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As it closes the books on another record year for private support, WEKU, the public radio service of Eastern Kentucky University, is celebrating a national first-place award for its weekly public affairs program, Eastern Standard.

“Diversity in Media,” which featured EKU faculty members Michael Randolph and Lisa Day, along with University of Kentucky faculty member Yi Zhang, was awarded first place in Division C of the Call-In category by the Public Radio News Directors organization. Eastern Standard, which examines topics of concern to central and southeastern Kentuckians, airs live every Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon on the station, and is repeated Sundays at 6 p.m.

“The judges in the competition recognized the diversity of viewpoints within the hour they heard,” Station Manager Roger Duvall said. “That is one of the strongest assets of Eastern Standard. Not only does it look at all angles of an issue but, most importantly, treats the differing sides as equally important and relevant. Unfortunately, that can be lacking in today’s media.”

Student producers assist program host John Hingsbergen, performing research on guests and topics before each episode.

“Eastern Standard would not be possible without the valuable assistance of student ‘associate producers,’” Hingsbergen said. “Since the show’s launch in its current form in August of 2013, the students have been an essential element in the production of the show. This award-winning episode is an example of the student influence since, rather than a standard approach to diversity in media, the students recommended a focus on fictional characters such as a gay Mr. Sulu in the 2016 Star Trek movie, Marvel Comics’ Asian Incredible Hulk and the movie featuring a team of female Ghostbusters.”

Eastern Standard is just one of the many programs WEKU listeners appreciate. The station’s fund drive surpassed $400,000 this past year, up from last year’s record of approximately $393,000. “Their support shows that the programming we air makes a difference in their lives,” Duvall said. “While we get funds from a variety of sources, our individual givers are our most reliable and important source of funds. It directly impacts the importance of our programming in our listeners’ lives and to a civil discourse in our community.”

Gifts ranged from $5 up to $1,000, with the average contribution approximately $100.

“Almost half of our contributors now give a small amount monthly with what we call a sustaining membership,” Duvall said. “Sustainers give us permission to set their contribution up on a credit card, and it continues until they choose to stop it.”

WEKU reaches most of central and southeastern Kentucky through WEKU (88.9 FM in Richmond-Lexington), WEKH (90.9 FM in Hazard), WEKF (88.5 FM in Corbin) and WEKP (90.1 FM in Pineville) along with 106.7 in  Frankfort, 96.9 in Barbourville, 96.3 in Harlan, 102.5 in Middlesboro and 95.1 in Pikeville. WEKU also operates Classic 102.1 – a classical music and classic jazz station in Lawrenceburg serving greater Lexington and Frankfort.