Twitter, NPR and WUWM
Last week, NPR made the decision to cease utilizing Twitter after it was first designated by the social media platform as “state-affiliated media” and then “government funded media.” This designation put NPR in league with media outlets using the platform that may indeed be government-affiliated, like Russian or Chinese state-controlled media, which is false and misleading.
NPR is a private, non-profit media organization, which is governed by an independent board of directors. It produces and distributes news and cultural programming to a network of more than 1,000 public radio stations in the United States, of which WUWM is a member.
While around 1% of NPR’s annual budget comes from the Corporation from Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit organization created by Congress to promote public broadcasting, NPR is not otherwise funded or operated by the U.S. Government. It is required by law to maintain editorial independence from the CPB and other government entities, and its editorial independence is stewarded by a code of ethics which outlines the values and principles that their journalists are expected to follow and uphold.
Here in Milwaukee, WUWM is licensed to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, and we operate under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Letters and Science. Our work is also guided by our Advisory Board, which is made up of members of our community. We maintain strict editorial independence from the University, our board of advisors, donors, and corporate partners.
We are proud to be a member of the NPR network, but we do not receive any funding from NPR. In fact, we pay more than $500,000 a year to be able to bring you its programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Like NPR, we receive funding from CPB. In FY23, it was just under $300,000, or about 6% of our total budget.
WUWM is deeply rooted in Milwaukee, and this shows in that the vast majority of our budget – about 81% – comes from people and businesses in our community who recognize that rigorous, independent local news and cultural programming are vital to the future of our region.
Local NPR stations, including WUWM, have not received the misleading “government-funded media” designation on their Twitter profiles. Yet many local NPR stations have decided to follow NPR’s lead and leave the platform.
After careful consideration, we have decided that for the time being, we will stay on the platform. While our proactive engagement with Twitter has decreased over the last year, we believe that it is still a place where some members of our community get their news and we believe that continuing to provide trustworthy, quality news to them through the platform is important.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation and we will take a thoughtful approach to making any decision about leaving or staying.
If we leave, it will be because we have determined that the totality of the platform as a venue for real-time access to news and information is seriously in question and that our continued engagement with it jeopardizes how we are viewed and judged as a vital source of independent, high-quality local, regional, and national news.
If we continue to stay, it will be because we believe that our ability to provide a source of rigorous independent journalism to many in our community through the platform outweighs any potential issues related to the platform’s outspoken owner.
Our media landscape is increasingly fragmented and confusing, and this issue deeply underscores the importance of having an independent, trustworthy source of local news and reporting like WUWM. Your continued trust and investment in our team’s independence, journalistic ethics, and values powers our work.
If you have any thoughts or additional questions about this, please do not hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org