Iowa Public Radio FY 2020 ANNUAL REPORT: JULY 1, 2019 – JUNE 30, 2020

A Year of Contrasts and Resilience

"When everything closed you were still there. In my home you were on the air. When I’m feeling lost or the world is so far, I can listen to you, my IPR. Thank you."

– Roberta Schmidt — West Branch, Iowa

A Message from IPR Leadership

I assume it can go without saying that collectively, this past year has been unlike any other. For many of us, life has changed in fundamental and permanent ways. This is true for Iowa Public Radio.

July 1, 2019 marked the beginning of our FY 2020 budget year. The year began with a schedule full of music festivals, RAGBRAI, special member events, the 2020 caucuses and more. Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! played to a sold out crowd at Des Moines Performing Arts, the NPR Politics Podcast was recorded live before a live audience at Hoyt Sherman Place, and Morning Edition recorded live from Smokey Row Coffee shop in Des Moines. We were in a stable fiscal position, thinking ahead to a capital campaign that would reinvest in our network infrastructure, update and expand our stations, and grow our programming.

By January 2020, we began hearing the first bits of news about an unknown virus in China, called COVID-19. By early February, while we were reporting on the 2020 first in the nation caucuses, NPR was reporting more and more on the virus spreading throughout the world. COVID-19 has dominated our news coverage since.

In March, we directed staff to work from home as much as possible, and as an organization, we quickly shifted our focus to re-organizing our work to make our studios as safe as possible for those who must work from them. That has meant devising ways to bring you the news and programming you love from makeshift home studios. We purchased technology and equipment to help keep our sound consistent and as our arts and culture partners saw their events and shows canceled month after month, we increased our digital and video programming to try and build a bridge between people’s homes and artists.

In May, as a result of massive funding challenges due to the pandemic, our university partners made the decision to eliminate all university support. We were in the midst of planning for the next fiscal year so we made cuts in all the places we could without sacrificing staff and with minimal impact on programming.

Since May, we have dug in with resolve to help see you and ourselves through this challenging time. We have you to thank and in looking back there have been bright spots amid the hardships. Our annual report this year primarily consists of a visual look back since so much has dramatically changed in how we work and gather for the time being.

I am so proud of our staff for their resilience and for their herculean and creative efforts in meeting this challenge. While facing uncertainty themselves, they continued bringing excellence and high-quality programming to our airwaves, developed new digital products like our award-winning podcast Caucus Land and our Daily Digest newsletter, and focused their work to meet the immediate needs of Iowans during a pandemic. I am also humbled by the outpouring of support and donations we have received from our community of listeners who understand and believe in the mission of public media. I am cautiously optimistic, that together, we will pull through, perhaps even stronger because of this experience.

– Myrna Johnson, IPR Executive Director

IPR Mission

Iowa Public Radio enriches the civic and cultural life in Iowa through high quality news and cultural programming.

News and Talk

"You never fail to keep a level head when sharing the news, as upsetting as it is at times. I value the effort taken to provide only facts, and I get everything I need for the day from my drive to and from work. Thank you so very much for your integrity, balance, and consistency!"

– Annette Snyder — Clarion, Iowa

Caucus Coverage

Despite the failed reporting system for caucus results, the lead up to the 2020 Iowa caucuses was a whirlwind of activity on the campaign trail trying to keep up with the nearly two dozen candidates vying for the Presidential nomination.

IPR’s Clay Masters, Kate Payne and John Pemble won a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for their podcast, Caucus Land, and there were 300,000 + downloads from people all across the country.

Listen to Caucus Land now.

Additional Recognition and Awards

IPR’s Kate Payne also won a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her piece on turtle-sniffing dogs.

IPR’s talk shows also won regional Eric Sevareid awards for a number of shows, the IPR News team for their Iowa in Focus series on the changing population in Iowa, and Grant Gerlock and Amy Mayer won for their reporting (see press release).

"IPR is my go-to source for news. It's reliable, well-researched, and fact-based. Thank you, news crew and all other support staff!"

– Susan Salterberg — Iowa City, Iowa

Under normal circumstances, IPR reporters and staff are covering Iowa in the places stories are happening or bringing people to studios for a more personal connection. In March 2020, that all changed.

Covering the coronavirus

River to River went underground and Ben Kieffer brought us his weekday show from his basement while the news team created makeshift home studios to record their stories and interviews, and once it was safer, they went back out into the field to cover the world’s most important story and its impact here in Iowa.

"There's no such thing as 'alternative facts' — that's just a fancy phrase for 'lies.' It is vital to have an accurately informed public, and I rely on IPR and NPR to provide that fact-based, un-spun reporting."

– Jim Rogers — Marion, Iowa

Talk of Iowa shifted to serve Iowa listeners with content they needed while managing work and school from their homes: from supporting parents and students with content on history and wildlife, to Talk of Iowa Summer Camp, launching a new book club for avid readers, and more.

In the spring of 2019, IPR News participated in The America Amplified: Life, Community, and COVID-19 live talk show – hosted by stations across the country — to explore local community perspectives and solutions to some of the most important issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. Charity Nebbe co-hosted on May 9 with Boise State Public Radio’s Gemma Gaudette. You can listen here.

To Our Members

Together we faced big challenges this year, and we made it through with YOU! Every word of encouragement, sustaining membership, annual gift, and car donation from our nearly 30,000 members has kept us going. Thank you for keeping IPR strong!

Music and Events

"IPR elevates my mood and life! It helps me to remember that there is a civilized, intelligent world in the midst of our current struggles. It kindles hope in my heart and spirit. Thank you!"

– Elaine Himadi — Iowa City, Iowa

How we engage with each other changed dramatically this past year too, especially in our music and events where gathering around a common, shared experience helps create community.

We had an incredible summer and fall with a calendar full of music festivals, performances and shows.

Hex Girls at the 2019 IPR stage at 80/35.
King Wylde on stage with MarKaus at the 80/35 IPR stage in 2019.
MarKaus at the 2019 IPR stage at 80/35.
The crowd went wild for the Cedar-Rapids based band The Surf Zombies.
The Harmaleighs performed at the 2019 IPR stage at 80/35.
We found some IPR super fans at Hinterland!
IPR staff and volunteers welcomed IPR booth visitors at Hinterland all weekend long.
Mark Simmet interviews The Wood Brothers at Hinterland.
Brian Johannesen on the stage at Des Moines' xBk for Studio One Underground.
Studio One host, Cece Mitchell, hypes up the crowd at xBk.
Ducharme-Jones Band performs on the xBk stage at Studio One Underground.
Lily DeTaeye on the xBk stage at Studio One Underground.
LVVMAKING performs on the xBk stage at Studio One Underground.
IPR Studio One's Tony Dehner hosting Studio One Underground at xBk.
"IPR broadcasts the music I love and the facts I need. I am a proud supporter."

– David Schmidt — Pleasant Hill, Iowa

Our annual Iowa City potluck.
Morning Edition live at Smokey Row Coffee in Des Moines.
IPR’s Kate Payne, John Pemble and Katie Peikes at The Moth event in Iowa City.
The Moth live at The Englert Civic Theatre in Iowa City.
The Moth Live sold out its showing at The Englert.
IPR's Ben Kieffer captures an interview on the road during RAGBRAI 2019 for his podcast Bike Shorts.
The NPR Politics Podcast Live occurred at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines in January 2020.
The panel on stage at The NPR Politics Podcast Live.
IPR staffers Gretchen Kasperbauer, Ben Kieffer and Madeleine King engage with the community at SingleSpeed Brewing in Waterloo. Psst: be on the lookout for SingleSpeed’s River to River German Pils.
In January 2020, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! drew a large crowd at the Des Moines Civic Center.
Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on stage at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Come April, with nearly all large events and shows canceled for the foreseeable future, Studio One Underground, which had recently created a new partnership with xBk in Des Moines as the new venue for its monthly shows, had to get creative in supporting the Iowa music scene.

