“Power means nothing in a world without love.”
- Joe Purdy from his song "New Year’s Eve"
I’m not sorry to see 2018 go, though I am filled with lots of good radio memories. 2019 however is a potent year that is already shining! I remain grateful to be engaged in this meaningful work in service to community radio and the positive infusion that all of you provide every day to communities large and small across this country. I’m so honored to share the road with you and I am confident that the year ahead will deliver the services, support, stimulation, training, and inspiration that you need from NFCB. We’re here for you. The lights are on and we are ready to engage and make some waves….. with you and for you.
Ernesto collected the following figures from 2018 to remind us of what we accomplished and to clear the way for the new horizon that comes with a brand new year.
2018 at a Glance
4,600 followers on social media channels
188 attendees to the 2018 Regional Summits
700 subscribers to NFCB’s monthly newsletter
220 station staff, boards members and volunteers supported through webinars
500+ radio managers, board members and volunteers on our listserve
2,000 visits to the Solution Center and 20,000 visits to NFCB.org
Hope you’ll join us in San Diego in June for the conference. We love to visit too, so keep that in mind. Pick up the phone anytime when you want a sounding board, some encouragement, or some help with a tricky situation.
Most importantly, best wishes for your health and well-being in 2019….you champion builders of a world with plenty of love.
Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Civility in community radio
If you work in community radio or are providing unpaid work in the form of volunteerism, chances are you have seen tension from time to time. Ups and downs are part of the human experience. However, when these difficulties become institutionalized, ferreting them out and creating a more equitable space in service to our mission is not easy. Tackling endemic conflicts has made civility in our space a crucial one in community media.
Incidents of institutionalized problems are widespread. On Dec. 19, New York Public Radio announced longtime CEO Laura Walker would step down in 2019. Walker led the organization’s radio station, WNYC, to phenomenal growth over more than two decades at the helm. However, ugly scandals and allegations she and deputy Dean Cappello looked the other way when abusive behavior drew complaints clouded her final years in at the megastation.
In 2017, news reports surfaced of sexual harassment and abusive behavior by station personalities John Hockenberry, Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz. Troubling to many were suggestions Hockenberry was allowed to retire from WNYC rather be fired for his extensively documented actions. The Cut’s damning expose of WNYC’s internal culture and the outcry from the public prompted an apology from Walker.
As of June, 2019, Walker will be out, in what has been termed a mutual decision.
The WNYC affair as well as issues at Minnesota Public Radio, WBUR and other organizations should prompt community radio to consider where they are in relationship to civility in the workplace. How we understand it and achieve it are healthy discussions for community radio.
Researcher Lars Andersson explains that workplace civility is composed of behaviors that help preserve mutual respect in the workplace. It goes beyond matters of sexual harassment, bullying and other behaviors, but an understanding that the workplace itself is fundamentally changing. Where the workplace was once a locale where things were always to be neutral, civility understands such notions were never really accurate. People bring values and baggage to the office, and clarity on civility means one navigates to a place of respect for everyone.
Community radio stations nationwide have seen a range of conflicts, from clashes with governance to manager dismissals to volunteers going public about feeling excluded from decisionmaking. Where the old top-down model used to work in many private as well as nonprofit organizations, new expectations regarding transparency and equity are the order of the day. Today, it is up to community media to note these winds of change and set course appropriately.
How can community radio create an inclusive environment? How can stations set a tone that appreciates boundaries and respects individual differences? What qualities can your organization embody that help it fully realize its potential?
Longtime radio host Krista Tippett says, “Somehow we used to be able to pretend that we could separate these spheres out, but I think any leader of an organization now has to take in and acknowledge that people are coming to work, feeling all the feelings, having all the reactions around the things that are happening in public life now.”
It is key to understand civility is a shared responsibility, and not as elusive to define. While every community radio station is different, the principles of civility and fairness are in many ways universal. Intimidation, bullying and other actions have no place in our environments. On a smaller scale, courtesy, respect and listening should also be prioritized.
These are not simple moral matters, but business ones. Studies indicate problems like bullying, for example, result in high absenteeism, reduced productivity, staff turnover and extra health care costs. The costs of lawsuits over abuse are into the hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide.
Agreements on civility need to be straightforward and clear. Consider Google’s new rules, issued last year after public rows. They define and outline what behavior is considered uncivil, and the penalties for same. While many a community radio station has its ‘but if’ or ‘what about’ contrarian undertones, shifting sands may encourage everyone to set policy not to protect outliers and abusive behavior, but to make the space one all want to come to.
NFCB member stations have a variety of tools, including policy templates, handbooks and other materials in the Solution Center, an on-demand knowledgebase for community radio. In addition, NFCB’s webinars have offered station leaders guidance on addressing harassment at stations, among other topics. Not a current member? You can join today.
At the 2019 Community Media Conference, sessions on leading through resistance and consensus decisionmaking are among those to help you through new challenges. Learn more here.
Zach Zimmerman, KHOL
Zach Zimmerman has called Jackson, Wy. home for most of the last decade, despite his friends' and family's attempts (and occasional successes) to lure him back to his native California. When he's not herding cats at Jackson Hole Community Radio, he can be found being herded by his wife and two dogs -- hopefully while snowboarding or mountain biking. He also plays drums in a band called The Otters.
What was your journey that brought you to community radio?
My journey started in high school with KVHS in Clayton, Calif., "90.5 The Edge." I grew up in a music loving family, and as soon as I could get myself to this neighboring high school to be involved regularly I was hooked. By the end of high school I was working there about as much as I was going to class!
What was the moment you decided you wanted to make leading a station part of your daily life?
It really never crossed my mind until the opportunity presented itself. I was involved here at KHOL in Jackson as a volunteer programmer almost since our inception in 2008. I was going through some other life/employment/getting old changes around the same time that our founder announced his resignation from the GM position, about 3 years ago. I threw my hat in the ring, and it worked out great.
