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State of the Station: Boise State Public Radio in 2022

Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio

2022 was a big here for us here at Boise State Public Radio. Between expanding our digital team and adding a new reporter to focus on Canyon County, as well as winning a national Edward R. Murrow, we are very proud of our news team and the growth we have seen as a station.

Boise State Public Radio has also expanded our reach across the state, now available in north and east Idaho.

Tom Michael, general manager of Boise State Public Radio, joined Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the growth in 2022 and the goals for 2023.

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. I'm George Prentice. Good morning. In January, the coming year feels like a pretty tall hill to climb. But when we look back at the year we just completed, well, that was just. It went by in a flash. Indeed. It's good to take stock. So let's do that together with what we call the state of the station. So we're lucky to be joined this morning with the person in charge. He is general manager Tom Michael. Tom, good morning.

TOM MICHAEL: Good morning. Good to be with you, George.

PRENTICE: Great to have you here. I am really anxious, I'm guessing our listeners are anxious to talk about the future, but let's talk about 2022. Can I assume that you are quite proud of the work and accomplishments of our colleagues?

MICHAEL: Oh, amazing year, 45th year for Boise State Public Radio. What a milestone. Yeah, And as you know, we stand on the shoulders of giants all that preceded us. But what excitement This year we expanded the news staff, added Julie Luchetta and Katie Kloppenburg to our news and digital teams. Rachel Cohen helped us win a national Edward R. Murrow Award. For folks that don't know that it's one of the grand prizes in public media and in media. Also, we expanded our geographic network included a new news station in Lewiston, Idaho. So north Idaho for the first time, and a smaller music translator, what they call a translator in Pocatello.

PRENTICE: When I talked to friends and acquaintances about our reach, they are stunned to hear how many signals, how many stations that we are on. Can you share that number?

MICHAEL: You bet. 18 transmitters and translators, those are a variations of size across the state. And so we serve probably about we're accessible to probably about two thirds of the state's population.

PRENTICE: When a stranger asks you how, how are you doing financially? What's your what's your answer to that?

MICHAEL: So we're solid. We're strong, I would call it over the last three years, maybe a slow and steady growth, which is a positive thing. Covid hit everybody. Our underwriting, which is our noncommercial advertising, is what they call it, has rebounded and excelled. I wanted to point out to the underwriting reps this year how well they've done.

PRENTICE: Talk a bit about or remind our listeners how important their connection to Boise State Public Radio is when they become members and how big a slice of our pie our listeners support is.

MICHAEL: It's the majority. Yeah, the majority of our funding comes from individual donors and community businesses that you might know. It's the lifeblood. It's why we've been around for 45 years and why we're going to be around later. I mean, we have some, you know, north of 11,000 members. That's popularity.

PRENTICE: Well, let's talk about 2023. The calendar looks pretty impressive already.

MICHAEL: So this is a big time of year for us in the news world, as you know, the legislative session. We have a newsletter called Legislative Roundup that comes out each week and kind of helps people understand what happened this past week and what's going to happen in the next.

PRENTICE: And that goes out on Mondays. Jimmy Dawson, of course, authors that what's wonderful about it is how much extra exclusive content is in that newsletter. That newsletter has really grown and is really impressive.

MICHAEL: We're here for busy people, right? You know, they might catch you in the morning while they're going to do things. Why not get a quick roundup in your in your email for what's happened at the legislature?

PRENTICE: What else is on our calendar?

MICHAEL: So we're making a greater investment in digital. One thing we're trying to do is to reach new folks in the community, especially as Boise and surrounding areas grow. So it's important that we reach people on all these different platforms. So we just finished a multi-year project with other public media cohorts and with consultants called the Digital Culture Accelerator.

PRENTICE: Oh, okay.

MICHAEL: So we are looking to accelerate our digital culture and, you know, even do more marketing digitally to kind of reach people who come through all these side doors and enjoy us.

PRENTICE: And everyone has their own platform of choice, right? And yet we're on several choices. MICHAEL: Oh, yeah, strong on Instagram and Facebook. We have our own Boise State Public Radio app. People use smart speakers like Alexa to find us. Sorry, I just mentioned Alexa. I'm sure that triggers things on the air, but in addition to, you know, car radios, desktops and HD radio, which for some folks in newer cars in the Treasure Valley and in the Magic Valley, they can find our news and our music service on the same channel. The other thing that we're doing now, George, is we're bringing back more community events. So there's this membership series called Another Round. Also, kudos to you for helping to host some of our events. These are really unusually interesting events because they tap on your knowledge of film. There are these film previews that you've done in different communities. That's exciting.

PRENTICE: Yeah, we have one coming up in Sun Valley and it's a partnership with the Sun Valley Film Festival. Tom, you travel a good deal. You spend a fair amount of time with your peers and colleagues. I'm curious how Boise State Public Radio as an organization stacks up.

MICHAEL: So we do this well in a couple of ways. We do this thing called benchmarks, where we benchmark ourself against other regional stations and friends, their colleagues. We do pretty well in a lot of categories. And, you know, you never know. You always think the grass is always greener. But as I travel, I realize people say, Oh, I got that idea from your team, from your digital team, or from your news team. So it's a reminder of the talent we have on staff when people elsewhere in the public media system say, Yeah, I want to do what you're doing.

PRENTICE: So let me ask you to go up a couple of levels from the top floor. What is the state of public radio?

MICHAEL: Sure. So I would say the state of public radio is strong. People want news and information. Habits change. We've seen some changes in what they used to call drive time listening. So we're tracking that. We're also seeing I think I mentioned the digital investment that's important to from a strategic standpoint. And, you know, there's always challenges on the horizon, rising costs, keeping talented staff. But it always seems like our members are there for us. And that's that's really reassuring.

PRENTICE: But it always comes back to telling other people's stories. Right. And allowing them to tell their story. And that is our love. And I think that, yes, compensation is important, but I don't think many of us would be here if we didn't love helping to tell other people's stories.

MICHAEL: That's a great way to put it. It's a privilege to do the work that we do, to share the stories, to be the voice in someone's ear in the morning.

PRENTICE: How exciting and daunting the state of the station. Tom Michael, thanks so much for giving us some time this morning.

MICHAEL: Thank you.