WUSF 89.7 Fundraiser Rocks

After stubbing its toe in the purchase and launch of a classical music station, the public radio station hits a homerun in fall fundraiser.


By Peter E. Howard

USF.edu Digital News Editor


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 24, 2010) – JoAnn Urofsky, general manager of WUSF Public Media, points to the recent fundraising success of WUSF 89.7 as a big win for the public radio station and a clear message from its listeners.


“We think it’s a resounding endorsement of the new format,” said Urofsky.

The station, at 89.7 FM, recently switched from classical music to all news and information, with overnight jazz on Sept. 15. Its first membership campaign with the new format ended Oct. 22, bringing in more than $430,000 from nearly 4,000 members.


The $430,449 set a record for a single fundraising event. The 3,912 pledges represent an 11 percent increase over the station’s previous best showing for an on-air membership campaign. In addition, more than 1,565 pledges came from new members, more than a 40 percent jump over its previous best showing.


The all-news and information format features news, commentary, reviews and programming from NPR and the BBC. Jazz kicks in at 9 p.m. weekdays. Throughout a 12-county area, WUSF reaches more than 284,000 listeners per week.


But the fall has not been without some headache and heartache for Urofsky.


When the all-news format went into effect in mid-September, the classical music format was supposed to transfer to a Sarasota public radio station WUSF was in the midst of purchasing. The purchase stalled, and the switch to an all-news format on WUSF 89.7 left classical music listeners wanting.


“We know we disappointed a lot of people,” Urofsky said. “We had this great plan for Sept. 15 and what this was going to look like. We had promised a classical station and didn’t deliver. We were crushed.”


WUSF completed its $1.2 million purchase of WSMR 89.1 from Northwestern College Media on Oct. 22. The Sarasota station is now broadcasting classical music, but only at low power, at 17,000 watts. The listening area is limited to the Sarasota region, with spotty coverage in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.


Urofsky said a new antenna is being installed for WSMR, and the transmitter is being upgraded. Once the changes are completed by the end of the year, WSMR will be at full power, broadcasting at 55,000 watts. Coverage will blanket the Tampa Bay region.


“By the end of all of this, all our listeners who love this music will be able to hear it,” Urofsky said. “We think there’s a great future with an all classical station.”


WSMR carries no news breaks, which allows the station greater flexibility in programming and the types of classical music that can be featured. Since there is no scheduled news breaks, Urofsky said, pieces can play through the top of the hour, if needed.


Peter E. Howard can be reached at 813-974-9057.