 series bonds were downgraded to a negative rating by Standard & Poors. Yet fundraising hasn't suffered shortfalls on par with many other nonprofits, and CPR boss Max Wycisk believes the network has weathered the financial storm quite well.

Drayer agrees. He insists that CPR's fiscal health, and that of terrestrial radio in general, was not a factor in his decision to explore the DU position. And he stresses that "I'm going to remain a listener and supporter of public radio. I already support two stations in the Denver metro area -- CPR and KUVO -- and that will continue.

"It's going to feel funny when I'm listening and not actually doing something at the station," he concedes. "But life's full of change."

That's true for his new DU colleagues, too -- and it'll be a change for the better when it comes to their taste buds. In addition to his communication skills, Drayer is also a trained pastry chef, and he expects that he'll be bringing homemade muffins and lots of other delectables to Institute meetings.

Which are sure to be better attended than ever before.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts