Friday, October 12, 2007

WDUQ won't air Planned Parenthood Messages

WDUQ is currently running a pledge drive asking for your money, but they've decided they won't accept ours. After allowing Planned Parenthood to underwrite news segments for only two days, the public radio station decided they could no longer tell the listening audience about comprehensive sexuality education, cancer screening, or preventive health care.
According to Scott Hanley, WDUQ's station manager, Duquesne University has instructed WDUQ to refuse underwriting from Planned Parenthood. It seems the University is now dictating who can give money to the flagship NPR station, and what they can air. And apparently that means Planned Parenthood's message of prevention can't see the airwaves.
Planned Parenthood believes in public radio and has long admired WDUQ for its pledge to independence and integrity as a news station. We're also proud of the work we do to ensure strong and healthy families by providing men and women in need with healthcare services and information.

Like WDUQ, Planned Parenthood believes that public radio belongs to the public. Duquesne University shouldn't be able to tell WDUQ not to air our message or accept our donations. We hope you won't let this stand. You can read more about what happened at right, including the messages that won't air. Then please contact WDUQ and Duquesne University to tell them to reverse their decision.

Click on "Take Action" to get contact information for phone numbers and letters. We've provided sample letters, but please change them to reflect your feelings. Letters will go to Scott Hanley, the station manager, and Dr. Charles Dougherty, the president of Duquesne University.


  1. i got the e-mail and i sent a message to duq.

    doubt if it will change their minds
    but i did.

    my daughter and a LOT of our money went to duquesne for a master's.

  2. Agent Ska,

    Can you send me the oriignal email? Is this from PP of western PA or national? I'm trying to find it on their site to no avail.

  3. Trying to fathom the depth of the relationship between Duquesne & DUQ has always been disquieting to me, I've been wondering when something like this would happen.

    Do other cities' NPR affiliates have such close ties with other institutions?

  4. i'm not sure. i never thought about the relationship before.

  5. Use this link to email Dr. Charles Dougherty (if you live in Pennsylvania)
    Mr. Scott Hanley (if you live in Pennsylvania):

  6. Can someone send me Dr. Doughterty's email? I have Handley's. This is why I hate these autolinks. Calls to action should always include both the link and the actual email address.

  7. Here you all go:

    Scott E. Hanley
    Duquesne University
    Pittsburgh PA 15282
    General questions & information: 412.396.6030
    Listener Comment Line: 412.396.6350

    Charles J. Dougherty, Ph.D.
    Duquesne University
    600 Forbes Avenue
    Pittsburgh, PA 15282
    Switchboard: 412.396.6000

  8. Thanks Jodi.

    I've put letters in to both and even played my Catholic college card. I also emailed the NPR ombudsman, which is really more focused on programming. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt.

  9. Thanks Jodi.

    I've put letters in to both and even played my Catholic college card. I also emailed the NPR ombudsman, which is really more focused on programming. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt.

  10. I have been a long time and loyal listener of WDUQ public radio. I've been a member on and off over the years, mostly depending on how my finances happen to be when pledge time rolls around, but DUQ is on my radio almost all the time. (Except when Music from India is on, then I prefer opera on QED.) But this evening's report shook my support.

    When I heard the Duquesne University spokesperson explaining why they couldn't accept a gift from Planned Parenthood ("and we have a stack of legal precedent to back us up, nyaa, nyaa, nyaa") I also heard her saying why they couldn't accept a gift from me. I support women's reproductive rights so my money isn't welcome.

    Oh, I'm sure that they would actually take my money, even knowing I was an atheistic anarcho-collectivist disestablishmentarian, because they could do so anonymously. They don't have to acknowledge on the air that they took money from a heretic such as myself.

    The journalistic integrity of WDUQ has been compromised. Was that recent epic-length report about the installation of the new bishop in Pittsburgh honest journalism of interest to the community or was that influences by the Duquesne University higher ups? How independent is DUQ that the university theocrats can step in and dictate who they can accept donations from?

    I just got a raise recently and, since my finances were looking better, I was going to be renewing my DUQ membership. The operative word in that sentence is "was" because now, that money is going to be sent to Planned Parenthood.

  11. I was always under the impression that Duquesne owned WDUQ, and I am not shocked, as someone brought up Catholic, that something like this would happen. I am, however, conflicted.

    I love WDUQ's programming. I even like Music of India, which I once answered calls during for a pledge drive. I also would not presume to tell anyone else what to accept money for.

    On the other hand, I actually give them money, every month, as a sustaining member. Despite my feelings for their programming, I would be very uncomfortable giving money to an organization that will not deal with Planned Parenthood.

    On a third hand, I know that I will continue listening to their programs, enjoying them, and relying upon them for information and entertainment; and will feel extremely guilty to do so without supporting them financially.

