National Public Radio's problems not hurting Colorado Public Radio, says executive

Right now, National Public Radio is in turmoil, what with the resignation of CEO Vivian Schiller following anti-Tea Party comments from fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation), not to mention the crusade by the likes of Doug Lamborn to cut federal funding for public broadcasting. So has Colorado Public Radio been hurt by the fallout? Nope, says one exec. In fact, he feels things are going great.

Vice president of marketing Bob Schenkein notes that CPR hasn't exactly been inundated by comments from local listeners. As of yesterday afternoon, he says the service had received six comments about the situation -- "three positive and three negative," he says. "So it's not affecting our operations at all. And, in fact, I don't think it's affecting NPR's operations. As far as the news and programming we get from NPR, everything has been normal."

Moreover, he says the negative coverage of NPR in the media as a whole hasn't created a gloomy atmosphere among employees. "The morale of the staff is totally upbeat and positive," he feels. "We just had the most successful fund drive that we ever had -- it ended two days early -- and we're in excellent financial shape. We're hiring people, and we're getting some very significant grants from local foundations. Everything for Colorado Public Radio is very, very positive."

Would the happiness index take a dip if Congress goes along with Lamborn and others to eliminate federal funding for NPR and the Public Broadcasting System? He declines to take a position about the proposal, citing NPR's ethical standard of remaining neutral on public-policy matters. But he calls it "a critical issue that will impact millions of people. In Colorado alone, there are about two million people who watch or listen to public programming each week."

Not that CPR would face a financial apocalypse should the measure pass. "We have about 33,000 active members who account for 57 percent of our revenue," he points out. "We get about 28 percent from businesses and other organizations that support us with underwriting, and we get about 9 percent from foundations." That leaves "a little over 6 percent from federal funding," which he describes as "a significant amount," but not one that would cause an immediate shutdown.

Schenkein acknowledges that "the hardest thing to tell in these situations is what the domino effect of it will be should it come to pass. But from our point of view, we feel we are in extremely good financial condition, and will continue to be in a sound position moving forward."

Regarding the specifics of the NPR mess, Schenkein declines to comment, maintaining that "there is nothing more to add to the conversation that has not already been covered in the national and local media." But that didn't stop many NPR personalities from sharing their displeasure at the comments made by fundraiser Schiller. Here's their open letter on the topic:

Dear Listeners and Supporters,

We, and our colleagues at NPR News, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR's now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect.

Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we're confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world.

With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever.

Thank you,

Robert Siegel

Michele Norris

Melissa Block

Renee Montagne

Scott Simon

Liane Hansen

Guy Raz

Michel Martin

Neal Conan

Susan Stamberg

Nina Totenberg

Linda Wertheimer

Daniel Zwerdling

John Ydstie

Richard Harris

Tom Gjelten

Howard Berkes

Mike Shuster

Laura Sullivan

Lynn Neary

Jacki Lyden

Mara Liasson

Cokie Roberts

More from our Media archive: "Colorado Public Radio: Max Wycisk is positive even though ratings outlook for bonds is negative."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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