Every year, KUCB takes time to evaluate the station's programming with help from the community advisory board.
The group met last week and asked the station to increase volunteerism, update music and informational modules, and play "throwback" shows from former deejays.
KUCB's Laura Kraegel sat down with General Manager Lauren Adams to hear more about the advisory board — and how she's planning to use their feedback.
LAUREN ADAMS: A community advisory board group is a federal requirement for our grant. Our grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting requires that we meet once each year with our community and find out whether or not we're meeting the educational and cultural needs of Unalaska. So we meet every year, and this group advises our board of directors. They kind of make sure that we, as staff, are meeting our mission as a community radio station.
KUCB: With that purpose in mind, how did the latest advisory meeting go? What kind of feedback did we hear from the community?
ADAMS: One of the things we asked our community advisory board was to look at our schedule and tell us what they liked and what they didn't like and suggest some changes there. And we've already started to implement changes based on their feedback. One of the things: They felt that some of our music programming was a little too random, which I agree with. So we've already made a change there. We had a block from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. that was really mixed-up. So we've already gotten rid of that block and replaced it with a more standard classic rock block from 11 until noon on weekdays. They also wanted to see more volunteers, which is always a challenge. But they took that in a more constructive way than usual. Just saying, "More volunteers!" — Sure, of course. Who wouldn't want more volunteers? But this group really thought about it and decided to communicate to our volunteers and to the community that it's not hard to do a radio show — that you don't have to be live on the radio. Because they felt that maybe people are intimidated by the idea of doing a radio show or that they felt locked down by timing. And we, as staff, could do a better job communicating that this isn't something that you have to be tied down to every week. We're pretty flexible. We take drop-ins, really, to do shows when they can. But also you can pre-tape, and it's a bit more dynamic. So we are going to do a series of public service announcements encouraging volunteerism, which is great. I thought it was a great idea.
KUCB: I definitely agree, and I hope Unalaskans keep an ear out for those PSAs that'll be running about how they can volunteer as deejays — and what that actually entails. What other suggestions did the advisory board have?
ADAMS: They would like to see more informational public service messages — also something that's very tied to getting people in the door. Because I can't sit down and do a module about archaeology. I'm not a part of that. I would have to try to get a volunteer who's focused on that and that's their area of expertise. So I would love to do that. And I think what their direction there was saying: Do a little bit more outreach to the community and try to get some of these experts in the door more often. I thought they had great ideas. They were interested in more science information. History information. "This Month in Alaska History" — or Unalaska history. Or volcano facts, or any kind of science or literature. If we could get local people who would produce short informational messages, that would be lots of fun. Usually, they run from about one minute to five minutes. So as another thing, we could definitely tell the community about us: "Hey, you don't want to do a music show? You should come in and record a series of modules." You could do a bunch today. You could do 52 in a day — 52 one-minute messages — and we could run those once a week for a whole year.
KUCB: I love that idea. So many Unalaskans have interesting passions and skill sets, and it'd be really great to hear that knowledge in some short radio segments.
ADAMS: I could just throw out a couple more [pieces of feedback]: More new music that's not Top 40. I think it's definitely a great idea — finding other lists or charts that are not necessarily the Top 40 charts. Maybe alternative and things like that. And I love this idea: Throwback to old volunteer shows on Thursdays. Rather than those old volunteer shows that are no longer on the radio just being in the archives forever, we could actually play stuff that's a couple of years old from familiar voices of our past. Because we've had some pretty amazing radio shows on the air that never see the light of day again after those people move on or stop doing their show. So that's a great idea.
KUCB: Do you know which shows we might try to bring out of the vault?
ADAMS: The ones off the top of my head that I know we have ... We have "Far West Bluegrass" that Ethan Nichols produced for a while. We probably have some "Good Enough" episodes. Josh Good. We're hoping he comes out of retirement once his baby gets a little older. And we had an [Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit] person here, a couple of years ago, who did a reggae show. He did a variety of different reggae types from different parts of the world and would play different themes every week, so that was really fun. He did a great job on that show and we have those in the archives — and many more. Lots of great volunteers over the years.
KUCB: I look forward to the throwbacks. And that's a great overall list of feedback that all of us here at KUCB can work on implementing. But I know we still have some questions about our programming that we're hoping the community is going to weigh in on, right?
ADAMS: Yeah. Right before the community advisory board meeting, I launched a survey — a very simple survey at Survey Monkey. Really, all it's asking [Unalaskans to do] is to rank services. Which of the services that we provide do people find most important? As we go into a potentially financially challenging fiscal year, there is definitely a chance that we will have to cut services in the future. And it may be coming sooner than I'd like. So I really wanted the community to weigh in on what they feel is most important about what we do here.
KUCB: By that, we mean to ask Unalaskans: If you had to pick, what's your top priority when you're listening to KUCB? Is it local news? Is it weather forecasts? Is it the live broadcast of City Council meetings? "Here's a list of everything we do. Please rank your #1, your #2, and so forth."
ADAMS: Exactly. And one of the services we're really evaluating — that's very relevant this year — is live City Council. We did make a request to get live City Council back on the television station, so that it would be on Channel 8 TV instead of KUCB. We didn't get full funding from the city for that, which means I'm kind of up-in-the-air on what I'm going to do and how I'm going to move forward with that. So I would love some guidance from the community. If you really are a fan of having that on the radio or the TV, it should have a higher rank — if that's something that's really important, that live council element.
KUCB: While we wait to hear more from Unalaskans about how much they want or value that service, where do some of KUCB's other programs fall? In terms of community members' priorities?
ADAMS: Right now, it's not a huge surprise that local news is #1, followed by community events coverage. People really like their local coverage, which I am very happy to hear because that's certainly our priority. Hosted music is coming in after that. One thing I'm really surprised by — and this has come up a couple of times when we’ve done surveys — is that live sports doesn't shine the way I would expect it to. It sure seems like popular programming when it's on the air, but it's not #1. It's not even in the top five. So live sports events — If people really like to hear the Raider basketball broadcasts, I sure would love to hear from them.
Click here to take KUCB's survey. Unalaskans can also email email@example.com to join the community advisory board or learn more about hosting music shows and producing informational modules.