The music team created a weekly Tunesday series in the spring with sponsorship support from the Friends of KUNI.

These virtual shows were livestreamed on YouTube and/or Facebook Live and featured musicians such as:

"I'm a proud lifelong Iowan and truly appreciate the quality journalism and reporting ... and the personality of your team! IPR seems to cover a variety of perspectives which prompt me to remember, think and care. Thank you!"

– Deb Madison-Levi — Des Moines, Iowa

The Steinway Café also went virtual and continued to bring classical music into homes and workspaces over the lunch hour.

IPR Classical host, Barney Sherman, developed a weekly series called House Calls. He phoned an Iowa musician at home and asked them to play deejay and choose their favorite classical recordings and tell listeners why. Iowa musicians who served as deejay included, Tim Hankewich, Nicholas Roth, Professor of Piano at Drake University, and more.

"The program hosts for IPR Classical are very knowledgeable and we enjoy the interesting background information and stories they present about the music, the composer and the performers. We start every day listening to IPR Classical."

– David Camp — West Burlington, Iowa

Finance and Operations

In FY 2020, IPR welcomed several new faces to the team:

Gretchen Kasperbauer, Marketing Manager
Matthew Alvarez, Talk Show Producer
Ellie Alberhasky, Major Gifts Officer
Nicole Baxter, Sales Assistant
Kevin Rotz, Radio Broadcast Engineer
Kassidy Arena, Report for America Reporter

We also thanked a couple staff for their time and contributions to IPR and wished them well in their retirement.

Dick Owens; 40+ years of engineering service with WOI and IPR
Rob Dillard; 20+ years as a Des Moines correspondent

We also had to say a hard goodbye due to the passing of our beloved colleague Dean Borg, longtime Iowa Public Radio political correspondent and former host of Iowa PBS’s Iowa Press.

"I'm proud to be a sustaining member because it only takes 7 minutes to get from end to end of our small town, but I can learn more in that 7 minutes of listening to IPR than I can in almost any other way."

– Laura Cohen — Fairfield, Iowa

Behind the scenes, our IT and Broadcast Operations staff were champs in getting us all set up and ready to work from home. It was a lot to manage in a short time and they came through with patience and smiles.

Financial Report

The consolidated financials for FY 2020 represents the financial activity for the WOI Radio Group, the KSUI Radio Group, the KUNI Radio Group and Iowa Public Radio, Inc.


Our members and their support are the heartbeat of Iowa Public Radio and when we learned of our funding situation, fundraising and member support became all the more vital. Our membership staff figured out a way to safely connect with each other and engage listener support in a moment of such uncertainty for everyone. They did it without interrupting or changing our programming format because every minute of the news from March through now was needed to share information. And, to our joy, our listeners came through as heroes and have helped stabilize our finances this past year.

We thank each and every one of you who contributed to our continued success. We really do consider you the MVPs of Team IPR this year!

Broadcast Ops worked with Development to develop and deliver a pledge drive working remotely.
"I sustain IPR because it sustains me, especially during the pandemic and an election, when honest news and inspiring commentary are so important. I cut the cable cord a few months ago, and now turn on public radio instead of loafing in front of the TV. Both my physical and mental health have improved!"

– Susan Bryant — Iowa City, Iowa

Corporate Sponsors

More than 400 businesses and organizations supported IPR as corporate sponsors in FY 2020. As the business world faced uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, many of our sponsors continued their support, understanding how vitally important it was for Iowans to receive quality, fact-based information. We are proud to work with so many businesses that understand the importance of public radio in Iowa.

