The worlds longest fund drive.....is over

Amazing.  It has been a long, long adventure. ups and downs, disheartened moments and absolute miracles.

But what has been the most amazing part are the over 700 names of people.  Donors.  Believers. Believers in this music and the need for this service.

I open and read each and every message sent to us, and sometimes the depth of how this service touches people is just beyond words.  It is an honor that is truly humbling.

In any moment that we have felt that it was useless you have kept us going and have recharged our heart and faith in this work.

We promise to be better and better, to fix the things we are not very good at, and truly serve this community and the trust you have bestowed on us.

There can never be a thank you big enough or wide enough for all you have done to make this service real. I so wish I had the ability to tell each person personally.

I guess the best we have to say thank you is to get better and better every day.

Thank YOU! It is an honor to lead this project.

Chuck Leavens
President, Pittsburgh Public Media

WZUM IS Public Radio

WZUM is Pittsburgh's newest Public Broadcaster. Even though we were formed in 2010 for the purpose of acquiring WDUQ and by quirk of fate did not win the station, we persisted. 

There could be no persistence if it were not for the hundreds of supporters to this service. People like you who understand the value of it.

The value of a kid hearing it and understanding the possibilities of a greater world and expression of the soul.

The value of a community experiencing the common experience and pride of musicians from our town changing the world.

The value of bridging racial and economic boundaries for all with this music, in live performance as well as the broadcast. People tied together emotionally with the sound of this uniquely American art form.

The value of Jazz as a sound of movements, to affect change together as communities.

The value of the respect and attraction to a city a newcomer to the community has for a city that has such rich cultural resources such as Jazz radio. 

The value of respecting history, and the special relationship Pittsburgh has with with so many Jazz artists and legends either growing up here, or living here, and the influence of the city on the artists and the artists on the city.

The values of authenticity, integrity and originality mean a lot to WZUM Jazz listeners.

The value of a music that has integrity, and is not dishonest or fake.

WZUM brings so much to our community, and we are honored that you listen, and support it.

Chuck Leavens

A simplified history

After five and a half months of fundraising the fundraiser is going to end soon. Thursday March 23rd at noon we will end the fundraiser- successful or not.

There are so many people pulling for us, so many people missing Jazz and community radio and all that can mean. It has been an honor to be on this journey with you and a very tiring one. I will look forward, as you will, to stopping all the fundraising. The reality is though- we have just begun.

We started with "The Pittsburgh Jazz Channel" in 2011, an internet only service, and we knew that we needed to so much more. After WDUQ ended we were left with nothing but our broken dreams and our strong belief in all we did at WDUQ.  So we had to start small. We did. After a year we started the plan to acquire the 88.1 signal out of Bethany WV, from Bethany College. It's signal, even for the Ohio Valley it primarily serves, was limited. It also had a damaged transmitter that could barely keep operating. We replaced it and that has helped tremendously.

We applied for, and received permission for a power increase from the FCC. We began to fundraise but the response was not strong enough to make the goal. So we began to look at ways of getting a signal into Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh combined with the Ohio Valley signal would be financially strong enough. We discovered WZUM AM 1550 was for sale, and knowing the FCC was about to open the opportunity for stations like WZUM to get FM signals we seized upon the opportunity. It was a magical moment.

After negotiations we made the deal and were approved by the FCC to get the station license and took over in May of 2016. We immediately started the process of looking for an FM signal to purchase.

The FCC had come up with an odd process that in order to get an FM license you had to buy one from another community within 250 air miles from the AM station.

FM prices skyrocketed and facilities that were once selling for $10,000 were now selling for $100,000.  That was a deal breaker and we felt that all was lost. Then we had a miracle. A broadcaster friend who understood our situation and all we had been through partnered with a public broadcasting entity to make us a deal.  It wouldn't be free, but at a cost of $50,000 it was dramatically less than any other option.

We made a deal, selected a frequency and applied with the FCC. We got approved.

The only rub was we needed to fundraise for the rest of the money, but people did not know we were on the air.  People had to find us. Social media, word of mouth were all we had. We were fundraising but not getting much because we were unknown.  We had to keep at it.  We could not ask the Ohio valley listeners to pay for a station they perhaps could not hear, after all- we needed to improve that signal as well.

In September 2016 more people were listening. So we turned up the heat. The worlds longest fundraiser, a term coined by Phat Man Dee, was on. We had until the end of the year to get the money in for the license.

We fundraised hard but it was going too slow. We risked not making it.

As we approached the middle of December we realized the holidays were going to interfere with community giving.  We had a panic.  We just had to make it.

We went to the FCC and asked for special dispensation to extend another 90 days. We went to the seller and asked for another 90 days.

Both agreed. Wow.

Now we are just days away from the end of the extension and the outpouring of support has been unbelievable. The fundraiser itself has turned out to be spreading the word of our project. A week ago we were less than $5000 to go. A donor from Wellsburg WV decided to donate for a dollar for dollar match to push us to the end. That support has been terrific.

Now we have a fund drive finishing challenge of $5000 along side the Wellsburg Challenge. But this new challenge, The Cannonsburg Challenge, is an all or nothing.  That means we get the $5000 only of we get an additional $5000 from donors from it's start on March 14, 2017 to the end of the drive. Yes, that means going over the goal.  That is the point. People want to make absolutely sure we make it.  That there will be no doubt that we will get there.

I am confident that we will.

-Chuck Leavens