WTJU Town Hall Gives Management a Frickin’ Clue
On Monday evening, about 200 or so community members, DJs past and present, and various supporters flooded a town hall meeting held by UVa’s Department of Public Affairs (now in charge of TJU) to let ‘em have an earful of what it means to love something as thoroughly as Charlottesville loves WTJU.
Carol Wood, head of Public Affairs for UVa, got up and assured us that our voices were important and the turn out was impressive. Next – looking like a hapless villain sent down from central casting – came Burr Beard, the new WTJU station manager. After admitting he was from out of town and basically had no clue what a WTJU was, he stammered something along the lines of, “gee guys, gosh, I still think an all-Americana station would work in this market, shucks.” He damn near got himself laughed out of there. But the announcers and those assembled were respectful, knowing full well they need a qualified station manager who is ready to go to bat for them.
Announcers and directors from the four music departments went next, reading into the record their proposals for upgrading TJU’s outreach and fund raising activities, and demanding these be pursued before major programming changes were even considered. Pleas were made for announcer-based programming, for student outreach, for the continuance of the classical department (on the chopping block under Beard’s proposal), and for the culture of WTJU in general.
Up next came a stunning presentation by three visiting former DJs – now out-of-towners – who, after detailing the joy of reconnecting with the station by its (very limited) online feed, announced that they had assembled 70 fellow alumni and former TJU volunteers who were prepared to donate $20,000 IF the station remained free-form. That turned some heads.
Public comments followed, ranging from testimonials from an English professor who (very eloquently) suggested the station turn more to the faculty for student involvement (they can, after all, require their students to listen), to the words of local jazz kingpin and UVa faculty member John D’earth who assured all assembled that Charlottesville is the envy of music communities worldwide precisely because of cornerstones like the diversity and talent found at WTJU.
A stir was made when a representative for an “unnamed party” got up and read into the record his proposal to purchase the station in an effort to keep it free form. This fellow came the closest to getting booed of anyone in the room, and Carol Wood, after refusing to accept a copy of his proposal, assured us that WTJU was absolutely “not for sale.”
One announcer reported that, after a brief review, she found that WTJU had absolutley zero presence on the official UVa website. No links to donate, no links to listen, no mention at all. Pathetic. (And they wonder why fund drives fall short.)
All in all, it was a very positive meeting. I’ve even heard that Burr Beard approached Pete Marshall – a veteran announcer who resigned in protest over proposed changes – hugged him and asked him back to the station. Marshall accepted. (Now Beard needs to get on the horn with Emmet Boaz, long-time announcer of Leftover Biscuits, the Saturday morning bluegrass show, and make sure he comes back as well.)
It was really quite something to behold, and exhibited one of the strongest experiences of community I’ve ever felt in this often stoic burg. For now it seems WTJU shall indeed remain freaky. Good job everybody!
Don’t forget, that this Friday, July 16th there will be a rally/celebration on Main Street in front of Random Row Books featuring bands and DJs. Party starts at 4pm. See you there.