Men and Women Against the Change:

Just as the classical fans overwhelmingly expressed appreciation for the addition of classical music, the jazz fans angrily wrote about Temple's utter betrayal of their long time supporters. The letters continually questioned the lack of outreach to the community, reminded Temple of the jazz fan's longtime faithfulness in building Temple's radio reach outside of the city, lamented about what "public" radio really means, asked for donation refunds because they felt Temple had committed fraud during the Spring fundraiser, expressed outrage of the treatment of the students at the station, and like the classical fans concerning the demise of WFLN, told tales of deep sadness over their loss.

Some of the responses were written on fundraising letters that had been sent out by the station to the membership to solicit funds. Of the 47 letters written on returned Temple fundraising letters, only two were positive toward the format change. One letter writer from Pottsville crossed out all the references to Jazz-FM's jazz programs on the form letter and sent it back saying "No jazz-No support" drawing a big arrow pointing to the former Jazz-FM logo (a tenor saxophone) and wrote: "I supported [the logo] not classical." One fundraising letter sent out by the station on August 27, 1997 was returned from a Springfield man who had crossed out portions of the text below which are italicized.

We hope that you continue your commitment to programming excellence by renewing your membership today. The Gavin report recently named Temple University Public Radio Jazz Station of the Year. We hope you will consider a gift of $75.00. Your investment will allow us to continue bringing you our award winning programming.

He asked for his money back and added, "I renewed my membership in the spring drive by calling in. I am extremely upset by the merger of RTI and classical music." Another member returned the same letter saying, "I usually give $200 however your new classical format stinks-here is my new amount: $1." Another fundraising letter was sent out after the format change on October 1, 1997 with the text changed to reflect the addition of classical, but with the old jazz logo still in place. One part of the text said, " Please accept our thanks for your support in the past year." A man from Exton circled "our thanks" and then wrote: "Your ‘thanks' was demonstrated by not fulfilling your promise of total jazz programming."

One long letter from a woman in Hershey touched on the betrayal aspect of Temple's move and questioned the racial politics of the situation:

I am writing to express my total disapproval of your recent format change, which was made unilaterally and arbitrarily, and with disregard for the wishes and desires of your listeners. You don't need me to list the programs you have canceled. However, you do need me to remind you that music comes from a culture. By diluting the music, you have denied the relevance and strength of the culture from which that music arises. In addition, you have abrogated the terms of your mission statement. (I am a classical music lover, so the import of my letter has nothing to do with the value of this music...) I am a white, middle-class woman who lives in a very conservative part of the state. I am sure that I am not the first person who has leveled the charge of racism as a fact in your decision-making. If I am sensitive to this issue, I can imagine the feelings of Afro-Americans who are directly touched by our disregard of their culture...Change is a fact of life, but your actions constitute an attempt to cripple the vitality of this vibrant music. The blandness which has resulted from this change seems to denote an effort not to offend. Offend whom? One must wonder.

A chiropractor from Morrisville wrote:

By deciding to alter the format at WRTI, you have taken more than forty years of a musical legacy in Philadelphia and ripped it to shreds, based, no doubt, on the suggestions of high-priced consultants hired to "fix" WRTI's problems. From my perspective, the only thing that needs to be fixed is the mindset of whomever thought that we'd rather listen to Bach over B.B. King...

Many of the jazz letter writers, both black and white, focused on the racial overtones of the decision and many white writers felt the compulsion to mention in their letters that they were white, giving the impression that they believed the University had made their decision by segregating the music itself: jazz for blacks, classical for whites. They also felt it was necessary to reveal their socio-economic class, probably for the same reasons. It seemed the writers were trying to fit themselves into a market research demographic to convince Temple to do the right thing. One woman faxed in her protest over the division of the airtime between classical and jazz, then added,

It's jazz that I'm passionate about-call it a jazz addiction if you will. I feel like I've lost a great and good friend. I hope WRTI administrators and/or Temple powers-that-be will listen to the outcry and re-evaluate their decision. It seems absurd to have to add that I am a middle-aged caucasian female; college educated, wife and mother, jazz loving devotee--

One male writer from Philadelphia simply faxed, "Whose blood, whose fields?!" referring to Wynton Marsalis' jazz piece, Blood on the Fields, that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize, the first time in history that a jazz composition was considered legitimate enough to win by the powers-that-be. Another writer from Springfield faxed that "Apartheid has come to Philadelphia: Radio Apartheid, that is," and echoed many other writers about the time slots given to classical music and the racial stereotypes imbedded in it.

In exchange for these thirty pieces of silver, this "chump change," the college radio station has apparently agreed to disembowel its jazz programming and plug 12 hours of classical music into the daytime hours. (This smacks of racism. It is assumed, I guess, that the "white classical music folks" get up early to go to work; meanwhile, the "black jazz music folks" rise in the afternoon and listen all night long).

