“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
“Now that I know better, I do better” illustrates what NFCB conferences have meant to me over the two decades that I have participated in them. I attribute much of the foundation of my knowledge of this field to what I have learned from NFCB. In fact, when the opportunity to lead this organization came along, I took it. It wasn’t because it was going to be easy. It wasn’t because I had nothing else I imagined doing. It was because NFCB gave something to me and I wanted to give something back.
Most of us live a lot of our lives doing what we know how to do and learning along the way how to do it better. NFCB’s Community Media Conference is a carefully curated, shared learning experience. Our aim is to connect, inspire, inform, challenge, and celebrate the best of what our station members know and do. Like most everything in life, there are always ways to do things better, so the conference is also about new knowledge and “out of the box” thinking.
As you peruse Ernesto’s information-loaded newsletter, consider joining us in San Diego this month. Knowledge does not exist in a vacuum. It requires exchange. NFCB is delivering an opportunity for knowledge exchange, and doing better is the side effect….not a bad proposition!
Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
NFCB conference is here
On June 18-20, hundreds of community radio managers, producers, volunteers and organizers will descend on the city of San Diego for the 2019 Community Media Conference.
For four decades, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters has convened people like you to help with core performance at stations, offer compassionate and effective organizational models, explore best practices and next practices at all levels of station operations, and impart principles that distinguish local media impact. For generations, NFCB has brought together peers to learn together and make community radio the best it can be.
We want you to join us. Register here to attend this year's conference before the June 10th registration deadline.
The 2019 Community Media Conference is a place to give you a better sense of who we are, what we do, where we have been, and where we are going. From sessions on archiving to technology, morning programming to underwriting programs, event planning to music rights, the conference schedule offers something for every station. Solution Centers bring together staff and volunteers around particular disciplines to talk and strategize on common questions. Community Media Makeovers help you learn from stations re-envisioning the work they do.
But that's just the beginning.
If you have already looked over the schedule of the 2019 Community Media Conference, we’ve just launched new interactive features, including names, photos and bios of every presenter, moderator and panelist. Gifted leaders, producers and movers and shakers await! Check it out.
At the 2019 Community Media Conference, sessions will explore the art of storytelling, how engagement complements revenue and the ways organizational capacity strengthens our mission. In San Diego, we’ll use this in-person opportunity to show you ways others have improved their stations, and give you ideas to take home. Together, we’ll better learn how to engage audiences, foster change, and lead stations through challenges.
The 2019 Community Media Conference features everything your community radio station needs to amplify its reach:
In order to ensure attendees have the best experience possible, NFCB will be closing registration on June 10. This means you have only until June 10 to register for the conference.
- Intensives dedicated solely to skills/knowledge improvement in focus areas
- Dozens of community media’s smartest minds to make you better at all you do
- 30+ sessions covering content, revenue, engagement and organizational strategies to benefit your station
- Learning from funders, innovators and organizers involved in the community media space
- Keynotes by Nina Simon and John Crigler on our past, present and future
- Countless inspiring stories that will fuel you through the year and beyond
- Priceless time with colleagues to help you break through your challenges
Register here to be in attendance for one of 2019’s biggest events for community radio. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.
Ursula Ruedenberg, KHOI
Ursula Ruedenberg has been working in community radio since 2000, when she served as an activist/organizer in the Campaign to Stop the Pacifica Takeover. In 2003, she rebuilt the Pacifica Affiliate program with the help of many community radio leaders around the country and since then, has managed Pacifica’s Affiliate Network of more than 200 radio stations and more than 100 independent production groups.
Since 2010, she led the founding and launch of KHOI Community Radio in Central Iowa. She is KHOI’s Station Manager and Program Director. She is Executive Producer of KHOI’s morning show, Local Talk, and Pacifica’s nationally Syndicated show, Sprouts Radio from the Grassroots, which features community radio production around the world. She built a podcast network nationally for Pacifica Radio and locally at KHOI Radio and teaches podcast/audio production. Prior to her work in radio, Ruedenberg was a mural painter for the City of New York where she led more than 100 community-based mural projects in city parks and recreation centers.
