Colorado Public Radio lays off 15 staff due to financial challenges

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Colorado Public Radio is laying off 15 employees due to a budget deficit, CEO Stewart Vanderwilt told staff in a Wednesday email obtained by Current.

The cuts affected employees in CPR’s standalone podcast unit, production staff for CPR’s on-site performance studio, and full- and part-time music staffers, according to a statement from the organization.

Despite closing its podcast studio, the organization will focus on on-demand audio that is “centered around original news content,” according to the statement. It will also add two podcast producer positions to its newsroom.

Brad Turner, EP of Audio Innovations Studio, the station’s podcast team, no longer works at CPR, according to his station profile page.

“We have come to this decision after looking hard at our current revenue and projections for the coming year,” Vanderwilt said in his email. “We need to be on a path to sustainability, and we must restore some of the resources and benefits that were previously eliminated or frozen.”

Vanderwilt added that conversations with staff over the last year about the station’s financial challenges “have focused on efforts to reduce expenses while seeking revenue growth in order to eliminate our ongoing deficit. Unfortunately, to align our expenses with our revenue projections, we need to reassess our priorities and implement more significant measures.”

A financial statement on CPR’s website shows that the station’s operating deficit grew from more than $1.3 million in 2022 to more than $2.3 million last year. According to the station’s 990 filings, its staffing grew from 151 people in 2018 to 217 in 2022.

The station’s financial statement also shows that while revenue grew by more than $2 million from 2022 to 2023, expenses grew by more than $3 million. Programming and production expenses accounted for the bulk of the increase.

The layoffs “are not a reflection of the quality of work of our talented colleagues,” Vanderwilt wrote. 

In its statement, CPR said it will “move forward with a driving priority to be first and foremost a journalistic organization committed to being Colorado’s long-term home institution for news.”

It will also focus on “original news content and digital growth,” and “exploring additional revenue opportunities for CPR’s music services, CPR Classical and Indie 102.3, will become a greater priority.”

Update: This article has been updated with a statement from CPR.

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