A writer from Chester Heights delved into the economic impact of the decision on local jazz artists in town as well as the NPR issue:

I am both saddened and dismayed that the forces that control WRTI have decided to split the station into jazz and classical. I have been a faithful listener for about 20 years...I own close to a thousand jazz LPS and CDS, many of which I first heard on your fine jazz station...this city of countless jazz legends has been sold short...how could WRTI turn its back on the Philadelphia jazz community? Could part of the reason be the promise of more money from the "Main Line" classical audience. I thought that as a non-profit station, WRTI would be immune to such threats. Perhaps I was wrong.
This same writer also spoke of the unfair air time split:
I don't listen very much in the evenings and I would speculate that most of your audience [doesn't either]...so why does classical music get the prime time hours of the day? WRTI has been a primary source of support for the Philadelphia jazz community over the years. Local musicians such as Christian McBride, Joe Sudler, Jimmy Bruno, Father John D'Amico, John Blake, Khan Jamal and many others who do not necessarily garner much air time nationally...where will this local talent turn to for support and air time?

A classical musician from Abington wrote that although he prefers classical music, he recognized the unfairness of Temple's decision (its detrimental impact on young listeners and the jazz community), but mirrored the rich white likes classical/poor black likes jazz dichotomy.

From the standpoint of the proliferation of African-American art music in Philadelphia, it is a deep and heartfelt blow. Western European art music can survive in the world of commercial radio because its audience generally has money and is welcomed as a target by those who would seek to buy advertising time. African-American art music needs public radio [author's italics].

What this writer alludes to is that he understands an NPR station to be a refuge from demographically marketed programming, that money shouldn't be the determining factor of formats, that jazz needs to be free of the market place, that when a station says they are "listener supported" that's what they really mean. Most of the letter writers adhered to that same perception. A woman from Flourtown who owns her own communications business wrote:

I am a Temple graduate, WRTI News Alumni and supporter, and public relations professional....I can tell you that you made a BIG MISTAKE. You've spent years and years developing this image as a jazz station, and overnight, you decide to pull this stunt on "listener-supported" radio. What were you thinking, man?

A wife and mother from Analomink said, "I feel betrayed, I made my pledge, in fact my pledge was probably not in my budget, but as my husband pointed out, we listen to the station constantly, it was the right thing to do. After all, it is PUBLIC radio, I don't recall being surveyed about this change." One vice president of a company in Langhorne who said he was very familiar with the broadcasting business wrote

to express outrage at the incredible disrespect shown to your loyal members by virtually keeping this change of formats a secret until the deed was done...to drastically switch the format of a public radio station without a public discussion with your subscribers is outrageous. The members of JAZZ FM, it appears, have been led to join under false pretenses. I know I feel that way.

One note sent by a Philadelphia man on a pledge fulfillment form that stated he, the subscriber, had pledged $75 during the Spring pledge drive for said,

It's bad enough that you used so much Philadelphia money to build an extensive state-wide network, but then you add insult to injury by using that same jazz inspired money to promote some other genre that couldn't support itself on another station. As a Temple alumnus and jazz fan, I say "shame on you"...

Many letter writers threw the promotional phrase that WRTI had cultivated over the years, "Your JAZZ-FM," back in Temple's face, composing varying versions of "what happened to MY Jazz-FM?" Temple University had represented the station and the listeners as a "family" and most members felt exactly that way and it was reflected in their letters. The membership had expected, at the very least, to be asked One woman from Hatfield said that, "For the many years that I listened to and supported WRTI, I truly believed that it was as advertised, "Your member-supported JAZZ-FM."

There wasn't one letter writer that addressed the NPR issue at WRTI who was aware that "public" radio had drifted dramatically over the years from its avowed mission: giving voice to people or ideas that didn't have much opportunity to be heard to giving a voice to people or ideas that have a great many opportunities to be heard, namely the political ideas and musical choices of the establishment.

Another pervasive complaint in the letters against the format change was that the addition of classical music meant a duplication of services for many people living within the frequency range from Ocean City to Harrisburg which meant that they had plenty of classical stations to choose from, but no jazz at all. An Allentown man wrote directly to Peter Liacouras:

A week has gone by since Jazz FM went off the air (during the day), and the void it left is not filling in for me. I enjoy classical music-don't get me wrong-but here in Allentown we now have four choices of classical music radio, but Jazz FM is gone.

Another writer from Princeton echoed the same theme.

I am a member of Jazz-FM and have renewed every year for several years in support of a unique station offering 24-hour jazz. I do not wish to renew in order to have a half classical station. I can get full time classical music from several stations: WWFM [Trenton-89.1 FM] and WPRB [Princeton University]...my dial was permanently tuned to WRTI..

