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From The Director: A Year Of Resiliency

Ray Ekness is the director of the Broadcast Media Center.

As I look back on 2020 and forward to 2021, there is one word that continues to pop into my mind: resiliency. Just like all of you reading this, 2020 threw the MTPR staff curveball after curveball. The MTPR team persevered, bounced back and became even more resilient than they were before to provide you uninterrupted coverage when you needed it the most. If only you could see the behind the scenes shuffle and hustle to make this all work!

The MTPR News team, including our online team, have been in overdrive this year. They covered the ongoing pandemic, the most contentious election in our history, and the legislative session with insightful storytelling, bringing national stories to Montana and Montana stories to a national audience.

A listener favorite, Capitol Talk, returned with Sally Mauk, Prof. Rob Saldin and Lee Enterprises’ Holly Michels. We added a new offering as well, Parsing the Press. Sally teams with veteran reporter and novelist Gwen Florio to look at issues in the news media and how journalists cover topics of importance to you. We’ve teamed up with our friends at Yellowstone Public Radio and the Montana Free Press in presenting The Session as a way to preview each week of the Montana Legislature. Our award-winning podcasts Threshold and Richest Hill have presented a treasure of outstanding storytelling. We know life has been busy and you may have missed a story that you really wanted to hear. Don’t worry. We understand that life has been a little hectic. Thankfully you can catch up on everything on our award-winning website—

We’ve heard from so many of you that our music programs have helped with the stresses of the pandemic and of life in general these days. It’s an honor to be the place you turn to for joy, relaxation, a dance party, or any other emotion you may be feeling. In addition to our varied slate of offerings, MTPR has been blessed with outstanding local music hosts creating special programs for Morning Classics, Freeforms and our Monday Music Specials. I particularly enjoyed the Honor, Hope and Healing Week in December. It was a moving week full of wonderful programs that captured so many of our feelings, wishes, thanks and emotions we are experiencing right now.

Important pillars of our service are, of course, The Pea Green Boat and The Children’s Corner that continue to educate and entertain kids of all ages. We’re so proud to offer a safe space six days a week where kids can take part in thoughtful conversations with programming focused on issues that are important to them. The wonderful songs and stories led by Captain Annie Garde and Co-Captain Sam Manno revitalize us and bring a smile to even the grownups’ faces as we sing along with “Alligator in the Elevator.” Plus, we enjoy hearing stories from new podcasts such as Tai Asks Why. Longtime friend of the station, Bill Harley, partnered with MTPR on a series of online concerts designed to make us sing, laugh, dance and learn.

Our MTPR engineers keeping us on-the-air and working through technical or online issues, while dealing with the summer heat, the winter snow and some incredible wind events across western and central Montana. Thankfully, we’ve installed technology and camera systems so we can see exactly what type of weather the mountain tops are experiencing so we can quickly work to fix any service outages. Montana weather sure keeps us on our toes!

The fundraising team has successfully met our 2020 fundraising goal thanks to the generous support from you, your friends, neighbors, businesses and organizations across this great state and beyond that made a real difference this last year. In what could have been a year with a different outcome, we are beyond thankful that you helped us meet our goal so this service remained strong when we needed it most. As we look ahead to our fundraising goal for 2021, we’ll need to raise $2.125 million to help cover increases in program costs from NPR, APR, and others. This certainly will be a challenge; but we know that every gift, no matter the size, adds up to keep this great station going strong. You and many other friends and sponsors of MTPR honored us with incredible support over a very trying year. We are forever grateful.

With thanks,

Ray Ekness,
UM Broadcast Media Center Director

Ray Ekness was named director of the Broadcast Media Center in August 2016. He’s a former UM School of Journalism professor and department chair of the Department of Radio-Television.