WPR 2021 Source Demographic Survey Report

A Note From Interim WPR Director Tom Luljak 

Wisconsin Public Radio’s commitment to serving everyone in Wisconsin is right there in our name – we are public media. Unfortunately, there are times when we have fallen short in our commitment to offer news, talk, music and entertainment that reflects and includes everyone in Wisconsin. 

In 2020, we shared a report on the race/ethnicity, gender and zip codes of the guests you hear on our stations each year. That report provided important baseline data to measure our progress against. Thousands of guest experts and sources are heard on WPR each year and the choices we make about them impact the diversity of perspectives and experiences you hear.

Below you’ll find a report on the second year of our source demographic project. We are pleased to report that we have made progress in our efforts to have more diverse voices on the airways of WPR.  But we know there is more to be done. We believe inclusion helps us get closer to the greater goal of unbiased news and information that helps everyone in Wisconsin understand and engage the issues shaping their lives.

People and communities thrive with an open exchange of ideas and information, including information about WPR. We are accountable to you. If you have questions about this report or our other efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion don’t hesitate to let me know. I welcome your questions, your input and your support by email at listener@wpr.org or by phone at 1-800-747-7444.

2021 Source Demographic Report

Report by Hannah Haynes

Introduction and Methods

Wisconsin Public Radio’s approach to broadcast and digital content relies heavily on outside voices, what journalists call sources — guest experts, authors, scientists, elected officials, artists, business owners, community activists and more. Sources provide context, perspective and experience — they are the heart of WPR’s news and information service. Each year, thousands of individual sources appear on the station’s news reports and talk shows.

In August 2020, WPR released its first report on the demographics of its on air sources. Like others in public media, the station was concerned that its sources were white and male at levels that far outweighed their representation in the population as a whole. And, also like others, the initial data WPR collected showed that was at least partially true. The year-long review found that nearly nine out of 10 of WPR sources were white and that there was an even split between men and women. 

As a second year of data collection began, WPR made plans to improve representation of historically excluded groups in the organization’s sourcing. The station appointed a source librarian to work with reporters and producers to find new voices for stories and expand the list of potential guest experts from underrepresented groups. WPR also revised the survey sent to sources to ask about their age range in addition to the previous questions about race and/or ethnicity, gender and geographic location. 

Over the past two years, the research methodology has remained unchanged. All of the data was collected through a short survey sent to those who appeared on air and were interviewed for a news story, news feature or talk show — including WPR employees who appeared as experts and guests. Individuals who appeared more than one time on our programs did not have to fill out the survey more than one time, but each appearance was counted within the total calculation. This is important because counting appearances rather than individuals more accurately reflects the diversity of sources that listeners heard, instead of the diversity of our database.

As in the first year, WPR continued to share quarterly reports on the data with content teams who met to increase awareness of their sourcing choices. More programs participated in the project during the second year, providing a better understanding of source demographics on the station as a whole. Those programs included WPR news, all daily talk shows, all regional talk shows and the radio version of “Wisconsin Life.” The nationally-syndicated “To the Best of Our Knowledge” joined the project part way through the second year. No NPR or PBS programs were part of this project.

The Data

These data comprise one year of survey results from sources who were on air and interviewed by WPR from August 2020 through July 2021. During the reporting period, over 4,000 sources were interviewed and on air, and about 53 percent of those sources responded to the survey. All of the data were self-reported by sources and not every source or guest that appeared on air received a survey request. 

Race and/or Ethnicity

Data from the second year – detailed below – shows that WPR improved representation in the race and/or ethnicity category. In 2020, 85.49 percent of sources were white. In 2021, that share dropped to 80.92 percent. As the share of white sources on WPR shrunk, every other category of race and/or ethnicity reported in the survey grew. 

For example, the percentage of people who were sources on WPR and identified as Asian grew from 2.78 percent to 4.17 percent, while people who identified as multi-racial or multi-ethnic grew from 1.98 percent to 3.36 percent. The improvements to the race and/or ethnicity data is encouraging, but there’s still more work to do.  



In the gender category, WPR’s data showed nominal changes from the last report. In year one, men held a slight majority with 49.10 percent. But in year two that switched to women, with 49.31 percent. Sources who selected “third gender, non-binary” as their gender grew slightly from .26 to .67 percent.



In year two of the project, WPR added a question to the survey about age. People who were interviewed and on air were asked to provide their age range. The data shows that the largest share of WPR’s sources were aged 35 to 44. 


Geographic Representation

As with year one of the project, the data shows that WPR’s news and information teams continued to rely on sources from throughout the state for its work. The zip code map below shows a wide geographical representation from around the state. 



This research and public reporting on sourcing is part of WPR’s commitment to creating content that is welcoming and reflective of everyone in Wisconsin. The station plans to continue this project and release results on an annual basis. While WPR saw some meaningful improvements in sourcing demographic diversity in the past year, there’s still work to be done, especially in the area of racial and ethnic diversity. 

During year three — in addition to regularly collecting and sharing the data with its content teams — WPR plans to continue the work of the source librarian and conduct more analysis of the data. One goal is to identify any specific subject areas where source diversity can be improved. And, with new data on the age range of sources, WPR will also work to better represent different age groupings. 

As a public media organization, WPR recognizes its responsibility to represent the communities it serves. This includes highlighting voices from people of all backgrounds. We welcome your questions, your input and your support by email at listener@wpr.org or by phone at 1-800-747-7444.