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State Of The Station 2021

Typically at this time of year, WEMU presents its annual State of the Station message at a special breakfast for key stakeholders, elected officials, and major donors. Since we're unable to do that in person this year, we've shared it here.
Thank you, everyone, for what you do for WEMU. Thanks to your support, we made it through 2020 together.
Stay well,
Molly Mothewell, WEMU-FM General Manager

"Our communities do not need more information, they need information from responsible journalists who are known, trusted, and truly working on behalf of their communities. I have lost count of how many community members have thanked me for the clear, concise coverage WEMU works with us to provide.”

- Susan Cerniglia, Washtenaw County Public Health Department

In March, 2020, our community and our world changed. Events were canceled. Campuses shut down. Workers scattered to home offices and studios. Communities and states went into lockdown

COVID-19 changed everything.

2020 was supposed to be packed with celebrations for WEMU’s 55th anniversary. Instead it brought hardship, painful decisions, and radical adjustments. WEMU was not spared. In May we had to eliminate two full time staff positions and reduce one salary. In June, our full time broadcasters were furloughed one day a week through the end of July. Traditional on-air fundraising was suspended indefinitely and live events remain on hold.

Yet, WEMU persevered through it all. Our news and music teams stayed on the air with fresh, engaged, and relevant programming, keeping our community informed, updated, and entertained. Live and local has never been more important and our commitment to that remains firm and unchanged. Much has been made of the heroic front line workers who kept critical areas of infrastructure and daily life open and operating during these difficult times and they are unquestionably recognized as heroes. 

Media also belong in that group of front line workers and #teamwemu is no exception. 

Lacking the resources to equip our broadcasters with home studios, most of our eleven on-air music announcers, news anchors, and reporters continued to work from our facility, recognizing the need to continue to serve the community in spite of anxieties about the health and safety of themselves and their families. Producers and crucial support staff also remained on the job. On-air fundraisers were canceled to make sure we never covered up critical programming and crucial updates. 

“Beyond news and entertainment, WEMU cares about the civic future of our region. Through knowledgeable local hosts and expert curation, music programs that explore emerging artists, and educational programs and cultural initiatives, WEMU fosters community within its listeners. WEMU’scommitment to community service, education, and cultural support separates them from other stations.”

- Senator Jeff Irwin, Michigan 18th District

The commitment to the community in a time of crisis was well-recognized. WEMU’s spring ratings, which were measured just after the pandemic began, were the best in several years, putting WEMU 4th in the market after three powerhouse stations, two of which broadcast from Detroit, not WEMU’s primary market of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. People are listening more often and for longer periods of time. WEMU swept the radio categories in Current Magazine’s ‘Best of Washtenaw’ awards, voted on by their readers and announced in October. With live music all but shut down, WEMU still found a way to support the performances that remained.

“When venues went dark with the onset of COVID-19, WEMU remained committed to their community mission by creating numerous initiatives to keep the music alive, including simulcasting the virtual 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival broadcast over Labor Day weekend.”

- Chris Collins, President and Artistic Director, Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation

Despite the radical shift in fundraising appeals from 8 day live on-air campaigns to short bursts relying on recorded messages and online giving, WEMU’s donors came through with record donations, helping WEMU exceed its annual fiscal year financial goal of $800,000.

WEMU received thousands of donations in 2020 from an engaged and involved community of listeners. During this turbulent, challenging, yet exciting and inspiring time in history, they sum up best what WEMU has provided in the last year.

“Thanks for continuing to be there for us--voices of stability and information and music to lift the spirit.”
“As we shelter in place, thank you for being there for us.”
“Thanks for keeping the news, blues, jazz, and roots flowing through our community veins -we need it” now more than ever.
“Keep the light of music coming in these dark days”
“Keep up the good work! The death of radio has been forecast many times. In this current crisis, radio, and WEMU, are more important than ever.”

Now that we are in it for the long haul, no one knows what lies ahead except that, when we come out on the other side, our community and our world will still be different. We can’t go back but we can go forward with an amazing team and station that made the critical adjustments necessary to grow stronger as we continue to weather the storm together.

You, our incredible community of listeners, are so important to this effort. 2020 illustrated how much you rely on WEMU. The recent fall ratings show that we gained 1800 listeners from spring to fall. As of today, we are at 49% of our fiscal year financial goal of $850,000. From insurrection to inauguration to impeachment, WEMU has been here for you at the onset of another unprecedented and historic year. 

#teamwemu was faced with a challenge in 2020: give in to the panic and pessimism or rise to the challenge and grow stronger. The team has been resolute and united that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and more focused than ever. And we will.

We look forward to serving you in 2021 and beyond.


Mary Motherwell, known as Molly, joined the WEMU staff in November of 1991 as Marketing and Development Director after stints in public relations at Domino’s Pizza International, and as an account executive first at the old Ypsilanti Press and then the former WIQB-FM. In December 2010, upon his retirement, she succeeded Arthur Timko as General Manager, only the third GM in WEMU’s 57 year history.