What first inspired you to get into community radio?
I became a fan in the 1970's, in Los Angeles, when KPFK-Pacifica reported on the Watergate break-in before anyone thought it was a story. I thought KPFK was reaching. A year later, when the story broke in the Washington Post, I fell in love with the media that had told me first. Later, when living in New York, I started asking myself where to find a community of people where I felt at home. I finally realized that the whole time I was asking myself this question, I was listening to WBAI-Pacifica community radio. So I got involved there, which eventually led me to know people all over the world. Little did I know at the time that I had joined a global community - never have looked back!
Could you share some of your favorite radio memories?
At the end of the Vietnam War, KPFK-Pacifica reported on the "Fall of Saigon," live. American mainstream media was reporting devastation and panic but I heard celebrating and singing in the streets. It gave me a point of view from the perspective of the Vietnamese people.
Shortly after the US had bombed Belgrade, Yugoslavia, WBAI-Pacifica and Belgrade community radio did a simulcast where they "waged war" on each other over the air, using cartoon sounds as weapons. For example, Woody Woodpecker "attacked" and Fred Flinstone's "Yaba Daba Doo" "retaliated," and so on. Of course the American station declared victory and the Yugoslavians contested.
The AMARC international radio conference in Argentina exploded my understanding of the the connection between community radio and global democracy movements. I learned that people in some countries were putting their lives on the line for local independent media. I had lunch with a Palestinian and an Egyptian community radio person and was amazed that we immediately understood each other. I realized this was because of our mutual comprehension, through community radio, of communication as a universally human.
Of course, launching KHOI in my home town of Ames, Iowa is a favorite moment. On 89.1, we replaced a religious broadcaster from Salt Lake City on a translator. We went on the air with the Rolling Stone's “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Truth is, every day in community radio delivers miracles that fill my heart. It never gets old. Every day, as Pacifica's Network manager, I get to work with some of the finest people around the world.
KHOI has a remarkable story. How did it come together?
KHOI was part of the 2007 FCC filing window for NCEs. I was involved Radio for People, a national outreach coalition to alert people to the potential for acquiring radio frequencies for community radio. I realized there was air space available in my home town of Ames, Iowa. I found a champion for this, Roger Parmenter, who led the effort, but no one in the area actually knew what community radio was. Eventually, they convinced me to go to Iowa to help them launch the station. KHOI is in downtown Ames in an iconic historic storefront building called the "Ames Pantorium," built as a dry cleaning business. I learned, the hard way, that "if you build it, you have to run it" so seven years later, I am still in Ames, managing the station until they reach the financial capacity to hire a manager.
It is interesting to build a station in an area where community radio is unknown. Without preconceived ideas or expectations, it's a proof of concept. New community radio stations face many challenges. In these times of financial constraints and polarized politics, it is not easy. Shared public space is harder to come by and thus all the more important for local community.
What challenges did the station face early on that most people would never guess?
We did not have the funds to build a studio for the first year and a half so we recorded our shows in the building's industrial space, inside what came to known as "the tent" - a collection of quilts hung from the ceiling to form a small enclosed "soundproof" space (not so much). Politicians and public officials sat in the tent and acted like everything was normal - never raised an eyebrow or said anything.
Our building is next to an alley with several bars on the other side, so for the first year and a half, the sound of beer trucks being unloaded was an integral part of the KHOI airwaves' sound.
Are there any particular ways you have found to best serve your local audience?
In these polarized times it is valuable to present various points of view so people who disagree can understand each other better, when they don't agree.
Being in Iowa, we interview the many presidential candidates who descend on our state in anticipation of the Iowa caucuses. It's a pressure-cooker.
We have a music scene in town so we hold monthly concerts by local musicians in the station and broadcast them live.
We have a morning show that explores the people, stories, and events in Central Iowa. It's the virtual living room.
How do you stay motivated doing the work you do?
The work is relentless, but it is not hard to stay motivated because communication is a never-ending fountain of joy, revelation, and spectacular moments. It feels like life, itself, and the next day, calls you back.
