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Advisory Board Minutes

This meeting was held as a conference call when many members couldn't make it to the meeting in Chicago.  The change to a call was promoted on this site.  No members of the public attended.

ATTENDANCE:  Mary Sue Barrett, Deanie Brown, John Carpenter, Bob Christie, Kathleen Dunn, Bethany Jaeger, Dave Kohn, Diane Lopez Hughes, Megan Pressnall, Kent Redfield, Tom Ryder, Chuck Scholz, Dick Schuldt, Mikal Sutton, Alysia Tate, Jay Travis, George Van Dusen, Karen Witter, Corinne Wood.
Ex-Officio: Sean Crawford, Jamey Dunn, Randy Eccles, Rachel Lattimore.  Chris Mooney

Call to Order:  Randy Eccles began the conference call and Chuck Scholz called the meeting to order and extended a welcome message with a personal health update.  Roll call was completed. 

  1. Bylaws:  Bylaws were updated from the last meeting and mailed to everyone. Click here to view the latest draft. Please email questions or suggestions to Randy by Friday, June 19, 2015.  If there are no objections, an electronic vote for final approval will be emailed Monday, June 22, 2015.
  2. Editorial Update:  Randy Eccles reported on the WUIS.org update to a responsive format.  A responsive format adjusts to the particular device being used (tablet, smart phone, etc.).  There has been an increase in mobile analytics since the new site was launched.  A new header will be added to the website to include more branding.  Jamey Dunn reviewed the content update and how Illinois Issues’ feature stories have moved to a successful digital strategy.  Stories reviewed were:

    On the Decline by Dusty Rhodes - Dusty attended a meeting and caught a statistic she explored and turned into a feature story on the decline of African-American students enrolled at state universities.  This feature has been a top story on the website for the past month, even during the legislative session.  It was also broadcast as a feature and printed in the June Illinois Issues.

    Data Trackers by Garrett Brnger - Garrett is a freelance reporter exploring how technology is used by law enforcement.  This is a multimedia news story featuring the digital/print text from the May issue with a broadcast component combining a two-way approach to tell the story.  This story was picked up by CapitolFax.

    Lawmakers Behaving Badly by Tara McClellan McAndrew- In the June story, Tara told the story of historical corruption in digital/print and worked with Jamey to translate the story to radio as well.  The combination of digital, broadcast and print gave the story more exposure.

    Should Illinois End Its Retirement Tax Break? by Brian Mackey - In addition to in-depth reporting, this continues Illinois Issues concentration on analysis as Brian was able to provide insight on this topic in digital/print as well as produce a broadcast segment.  

    Are People Really Leaving Illinois In Droves? by Bill Wheelhouse - Election messages this past fall included a focus on residents leaving the state.  Bill reviewed the stats and took an in-depth look at the facts.  This story was not the traditional long-form print piece, but was successful using the new strategy of digital/broadcast first followed by print.

    Discussion:  UIS was not interviewed for Dusty’s story about race and enrollment – the focus was on University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  Springfield's percentage growth in African-American students was likely positive but the net numbers smaller.  Suggestion for Dusty’s story was to show a graph about enrollment decline over time.  Jamey Dunn explained a lack uniform records didn't allow for this statistically.

    Story idea: explore the lack of school counselors in small districts vs. large districts and student acceptance into college.  A lack of counselors in underfunded schools provides a lack of guidance to students who will often be first generation college students.  All of this is a funding equity issue.

    American Graduate Initiative from the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) was mentioned and the work done reporting graduation rates in high school and college.

  3. Management Update - Randy reported Phase II of the merger continues to go well.  Reviewed the success of the program guide as an experimental insert in the April issue.

    State Budget Effect - Unknown at this time.  Difficult to plan for the impact. The governor has called for 31% in cuts higher education and the working estimate is that the pass through to WUIS/Illinois Issues may be a 20% cut in state funds. The unit might realize a higher percentage of cuts as it is not a core academic unit of the university. A 20% budget cut means both WUIS and Illinois Issues will be in the “red,” approximately:

    WUIS - $70,000

    Illinois Issues - $120,000

    In this scenario, there are three things that can be cut:  People, Programs, and/or Print.  Deficit spending of the reserve would avoid personnel cuts but program and print cuts would be required.  Personnel are the heart of our state/local content strategy.

    The WUIS contingency budget would reduce deficit spending with the cutting of all PRI (Public Radio International) programming which saves an additional $17,000 in affiliation fees.  Programs from PRI are:  The Takeaway, Q, Science Friday, Riverwalk Jazz, To the Best of Our Knowledge, and Classical 24 (would be replaced with a less expensive provider).  PRX specials and Sound Opinions along with NPR's Ask Me Another could also be cut.  A survey will be distributed to gage the audiences perceived value of programs to determine if these are the most appropriate cuts or if better options exist.

    The Illinois Issues contingency budget would reduce deficit spending with the elimination of the printed magazine and transformation to digital delivery.  We had planned to print on a bi-monthly schedule but circulation numbers parallel the rapid decline of other print publications. Several experiments planned to  increase circulation then generate additional underwriting revenue have cost scaling that cuts will make prohibitive.  If the anticipated cuts materialize, there will be at least one print issue following, maybe two, to explain the cut.  Eliminating these costly experiments will allow resources to be focused on the growth area of digital.

    There was additional discussion about digital and e-mail products to promote the Illinois Issues branded “in-depth” journalism of as well as Podcasting and streaming. 

    A plan to hire additional fundraisers will move forward to get back in black as soon as possible but it may take more than a year to find replacement revenue.

    Strategy - With the dissolution of print, an in-depth digital story will be reported once a week with an accompanying broadcast piece.  It will be promoted it with a weekly e-mail alert to drive traffic to the story and the website.  The current print format requires a long production cycle.  Increasing immediacy and spreading out the content and using a digital strategy will provide a steady stream of in-depth reporting instead of the current multi-story release at the beginning of each month.  Syndicating the content to print media outlets and NPR stations in Illinois will also be explored.

  4. Questions & Comments -
  • Can the cut radio programming return if the budget cuts are not as deep as expected? 
    - Contracts for alternate programs need to be signed.  Most distributors would want to have the program back on the air but we may be obligated to airing less expensive programs.  - Eccles
  • Anticipate the audience will be upset.  Be transparent and communicate heavily to reduce the desire to blame the organization. Consider story on how cuts affect news coverage.
  • There is a need to be more nimble when it comes to development opportunities and fundraising.
    - Three development staff will be hired to increase revenue from business and major/planned donors to close the gap and strengthen future revenue outlook. - Eccles
  • The goal is to convince print subscribers to become digital supporters of public journalism; they'll be asked to convert their subscription balance to support digital.   A subscrpition balance refund will be available. Work has begun on developing an app for Illinois Issues, WUIS, and the Roster. 
  • Illinois Issues has a minimal database.  A campaign to develop an email list will need to be a priority.  Create this in addition to the WUIS e-mail database used weekly for the e-newsletter.
  • Reach out and explore collaboration with other media partners focused on state government.
  • Pending legislation to mandate civics education in Illinois might be a project to consider to provide current event learning materials for grant revenue.  WUIS already partners with Illinois Public Broadcasters on PBS Learning Media - Illinois Edition.
  1. Committee Reports - No committee reports.
  2. New Business - none.

    Next board meetings are scheduled for:

  • September 10, 3-5 PM (Union League Club, Chicago)
  • December 10, 2-4 PM (WUIS/Illinois Issues Studios, Springfield,– Holiday Mixer for board, donors, volunteers, and staff 4-7 PM) 

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