WPSD report reveals WKMS budget cuts


Visit murraystatenews.org and search “WPSD” to find previous articles on the matter. (Dionte Berry/The News).

Ava Chuppe, Senior Writer

Paducah news station WPSD Local 6 aired on April 27 a second report showing University administrators planned a $50,000 budget cut to WKMS in 2021 and attempted to get out of grant agreements that funded reporters.

As The News previously reported, WPSD obtained access to several admin emails, reports and contracts, following Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s ruling the University violated the Open Records Act.

According to the WPSD report, Vice President of Finance and Administrative Affairs Jackie Dudley emailed President Bob Jackson to confirm a $50,000 WKMS budget cut for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Jackson approved the cut.

On the following day the budget was approved, Feb. 1, 2021, Jackson emailed a working draft of a budget planning memo to former WKMS Station Manager Chad Lampe, Provost Tim Todd and College of Business Dean David Eaton.

The email read in part: “We will ask WKMS to raise additional funds…and reduce the state funding portion for WKMS–an amount to be determined.” It did not mention the $50,000 budget cut.

Later, on April 12, 2021, Eaton emailed Todd on the matter.

“I’m more curious about the $50k, and I’m trying to see if I’ve seen that number before,” Eaton said. “That’s an almost 20% cut in University funding to WKMS. Almost sounds like we…can’t outright kill you, but we’re going to starve you strategy.”

The grant fund Report for America chose WKMS to fund full-time journalist in December 2021. Fundraising and underwriting revenue were supposed to cover what the grant did not.

Despite Lampe’s indication WKMS would cover the position completely through fundraising, Todd responded by saying Jackson was “very concerned on the upcoming legislative session.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have good news on this,” Todd said. “[Jackson is] uncomfortable adding [Full-Time Equivalents] when we may have to do more cutting across the University. I realize this is another disappointment…believe me.”

Eaton, reportedly, wrote a letter to Todd calling for Jackson to reconsider. The president reportedly said he would allow the process to move forward but questioned a clause in the Report for America contract absolving the reporter of any potential liability.

After Lampe finally announced the grant in April 2022, Eaton messaged Todd: “There is no risk to the University budget from this. I realize that getting rid of WKMS if we don’t want it would bring bad PR to the University. Killing it slowly isn’t any better of an approach.”

“Buddy, the decision is done,” Todd replied. “Anger will occur if you and Chad [Lampe] keep pushing this.”

Eaton did not comment on the matter, but he did email Lampe and Todd about Jackson’s unfavorable attitude toward WKMS.

“I can’t honestly think of too many things that I would put in the ‘investigative/NYT/Watergate’ type of vein, but that seems to be the nature of the concerns from those calling the President,” the email read. “We can look and see how to keep the news, service and educational functions of WKMS going strong and how to navigate these rapids and get to calmer waters.”

Exchanges regarding the budget also discussed Ohio Valley ReSource, a public broadcasting grant funding reporters in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The grant funded the salary of former WKMS reporter Liam Niemeyer.

Jackson reportedly wanted Niemeyer to remain in his position only if the grant continued to fund it. However, a message to Dudley from Director of Accounting and Financial Services Ellen Dale noted, “Stations should intend to integrate their OVR reporter into their FY22 operating budget without continued CPB funding.”

An email from Dudley to Jackson followed with the proposal to “get out of the OVR agreement.” In response, Jackson said “they will shift [Niemeyer] around to other grant monies.” But, it was months before the president signed off on Niemeyer’s grant funding.

Stay tuned for more updates on the reports regarding administration’s relationship with WKMS.

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