What tips do you give to those early in their community radio careers or who are looking to be more involved?
Community radio is only for the independent and enterprising, so discover what you can offer and get good at what you do. There really is always room at the top. Radio managers rely, more than you might think, on your coming forward. Cultivate the ability to identify needs and work collaboratively and dependably with station leaders. This opens doors for opportunities for support and funding. And remember, this is a great global family and tradition; the people in community radio are a great and generous resource.
Are there problems you hope the next generation of community radio leaders can solve?
Community radio has lost much of its traditional funding strategy, on-air pitching. New and diversified business plans are needed.
Reaching the next generations. Many younger people do not know how or where to listen to radio.
In these politically polarized times, with the decline of public space and discourse, community radio must work harder to establish agency.
Rising to the challenge of adequately covering climate crisis.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started?
Expect more rewards than you know to ask for.
Dream big but discern what is possible and what is not.
People do a lot of weird things not worth getting mad about. Get used to working with all kinds, whether you like them or not.
Go to the radio tower.
For some, search engine optimization was a buzzword from the early 2000s. However, more than ever, search engines are curating our experiences online. Using algorithms, users can find information they hear about on radio, television and elsewhere. The ubiquity of the Internet is getting more station leaders like you thinking about how you can leverage your station’s online presence more effectively.
If the technical parts of websites and search engine placement feel foreign, think of what a station has online in the lens of search intent, or the intention of the person searching online for information they find relevant to particular factual or transactional need. For example, Jane Public saw something on the news about the death of Grumpy Cat and she goes to Google to search for stories about the late feline meme sensation. Jane Public’s intent is to find factual details about the story from a source she finds credible. The goal of a publisher, like a radio station providing online content beyond its stream, is to appear in a variety of searches.
For some, drawing traffic has become an exhausting, even exasperating, exercise in overlong headlines that attempt to explain the whole story, or verbiage meant to entice or infuriate. As the BBC Academy says, SEO today is not about clickbait and cheap traffic. If people are already searching for information on a subject, they are already engaged. In fact, they are invested enough to search for a term before they even arrive at your site. How you connect with them is what matters.
Radio is still regarded as trustworthy by audiences and a credible news source, regardless of party affiliation. For stations, those new web visits mean potential revenue, new relationships and collaboration. And, if the Boston Globe, which recently acquired more digital than print subscribers, is any indication, our futures are most assuredly intertwined with technology.
How can you apply evolving search methodologies to boost your community radio endeavors? Here are a few reads to help.
A tech strategy session is among the happenings at the 2019 Community Media Conference. You have until June 10 to register for the conference. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.
- A massive number of online audiences get content from Google News. With more than 500 million visits and people staying an average of five and a half minutes on the site, Google News in fact drives a lot of traffic to publishers. How can your station’s original news content be featured in Google News? You can submit your station’s website to Google News Publisher for inclusion into the Google News platform. There are technical and individual page requirements such as URL structure, accessibility and layout guidelines.
- If the Google News Publisher makes you dizzy, never fear. Barry Adams gives common sense suggestions for media organizations dipping their toes into SEO. “It’s always important to understand that Google isn’t human and doesn’t understand language in the same way that humans do. Puns, jokes and wordplay don’t work with search engines. It’s an old-fashioned machine system that needs signposting."
- Not sure how to best write and structure your station’s website posts for search? CityLab’s Jessica Lee Martin wrote a brief, best practices document that sums what you need to know about headlines, your URL, article body and those critical first 100 words.
- But, if you want to be extra mercenary about it all, Axios has a data-based look at what stories tend to perform best on which platforms. "Politics, for example, is the No. 1 show in town on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, while it gets smothered on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram and Pinterest."
- Given the volume of programming from a radio station, there are numerous opportunities to transcribe an interview or discussion panel broadcast on air for purposes of website publishing. Radio shows like Democracy Now! do just that: posting transcripts of segments, which generate website traffic when the terminology used in the interviews appear in a search. Many tools online for transcribing radio are free and low-cost. They include Otter, Temi and Trint.