Listeners Help Save KPLU


The presidents of Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Washington mutually decided to allow a community group to make an offer for KPLU. They made this decision after a strong request by KPLU’s Community Advisory Council and an outpouring of listener concern over the proposed sale of the station to KUOW, which is owned by UW.

The #SaveKPLU campaign achieved a major milestone last week, having raised more than $1 million in contributions. Those gifts have come from hundreds of KPLU supporters in amounts both large and small. One of those gifts came from 7-year-old Del Kendrick, pictured here with KPLU General Manager Joey Cohn. Del saved up $34 by doing his chores, feeding his dog as well as his neighbor’s cats, and by maintaining a special financial arrangement with the Tooth Fairy. (That arrangement, by the way, was reportedly set up by Del’s mom, KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick.). We spoke with Cohn over the weekend about the $1 million raised so far and the next step to save KPLU.

What does this $1 million accomplishment so quickly mean to you and to the listeners?
People in the community were very angry about the pending sale of KPLU to KUOW. The deal was done in secrecy and because the stations are Public Radio and the majority of the support comes from listeners, people had no input into KPLU’s future and felt betrayed.

When trying to describe what KPLU means, listeners have said that the station is at least “a friend” and, more often, “family.” Listeners feel a deep, emotional connection to the people and the programs they hear. They also told us that KPLU is ingrained in the cultural fabric of the community. One of my favorite listener quotes was, “KPLU doesn’t bring us the world; they are the world to us.”

Once the option became available to allow a community group to buy KPLU and transition it to an independent, community license, listeners were excited and ready to support that cause, and we were able to raise $1M in 18 days.

How confident were you when this first started that $1 million could be raised so quickly?
Well, none of us had ever been through a process like this before, so it’s all new to us, but we did know there was a great deal of pent up desire to support KPLU as a community station and that we would see an initial wave of strong support. We’re very gratified that our listeners have been so generous and confident in the station’s future.

You need $7 million in six months. That’s a lot of money. How are you going to make that happen?
It’s going to be a combination of support, including small gifts from thousands of listeners, as well as some significant gifts from major donors. Besides our on-air and online fundraising, we have a number of community events that are being planned that will highlight our news, jazz, and blues programming.

How will the station operate moving forward?
Our plan is to continue to serve the community with original, in-depth local news and soul satisfying jazz and blues. We will also continue to carry NPR news with shows such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Since we will be an independent, community station, we are forming a governing board of community members, we also formed a new, non-profit called the Friends of 88-5FM and we’ve applied for 501c3 status.

Moving forward we need to apply the lessons that we’ve learned from our situation — that being of and for the community is central to our future success. That we need to do even more by leading and supporting the community in all we do on the news and music sides of our programming. This includes convening conversations on the important issues that affect the Northwest, to shed light on the uncovered stories, to highlight the talents of local jazz and blues artists, and to continue to support music education in our schools. In the end, our aspiration is to build a service that people are passionate about, that they feel is personally valuable to them and one that they will enthusiastically support.


  1. RIP: It doesn’t much matter what the station is called as long as it remains in the hands of the people who love it. You wouldn’t worry about names if it was your baby that was being sold, would you? I believe that KPLU (under whatever name) operated by the people who do the work now would retain the listeners who value what they’re hearing. Dig deep, Rip, and support these courageous people in this community-wide venture. Isn’t that what all this politicking is about? Returning the power to the people?

  2. KUOW claimed to plan to keep the Jazz/Blues music station on the air. Pacific Lutheran University has said the terms will include NOT using the call sign “PLU”, so no matter who buys it will need to change the call sign, so the community will not be saving “KPLU” in name. So what are people saving? The NPR news? I doubt most music listeners will think that NPR is worth $7Million that KUOW was going to pony up in the first place. NPR is already available on UW and WSU channels. I’m not seeing the rationale for people donating $7 million. Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait for the new jazz/blues all music format, and donate to that?


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