At a time when there’s just one alternative newsweekly in the state (you’re looking at it) and a single company owns every daily newspaper in the state except for The Maui News, the variety and independence of the programming on Hawaii Public Radio is both refreshing and vital. Funded largely by listeners, HPR depends on regularly scheduled pledge drives. For regular listeners, the drive’s constant interruptions for station personnel to ask for money can be a hassle, but they’re necessary–something listeners must endure before the station raises their required funds and everything goes back to normal.
But what happens when the drive fails?
On Friday, Oct. 10, for the first time in the last 15 years, Hawaii Public Radio failed to meet its fundraising goal. The goal of its most recent 10-day pledge drive was $1.032 million, but the station only raised a little over $799,000. Michael Titterton, HPR’s president and general manager, said he and his colleagues are “still trying to figure it out” and make up the rather substantial $232,000-plus shortfall.
“We were very disappointed but not shocked,” Titterton told me by phone on Oct. 13. “It had to happen sooner or later. The longer it goes on successfully, the less people think it [a shortfall] can happen.”
As Titterton noted, “it’s certainly been a bad few months for everyone.” He also felt recent stock market plunges didn’t help. “But I can’t help thinking a certain complacency set in,” he said. “I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that this is the permanent state of affairs.”
He also said the station has been in solid financial shape. “We’ve finished the last 15 years in the black,” he said. “We’re debt-free now. We own the building we’re in. We don’t want to borrow money to stay in business, and we don’t want to cut service.”
So what’s next for HPR? This Wednesday, Oct. 15, the station will start “Celebration 2014: Closing Time,” a follow-on pledge drive to make up the shortfall.
“If that’s not successful, it will be very difficult for us,” Titterton said. “I really can’t imagine that we’d come back with another drive later in the year.”
For more information, visit Hawaiipublicradio.org.
Photo of Michael Titterton courtesy HPR