Digital and Marketing

We are fortunate to have invested in our digital and marketing teams last year and it became apparent that we did so at the right time, because as more people stayed home, the traffic to our website and streaming services exploded. We were able to not only improve the visuals and increase the amount of content in our digital coverage around the caucuses, but when COVID-19 hit, this team developed a daily liveblog and newsletter to help deliver the most up-to-date information to people. This newsletter has transitioned into our Daily Digest because our subscribers appreciate this daily news summary delivered to their inbox.

Much of the year was also spent training and gearing up for the launch of our new website. IPR was the fifth station in all of public radio and television to transition to Grove — NPR’s new content management system.

By The Numbers

"I listen every morning, and if I don't hear at least a little ATC at the end of the workday I feel like something is missing. The complete, unbiased journalism is invaluable. KEEP IT UP. You are appreciated!"

– Kory Figura — Waverly, Iowa


It’s sometimes hard to describe the work that our engineering staff do but they are on call 24/7 to make sure that when issues arise, fixes happen as quickly as possible. They even oversee the changing of the lightbulbs on our transmitters over 900 feet above the ground.

The WOI-FM Transmitter had a major fail and an 800-lb part found, delivered and installed during a pandemic!
IPR’s Broadcast Engineer, Nathan Grambau, gave a tour in Ames to some IPR staff.

What’s Immediately Ahead for IPR

We’re excited that IPR is one of four stations forming a new NPR Midwest News Hub with the help of multi-year philanthropic support. There will be additional details to share in FY 2021 but you can read more about the Midwest Hub here.

With the help of the newly established Innovation Fund dollars, IPR was able to spend the summer of 2020, testing and planning for a full-scale launch of a new Talk of Iowa Book Club in January 2021. There is staff support to add an on-demand podcast, and to host moderated discussions with community of fellow book lovers on Facebook. To date, hundreds have joined the Facebook group and you can too right here.

"I've been a listener and supporter of IPR for 35 + years. I depend on the fact based news of IPR that gives me both sides of issues AND the local programming that adds to Iowa and midwestern subjects. And I like it that IPR gives 24/7 coverage."

– Dwight Tomes — Johnston, Iowa

The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives in this last tumultuous year, but public radio was built for times like these. Iowans needed information they could rely on, and Iowa Public Radio delivered the latest facts with clarity and context, independent of political and commercial influence. Iowans yearned for a respite from the uncertainty enveloping them, and Iowa Public Radio found innovative ways to connect our listeners to the entertaining and soothing sounds of our music community.

As Board chair, I was heartened by the efforts of the IPR staff who stretched themselves professionally to further IPR’s mission to deliver high quality news and cultural programming under the most difficult of circumstances. Our community of members shone in this moment too; they demonstrated with their dollars how important a robust independent public radio station is to them.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I hope you will join me in thanking the team of professionals who make IPR an Iowa treasure and to acknowledge your own vital role in keeping public radio strong in our state.

- Marsha Ternus, FY 2020 Chair of IPR's Board of Directors

FY 2020 Board of Directors

  • Cassie Mathes
  • Douglas West
  • Jacy Johnson
  • Jeneane Beck
  • Julie Monson
  • John McCarroll
  • Katie Byers
  • Lijun Chadima
  • Marsha Ternus
  • Mary Kramer
  • Nora Everett
  • Robert Downer
  • Steve Firman
  • Vickee Adams Jordan
  • Warren Madden
  • Zachary Mannheimer

Because IPR is member-supported, community-based public media, your contribution is vitally important to sharing high quality news and music to the entire state.

Become a member.

"I'm proud to be a sustaining member because I'm proud of all the IPR staff and the quality work they do to keep us all informed. It's like having a best friend you can count on to discuss what's going on in the world, challenge and support you to grow as a human being, introduce you to music you haven't heard, and who makes you laugh on the weekends!"

– Nancy Romine — Coralville, Iowa

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Photo credits: Madeleine King, John Pemble, Jay Young, Dallas Tuttle for IPR

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