Share This Page

All-classical music station WQED reduces its staff

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 11:54 p.m.

Pittsburgh's only all-classical music station WQED-FM announced two staff cuts and reduced air time for local radio hosts as its parent company, WQED Multimedia, tries to rebound from years of inconsistent funding.

President and CEO Deborah Acklin said on Thursday that station staffers are recommitting themselves to a 24/7 schedule helmed by local hosts.

One staff member took a buyout; the other was laid off, Acklin said.

The station did not identify the staff members or specify whether they were on-air talent.

Both left after months of discussions and the completion of a 1,600-person survey sent to paying members and nonmembers who Acklin said “made it very clear they want us to preserve the all-classical format.”

“Costs are increasing as they always do. Revenue is flat,” she said. “We decided to keep the station, keep the format and buck the odds. We're providing a service no one else in town provides.”

WQED laid off nine staff members in 2009, about a year before Acklin succeeded former President and CEO George L. Miles Jr., who served for 16 years.

The years leading up to Miles' retirement were some of the worst for nonprofits nationwide, said Peggy Outon, founding executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University.

In recession-torn 2008, “the bottom fell out,” Outon said.

Acklin said the nonprofit lost about $2 million from the state that year.

Both she and Miles took salary cuts worth a combined $200,000 in compensation and benefits, according to tax documents that nonprofits must file annually with the IRS.

Miles left in 2009. He made $271,040 in base pay and benefits, records show. Two years later, Acklin's base pay and benefits were $250,886, records show.

Outon said Acklin's six-figure salary is worth it.

“One of the things that cripples nonprofits is sacrificing too much on the side of the staff,” she said. “I do not believe in excessive compensation, but you have to pay for talent if you want to remain competitive.

“The key,” she said, “is making sure they earn it.”

Acklin compared the company's four content areas — television, radio, education and interactive — to a net. When one area lags financially, the others can supplement.

“Every (fundraising) year is completely different,” she said. “Orchestras in various communities are struggling. Certainly classical stations are going off the air in droves ... but guaranteeing a future for us is absolutely first and foremost in my mind.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.