KUOW In Seattle Is The Latest Public Radio Outlet Hit By Layoffs


Seattle’s KUOW is the latest public radio station forced to make layoffs in the wake of budget cuts. The 6% staff cut is the first time the station has laid off staff due to financial concerns, according to General Manager Caryn Mathes.

Of the $2 million in total budget cuts, half of which was achieved by reducing non-staff costs. The remaining $1 million shortfall necessitated the eight-person layoff and the shuttering of KUOW’s RadioActive youth radio program.

Mathes says despite stable revenue, the station’s transition to a digital-focused strategy has been costly. The primary broadcast audience, largely composed of baby boomers, continues to age, influencing content consumption trends and financial support. Last year, KUOW’s board approved drawing $2.9 million from its $11 million reserves, but further financial challenges have led to these cuts.

The layoffs included two members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which represents newsroom and content staff. One of the newsroom shop stewards says that the University of Washington, which operates KUOW, violated its union contract for not giving advance notice, which left the door closed to negotiating other avenues.

KUOW Director of Community Engagement Zaki Hamid lamented the loss of RadioActive, saying, “RadioActive was a champion for youth voices in media. Throughout the years, youth tackled some of the thorniest issues, from abortion to religion to gender identity and so much more.”

“RadioActive gave us the privilege of insight into the world of young people, and their perspective on the world. The stories that they produced made us pause, rethink issues, laugh, and learn. I hope this program and all of the wonderful memories it created can act as a beacon of hope for youth to continue championing their voices being heard.”

The changes at KUOW reflect broader challenges in public radio, with many signals struggling to adapt to new consumption patterns and secure new revenue streams.

Similar financial difficulties have led to buyout programs at WBUR in Boston, KCRW in Los Angeles and now KQED in the Bay Area. Additionally, Chicago Public RadioWAMU in Washington DC, New York Public Radio, and CapRadio in Sacramento have also experienced layoffs, reflecting broader economic pressures within the industry.


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