A couple who regularly listened to Temple's repeater signal in Harrisburg wrote that they also joined WRTI as members because there was no jazz programming in their area and said, "we currently have three non-profit stations broadcasting classical music!" And a woman from Cape May County wrote,

I was so thrilled when the transmitter was installed in Ocean City and I was finally able to receive my favorite station south of Atlantic City. We...had felt left out for many years...however, much as I love the classics, I already support a station that actually offers much better reception for our area.

One unknown letter writer titled a letter "WRTI YOU'VE BEEN SUCKERED" and before he or she delved into the intricate mechanics of how to get great radio reception in the area, the writer said this:

First lets rest the big lie, misunderstanding or ignorance, maybe all of the above. The notion that Phila., the city of Ormandy would be without a classical music station just is not true. I have been listening to classical music on WWFM for at least ten years. I also have been a jazz fan for more years than you've been on the air, and of big band swing before that. [When I want to listen to classical] I move from "RTI" two stops to the left on the dial...and listen to the very best in classical music. Seven days a week without commercial interruption. Any true fan of the classics knows this. Maybe WFLN was hoping you didn't find out. There is one thing you can be sure of, had the shoe been on the other foot they would not have given up any of their air time to keep jazz alive.[author's italics] For those who say they cannot get WWFM on their radio, let me offer some instructions.

Due to a frequency glitch, Haverford High School owned the place on the FM dial where Trenton's classical station (WWFM) needed to expand to in order to reach a crucial part of Philadelphia that couldn't already get their signal - the western suburbs. But Haverford wanted to hang on to the frequency which meant that in order to reach their preferred demographic, Temple would pick up the classical programming just for those people living on the acceptable side of the city's boundary line. The rest could already receive classical music. In fact, even when steps were announced to expand WWFM's reach to the problem areas, Temple said it "would not change it's format in light of WWFM's possible expansion...that WRTI is beyond returning to an all-jazz format," completely dropping their earlier come-to-the-rescue of classical ruse.

Some letters mentioned the cancellation of the prison diaries of Mumia Abu-Jamal and expressed sorrow that the gutting of the jazz format was just more of the same treatment from an unresponsive and undemocratic university administration. One letter was from a gentlemen who clearly was in the midst of learning English and discovering America itself. His innocent understanding of democracy communicated a dedication to an ideal that jaded Americans have only given lip service to for a long time and also provided a peek at a different version of the "real world."

I am sadden and embarrass, that you support the elimination of the expressing the views of Mumia Abu-Jamal to the extent that you dropped "Democracy Now" from your radio station. Only expressing views that you disagree with, as well as those you agree, is expressing democracy. As a center of learning, your institution should set an example. It is not expressions against the real world, it is the world as it is. Do you not want the students to realize what America is? Wake up and smell the coffee. Renew the contract and hear reality! I hope I never meet any of your representatives, or I might insult you.

Lastly, the letter writers against the change felt the students who worked at the station had been mistreated and some reminded WRTI of all the current professional broadcasters around the country who had originally gotten their education and experience with the university station. One woman from Wyomissing faxed, "RTI" stands for "Radio Technical Institute," a facility founded fifty years ago for teaching Temple students about the business of broadcasting. But who are you teaching by hiring WFLN employees?" Another wrote how he had learned so much about "salsa music" through listening to the station and how he "...enjoyed listening to the college students bumble their way through the news because they were sincere and enthusiastic."

One letter stood out among all the others. It was from Kristina Palmer, the development coordinator at WRTI, the woman who had received the bulk of these letters both for and against the change in format. The Temple administration had made it known that employees of the station were not to speak out on this subject, but she did through her letter. It was short and very definitely to the point.

Due to the change in format from CLASSIC JAZZ to classical European music, I am requesting my $500.00 fulfilled pledge of support returned. I made this pledge in full faith that JAZZ FM would use these funds to remain a training ground for students and continue to bring its listening area the best in jazz. Temple has reneged on this contract.

As with one letter that was for the format change, one letter writer for the jazz fans expressed her deep sorrow in poetry, railing against the loss and mingling pertinent questions about the marginalization of the music:

The End Of It?
Turn the music off
and expect to hear the end of it?
Listen, listen
To the sound of music
Pounding in my head,
In my heart.
I am a walking music maker,
A living, breathing, music maker.
I cannot help myself.
Would you have me not walk,
Not breathe, not live?
Would you turn me off as well?
Is there no end to your treachery?
I am an arsenal of sound
Ready to be unleashed
At the first hint of silence
Turn the music off
But don't expect to hear the end of it. [More]
Next: Conclusion(s)
Back to Part Seven