Sen. Doris Turner asks UIS to reverse NPR Illinois funding cut
Illinois public radio is set to lose hundreds of thousands in annual funding from the University of Illinois-Springfield in the coming years.
According to UIS’ planned annual budget, it will cut $400,000 from NPR Illinois’ budget, phasing it out each fiscal year until funding is completely eliminated. The cut deals a major blow to local journalism and WUIS (91.9 FM), which has been a public news source for Illinois since 1975.
In a press release Friday, State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, called for UIS to revert funding back to NPR Illinois, recognizing its importance as “one of the few remaining media venues that extensively covers state government,” per the release.
“I recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has had an economic impact on many universities,” Turner said, “but cutting this program from UIS’s budget would do a huge disservice to both area residents and journalism students.”
According to the release, Turner wrote a letter to UIS interim chancellor Karen Whitney urging her to revert funding back to NPR Illinois, which is currently housed on the university’s grounds. Current plans will allow the station to continue operations at UIS but it will primarily have to rely on private donations to continue to function.
“Over many years, this station has delivered true, fair and unbiased coverage to a multitude of listeners,” Turner said. “It has also given many journalists and interns an opportunity to thrive in the field while reporting on state government. This outlet produces quality journalism, and it needs to continue to operate.”
Whitney, reached Friday, said she had only recent read Turner’s letter and agreed that NPR Illinois is “a community asset. As an educator, it’s important to our democracy to have free and unfettered journalism. We’re proud to house NPR Illinois on our campus, absolutely.”
The situation with the state’s support of public higher education has been brewing for awhile, Whitney said.
“We’re shifting a part of our support from direct university funding to NPR Illinois to philanthropic funding,” Whitney added. “We’re continuing our support of NPR Illinois in terms of the facilities that we’re providing and we’re adding more support in the area of fundraising (personnel) because I believe it is such an asset that the whole community should support it directly.”
Whitney said she would welcome a conversation with Turner “who’s been a friend and supporter of UIS.”
WUIS began broadcasting as WSSR when UIS was still Sangamon State University in 1975. According to the station’s latest budget report, NPR Illinois received $734,142 in donations from listeners and businesses in 2020. It reported an operating expense of $1.9 million that same year.
Reporter Steven Spearie contributed to this report.