    I don't know what I will do, and I know they can survive without my ten bucks a month. Still, I wish they had not put me in this position.

    I have no way of knowing what kind of leverage the management of the station may have had against Duquesne administrators, but I hope that they used it, and made clear how much support the station stood to lose.

  12. I wonder what kind of leverage the members of DUQ have? According to them you become a member when you financially support the station. Do you then have any opportunity to vote on decisions? Perhaps your vote is whether or not you continue to give $ when they do stuff like this.

    A friend of mine is using reverse psychology, she is joining DUQ & leveraging, (to whatever extent possible), her membership to express her dismay with their recent decision. At the same time she is upping her donation to Planned Parenthood.

    Anybody hear how this pledge drive is going? I bet there's a significant number of people who support both DUQ & PP.

  13. Like many people, I had a gut-check reaction, and was apalled that DUQ stopped running the PP spots. I have spent some time thinking about the PP/DUQ issue, and have some thoughts below.

    First, to answer a question from a post before this one, from what I gather from a couple of DUQ volunteers I know, over the past couple of days DUQ has been hurt by this situation. This is truly unfortunate. Duquesne University is not being hurt financially. DUQ is. One of the disturbing things about Planned Parenthood, an organization I have always had nothing but respect for, is that they are turning this into an issue of journalistic integrity, when it really is not. It is about marketing and accepting financial support, not newsworthiness. I think that people are totally overlooking that. I did when I first heard about the situation, but then I thought about it more.

    If you are an avid DUQ listener, you will probably have heard plenty of news stories and interviews about organizations and individuals who conflict with Catholic values. News can never be censored by Duquesne. Those kind of stories would never have aired if Duquesne could actually step in and censor news. Marketing/donations can be declined, apparently, by a higher-up since Duquesne owns the station. DUQ, in my years of listening, has always been willing to cover controversial issues, both national and local, in a more thoughtful and complete way than commercial broadcasters. I have given my financial support because I appreciate that.

    I wonder if Planned Parenthood would have put DUQ in the same spot if the station would have refused to air their underwriting messages in the first place. I wonder what their reasoning was to make the pulling of financially supported messages into a huge news/PR piece for themselves. If DUQ would have refused to air actual news about PP, I could understand why PP would take such an activist stance, but this was something *they paid for*. It was technically a gift that was refused. I think PP made a poor decision by deciding to take a strike at a much smaller nonprofit. I don't hear DUQ taking any negative strikes at PP on the air. I did hear the news story DUQ put together about the PP/DUQ situation on Friday afternoon. If they put it online on their website, I think it is worth listening to if you haven't heard it. It approaches everything as news, from all sides. I am actually kind of amazed they did that. I'm sure Duquesne wasn't happy about it.

    There is no doubt that Duquesne made a very poor decision in deciding to interfere with DUQ's efforts to raise financial support. Duquesne, itself, should refuse financial support from every healthcare provider in the region if they were to continue their stance. I doubt they will.

    I will be writing to the president of the University, Charles Dougherty ( to express my dissatisfaction, and still sending my support to DUQ. They are in a tough spot. As upset as I am about the PP spots being pulled because of a higher power. I do not feel that I should punish the station, which does so much good work, because of a decision that was made abouve their heads.

    I hope that others will take a moment to think as well, and possibly contact the higher power that stepped on the station I love.

  14. According to my sources inside the station, a number of people, including Scott Hanley, considered resigning over this issue.

    DUQ management and staff have NO leverage in this case... none, nada, zip, zilch. Duquesne owns the station. Dougherty is ultimately in charge.

    Here's a statement sent to all DU employees and students this afternoon:

    "To the Campus Community:

    As you have probably heard through recent news stories, the University has
    refused to accept underwriting funding from Planned Parenthood on the
    University-owned radio station WDUQ.

    The underwriting of a program on WDUQ is considered a donation, and the
    University retains the right to refuse donations and underwriting from any
    organization. As you are aware, Duquesne University is a Catholic
    university in mission and identity and the Catholic position on respect
    for life is well known. The University chose not to accept a gift from
    Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in America. Planned
    Parenthood's annual report documents a total of more than a half-million
    abortions performed during the 2004 and 2005 time period. This statistic
    alone clearly demonstrates profound incompatibility with our institution.

    The refusal of an underwriting gift from Planned Parenthood does not
    affect WDUQ's editorial independence, its news reporting or its
    programming. The refusal is, rather, a rejection of an inappropriate and
    undesired public institutional association.

    Except for enforcement of our Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities,
    and Conduct, Duquesne University does not dictate personal choices to our
    students or other individuals, including individual donors. Personal
    choices, however, are different from an institution's right and obligation
    to stand up for its own public principles.

