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Periodic posts from Susi Elkins, WKAR general manager and director of broadcasting

2021 Year in Review with WKAR

WKAR - Hear Every Voice Share Every Story - 2021

Dear Friends,

In 2021, we declared our commitment to hear every voice and share every story. Throughout the twists and turns of this challenging year, WKAR's commitment to those ideals was demonstrated through special programming initiatives, virtual community events, original documentaries, local and national partnerships, and more.

WKAR developed special radio and television programming initiatives around Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth celebrations and heritage months exploring Black, Arab, Hispanic and Native American histories and cultures. Virtual film screenings throughout the year featured conversations with a diverse range of panelists and offered WKAR opportunities to form new partnerships honoring our BIPOC communities.

Our WKAR News team increased service to the Latinx community with the launch of ¿Qué Onda Michigan?, a weekly Spanish-language podcast hosted by Michelle Jokisch Polo. Michelle also brought us Celebrating Latinx Trailblazers, a series of stories providing listeners with unique insight into our local Latinx community.

I was pleased to see so many of you at our preview screening of the film, American Exile, featuring filmmakers John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu along with Manuel Valenzuela and Olivia Segura. The new documentary presented by WKAR tells the story of brothers who became veteran’s rights activists after being threatened with deportation. American Exile aired nationally on PBS in November as part of the VOCES series of specials from Latino Public Broadcasting.

And our new documentary The Story of Us: A Michigan American Portrait Special shared the stories of Michiganders as they navigated the pandemic and a year of civil rights offenses and activism.

If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that we are stronger with partners.

2021 brought WKAR an opportunity to collaborate with national partner NOVA on the Science+Society project. WKAR produced three reports for the digital-first video series: Algorithmic Injustice, Zoomed Out, and Cannabis and Driving Under the Influence. A fourth is due to be released in early 2022.

In partnership with PNC, Impression 5 Science Center and Fred Rogers Productions, WKAR hosted three days of virtual Be My Neighbor Day events for families in our community. More than 450 families participated. Participating families received reading and activity kits including Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood books, Impression 5 day passes, activity sheets, and more.

WKAR partnered with more than 75 mid-Michigan organizations to provide 1,788 WKAR Family Reading kits targeting Pre-K through fourth graders with books, local resource flyers and literacy activities in support of March is Reading Month.

Summer is a great time to be outdoors in Michigan and the Lansing ArtPath Profiles series from our WKAR News team shared stories of an annual art exhibition along the city's beloved River Trail, in collaboration with the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center.

Contributions from our local community -- viewers and listeners like you -- continue to fuel our ability to provide the highest quality programming and events.

WKAR fans across mid-Michigan stepped up to show their support for our mission during one amazing week in December. On Dec. 7, radio listeners set a new Giving Tuesday record for number of gifts and dollars raised. Two nights later, I was pleased to co-host, along with Al Martin, a special live broadcast that was one of our most successful nights of TV fundraising in recent memory.

A recent gift of $5,000 arrived with a note: “I want people to know I wouldn’t have made it through quarantine without WKAR.” Donor support of all sizes and types made it possible for us to continue to say to our listeners and viewers, “We’re here for you because of you.”

WKAR’s dedication to education extends back throughout its history. In 2021, connecting the community to trusted multimedia learning resources was more crucial than ever.

WKAR Public Media joined other Michigan public television stations to launch the Michigan Learning Channel (MLC), a statewide public television partnership offering instructional content to support the education of students and provide alternative resources for families and teachers.

Our documentary, Right to Read, presents the moving story of Michigan families attempting to secure the right to read for their children. In addition to a broadcast on WKAR in June, the film has been presented at a number of educational conferences in Michigan.

More than 5,300 community members and families were reached through special projects including March Is Reading Month, Clinton County RESA Literacy Project, Cristo Rey Bilingual Book and Activity Drop Off and educational e-newsletters.

Throughout 2021, 90.5 FM, WKAR NewsTalk and our music streams continued as services that listeners could count on for fact-based and straightforward information, while also offering respite and a sense of normalcy through classical, folk, and jazz music programs.

Our award-winning news team had a regular presence nationally in 2021, with twelve feature reports broadcast on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

While many radio stations increasingly rely on syndicated programming, we were able to expand our local music programming in 2021. Local radio host Michael Stratton gave a sneak preview of his new show, A Groove Supreme, on 90.5 FM on December 25. It was a welcome holiday gift for jazz fans in mid-Michigan.

Our commitment to hear every voice and share every story has resonated with our community. This can be seen through the heartfelt stories shared with us by our members, financial support received, engagement through virtual events, and new partners joining us in our mission. We continue to strive toward those ideals in 2022 as we prepare to celebrate 100 years of broadcasting under the WKAR call letters.

Wishing you the best in this new year,

signature: Susi

Susi Elkins
Director of Broadcasting and General Manager

Susi Elkins served as director of broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University from March 2017 to May 2022. WKAR is home to public radio and television for the Michigan capital region, bringing the best of PBS, PBS Kids, NPR and award-winning original content to more than 500,000 mid-Michigan residents each week.
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