Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 6, 1995

WJHU Gets Support For Format Shift

Steve Libowitz

     WJHU's Dennis Kita may feel a small sense of satisfaction
now, following four months of phone calls and queries from
listeners who were not thrilled with the station's weekday format
change from classical music to news and information. 

     Although the station's general manager--and program director
Chris Wienk--also received plenty of calls and letters supporting
the change, their vindication--or vilification--would have to
wait until the fall pledge drive when listeners would, in a
sense, endorse or reject the format change with their

     As the drive ended just after 2 p.m. on Oct. 28--eight hours
earlier than planned--Kita had his answer.

     During the nearly nine-day campaign, about 2,800 callers
pledged more than $122,000. The station's goal was 2,100 callers
and $80,000 in pledges.

     "I feel great," he said. "We were confident that the
audience would be there for the new programming, but we couldn't
be sure how quickly and how they would support it. If we can keep
the enthusiasm up [in subsequent pledge drives], we're going to
be way ahead of where we thought we'd be, not merely in terms of
money but in connecting with our audience and serving the

     It was a show of appreciation for the audience's support
that prompted Kita and community relations director, Nan
Rosenthal, to stop the drive early.

     "We wanted to make the point during the drive that we have
an urgent need for listener support and that we'll continue to
conduct on-air drives as needed," Kita said. "But when our need
was met in this drive, we felt it was right to get back to our
regular programs and schedule."

     The drive did have its tense moments, if only briefly. The
first three callers on the first morning complained about the
shift from classical music, Kita said. "But the tone of the calls
quickly became very positive, which pumped up the volunteers and
staff who really worked hard to make this happen."

      Kita also thinks the drive's success can be attributed to
listeners' appreciation of the programming and to the change in
listening habits for those programs.

     "Talk radio demands a certain level of involvement from the
listener that classical music doesn't," he said. "Not only are
more people tuning in to the programming, but they're listening
because it's information, not background [sound]."

      The fall effort did not pull the station--which relies on
government funding as well as business and listener
contributions--out of the woods, Kita said. He's looking for a 10
percent growth in membership this year. And while he feels the
full potential for audience growth and member support is not yet
realized, "this drive definitely puts us on track," he said.

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