    On Behalf of the Duquesne University Administration,
    Bridget Fare

    The pledge drive started great, but has slowed significantly since the PP anti-DUQ campaign began. Programs may indeed be cut. Staff may lose jobs. My friends are really worried that this is it for DUQ as we know it.

  15. I'm including a phone and email for the VP for Communications at NPR itself. While the website says that only reporters and journalists should contact this VP - - I say copy him/her when you send emails to the President and Station Manager of WDUQ. Maybe some pressure on the NPR national org will help.

    Andi Sporkin
    VP for Communications
    (202) 513-2300

    As long-time supporters of both NPR and Planned Parenthood, my husband and I sent emails this morning to WDUQ stating that we no longer contribute to their fund drives. We contribute a reasonably significant amount to WDUQ. The funds we would have normally sent to WDUQ will now go to Planned Parenthood.

    All of the issues surrounding WDUQ's decision have been discussed very thoroughly by other bloggers. I'd like to ad my comments about my take on Planned Parenthood's contributions to the communities it serves.

    Having come from modest means, I funded my own college education. While in school, I enrolled in a major-medical insurance plan for students (something like $80 for 9 months... things have changed)which did not include any regular healthcare. I have always been thankful that I was able to receive regular check-ups and reproductive education at the local Planned Parenthood where I got my yearly exams for $25. As a result, I've been a supporter of Planned Parenthood from the time I got my first full-time job after graduation.

    I'm sorry that the employees of the station feel that their jobs and the station are threatened by the public response. But perhaps the tie should be severed and sponsorship/ownership of the station should be taken up by a different organization if Duquesne can't seperate it's dogma from the station.

  16. "But perhaps the tie should be severed and sponsorship/ownership of the station should be taken up by a different organization if Duquesne can't seperate it's dogma from the station."

    That's just not practical. The license isn't for sale. The station has no leverage to separate. All one can do is kill DUQ and hope someone else can raise the millions of dollars necessary to carry NPR programming. That is unlikely.

    If DUQ bellies up, it's likely sayonara to anything beyond NPR headlines in Pittsburgh.

    Even in good times, DUQ struggles to make ends meet. The station sometimes loses money, because not enough people pledged enough money, even before they became pissed off.

    Perhaps it needs to happen, but this is looking like the public execution of NPR in Pittsburgh, as well as the only local radio news operation of any worth whatsoever. It was that same local news operation who broke this story in the first place. NPR also covered the story. So much for the preposterous allegations of a lack of editorial independence.

    This was paid speech, pursued through an advertising agency. Had the station refused the PP spots up front, we'd still be in the same place now.

    PP was also selective in terms of the copy it released. There were, indeed, spots dealing with more controversial issues than what PP let on. That said, though, Duquesne was consistent in its contention that the content of the spots didn't matter, that it was the donor's incompatibility with the mission of the university that was in contention.

    Still, it seems the main gripe is that Duquesne University is a Catholic institution, behaving consistently with Catholic doctrine.

    It's a shame the university's right to adhere to its religious values does not receive the same respect as PP's right to adhere to its secular humanist values.

  17. "It's a shame the university's right to adhere to its religious values does not receive the same respect as PP's right to adhere to its secular humanist values."

    I don't see where rights has anything to do with it. Duquesne has a right to reject Planned Parenthood underwriting. And DUQ listener-members have a right to realize, "Oh! I did not know until now that DUQ was operated by an organization whose values I personally abhor! I shall no longer support it financially!"

    Just because Duquesne's values are religious in origin, does not make them automatically worthy of anyone's respect. For many people, certain of the "Catholic values" must be opposed as an act of self-defense, just like the "values" of ... well, take your pick.

  18. And yes, I realize that nobody need respect PP's "secular humanist values" either. My point is only that it's legitimate to withhold one's support as an expression of one's moral opposition.

    Lots of secular students attend Duquesne University. If this remains an issue, I wonder if their enrollment will decline, or if their own fundraising effort will falter?

  19. Why did Planned Parenthood not disclose the content of ALL of its messages? It is my understanding that there were 10 different spots, and PP only shared the content of four. Why?????

    Duquesne University, for its part, appears not to care about the content of the messages, but rather the mission of the donor. The university's message is that it would not accept a contribution from PP if that message were to promote a bake sale or a walk-a-thon.

    Why did PP not disclose that it had engaged the services of an advertising agency in San Diego to place these messages? It's not FREE speech. It's PAID speech. PP, however, doesn't want you to see it that way.

    PP has been VERY disingenuous throughout this whole thing. The sneaky way that they have conducted themselves begs the question as to whether this entire episode was orchestrated in such a way for PP to be able to make PR hay.

    Full disclosure would likely not change anyone's position. Since that is so, why is PP so disingenuous? What are they hiding and why?