Colorado Public Radio speaks to the community
By Jan Wondra
In the scramble for media ratings, desirable audience demographics and advertisers in the merger-focused broadcast environment that is Colorado’s
the broadcast-telecom world, Colorado Public Radio stands as a rare, intelligent exception.
“At our heart, public radio is driven by mission, not by the audience,” said Sean Nethery, senior vice president of programming at CPR. “Our mission is to serve educationally, offering news, information and music that has significance. Specifically, our focus is on providing folks a better understanding of Colorado through news and performing artists. Public radio isn’t essential for everyone. It’s directed at people who want to be informed, enlightened and entertained.”
Headquartered in the Bridges Broadcast Center in Centennial, CPR is our state-based public-radio resource, part of a national broadcast structure led by National Public Radio. The Colorado network has three programming streams—classical music, news and a new-music service—heard on stations throughout the state.
Some 94 percent of CPR’s funding comes directly from community support, including individual memberships and donations, corporate gifts and nonprofit grants. More than half of the network’s revenue comes from individual members, 25 percent from business underwriting and 6 percent in federal support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPR gets no state funding, but it does receive more than $1 million per year in vehicle donations, generating proceeds from the sale of used cars, trucks, boats and motor homes that people no longer need.
In the whirlwind of media changes occurring more rapidly than ever, Nethery believes strongly in the role of public broadcasting. He is particularly passionate about CPR’s historical approach, a distinct difference from today’s single point-of-view blogs and media coverage.
“Our goal is to follow the grand tradition of journalism. We source multiple sources for every news story. We look into not just what happened, but why it’s happening,” Nethery said. “We get multiple perspectives, not a single perspective. It’s important to think in terms of many viewpoints, not just a set of pros and cons.”
As a community-driven institution, CPR focuses on statewide news. While it’s broadcasting do not yet reach all of Colorado, its affiliated stations cover approximately 85 percent of the state’s population. The goal is to continue to expand the CPR blend of news, information and music and its reach across the state.
“We are the reliable, trusted authority for news, information, and music,” Nethery said. “Not just classical music for which we’re known, but we feature and support new Colorado-based music talent. We try to represent not just people’s opinions … but what those opinions mean. We provide the cultural background for stories, for the music. We introduce music that isn’t getting played anywhere else, music that is important. Our very essence comes from the journalistic tradition that is unbiased, balanced, thorough, thoughtful, trusted information. This is true on both the national and local level.”
Those who listen to CPR regularly know that the bedrock of the news and information station is Morning Edition, followed by mid-day BBC updates and other programs. Among its most popular shows is the locally produced Colorado Matters. While the primary audience tends to fall into the 25-54 age bracket, Nethery says that CPR is drawing millennials through Open Air, the network’s new-music programming stream.
“I think you can look to Open Air as an example of a forum and format focusing on new independent talent. It’s bringing in millennials,” said Nethery, who again stressed that audience draw isn’t necessarily a CPR goal. “We’ve always reached out with multiple contact points. We’re streaming on the website. We have a broadcast app and a podcast setup. Here’s the thing—our audience is not defined by age, but my interest and education level.”
The future looks bright for CPR. The vision is to become the primary source of Colorado news, classical and independent music, and information about Colorado. The CPR newsroom now includes 25 reporters, triple the number of only a few years ago.
“Our goal is to keep developing for Colorado what NPR has done so well on a national level,” Nethery said. “Like NPR, we are a consistent trusted news service and fundamentally different than a for-profit entity. … Year after year, our member base has grown, so we’ve been able to add additional news positions and cover music you might not hear anywhere else. The history of public radio is that we have been here for independent voices. We have a different approach –-not to maximize revenue, but mission.”
Listen to CPR in the Denver area on 90.1 FM (news), 88.1 FM (classical) and 102.3 FM (Open Air).