Take us through a recent work day.
I live five blocks from work, so it starts with a real short bike ride or walk depending on the weather. The usual email barrage starts the morning in the office, as I try my best to never check email outside of office hours. I also check in with my two paid staff who handle our community affairs programming, underwriting, and music direction. We, or rather I, train new programmers on an on demand basis, so there are usually some new volunteers in some stage of the training process orbiting around, making a prerecorded show for us or trying to find their way onto our schedule. We are also the only place in the region with a digital recording phone system, so we often have some kind of contract recording session in one of our two production rooms. Aside from that, there is always the fundraising and outreach element, whether we are prepping for a campaign or partnering in a community event, I usually spend part of the day working on something that raises the station's profile and hopefully a few dollars along the way.
When are things most difficult, and how do you get through it?
Donor fatigue in our small town and finding enough reliable year 'round volunteers are our two biggest challenges. To get through these challenges I try to keep in mind that the people are out there, even in our 40,000-person community/broadcast range, and that it's all about how to connect with them in creative new ways. If even three percent of our overall population would donate to the station we'd be in great shape (it's a little more than one percent right now). If one-half of one percent wanted to volunteer with us, our airwaves would be overflowing. So constantly trying new outreach approaches is my main method to overcome these challenges.
Are there challenges you have figured out that others have not?
So far we've been able to keep our heads above water as a relatively new organization in a small valley that has 250+ nonprofits. Not everyone makes it, and we just passed the decade mark. We're not getting rich, but we're not running from collections (yet!) so that's positive.
What personal trait has been most beneficial to you in community radio?
Patience and the ability to multitask are tied at the top there.
Name two topics you’d like for the next generation to solve for community radio, and why.
Why is community radio still relevant in the age of podcasts and bottomless choose-your-own free content? I have my answers, but I think that is a major discussion that will inform the future of our medium.
How can independent media outlets remain independent, but use our united voices to let the world know we're still here, and not going anywhere? I know, the answer of course is NFCB. But I think there are other possibilities that haven't been imagined yet.
What tools do you often use as a manager?
Phillips head screwdriver most often. Tape and pliers are a close second and third.
What is your workspace like?
We're located in the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, with about 18 other nonprofits, so there's always something going on in the building, which is great. We have windows that look out at the mountains -- both are a blessing and a curse -- and you can see right into the on-air studio from the lobby, so we get all sorts of visitors. We only have three people on staff, so our actual office is pretty small. Our music library doubles as our in-studio performance space, then we have our on-air room and two production rooms. So we make the most of our small space.
How do you track what you have to do?
It's a mix of short-term goals and long-term vision. I rely mostly on a mental priorities list and my support staff to keep up with the constantly changing scope of work.
What the best advice you ever got?
One of my dad's favorite sayings is something to the effect of "No one wakes up and decides I'm going to do a terrible job at life today." Basically, meaning everyone is trying their hardest, despite what it seems like sometimes, so try to see the best in everyone, and give them as much credit as you can, because you don't know what else is going on in their life. I'm not good at doing that all the time, but I like the concept.
What do you always recommend others read?
I'm an avid reader, where to begin? Read the PSAs and on air schedule! Non work/radio related I'm all over the place. We have a solid weekly local paper, which I am thankful for. I read lots of magazines; Harpers, The Atlantic, Utne Reader, Juxtapoz & National Geographic (damn you News Corp!) are some favorites. For books I recently enjoyed Burn this Book, compiled by Toni Morrison and Barons of the Sea by Stephen Ujifusa.
Mentorship and transition planning
In the last few years, community radio has seen a wave of retirements by prominent managers. In many instances, these departures leave a vacuum at a station, with no apparent leaders ready or able to step in pending a search. Such gaps point to a major need in community media: transition planning and mentoring the next generation to lead a station.
There are obvious as well as hidden benefits to mentorship. Beyond helping stations, grooming new leaders in community media makes a station attractive to prospective employees. Why? These sorts of transition planning efforts break down barriers within an organization and encourage communication. Guidance from mentors helps foster relationships for mentees, and helps stations create competencies. The effects will last longer than one mentee.
Think college graduates are simply looking to jump into the private sector? Think again. More and more young people are interested in nonprofit careers, and more advice for them is out there than ever before. The problems nonprofits face without new leadership initiatives should be evident: without new people coming in, organizations ultimately falter. Worse, those who come in repeat old mistakes current administrations learned long ago.
While Next Generation Radio and other programs have created opportunities, many community outlets have yet to embrace the need for planning for the future. How do we create an urgency for mentorship that may not exist?
Leadership development such as mentorship programs are capacity questions at many stations. Understanding what needs to be done, identifying mentors and cultivating a growth track for mentees are just a few questions you should answer. But that is not all.
Here are a few tips to get you thinking about community radio mentorship and organizing your local efforts in leadership development:
Leadership development is among the many subjects expected to be on the schedule at the 2019 Community Media Conference. You are encouraged to follow conference agenda updates and more announcements at the NFCB conference page. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego, June 18-20.
- Kam Phillips’ TED talk on mentorship may inspire you. She quickly recognized her different life experiences could help others, and that she should take a practical approach to mentorship. She refers to the experience of learning how to mentor as “everything that led me to doing what I do now and doing what I do on a daily basis was guidance and support, and every opportunity that I had to sit down face-to-face with someone and ask those questions, or every time then I made a mistake and thought what would insert mentor here do.” Her insights frame mentorship as an organic experience.
- Your official permission to be a know-it-all is a manifesto of sorts to push you who have been around awhile (as well as those who have not) to give a lift to those who have not. “I don’t have the receipts, but as a human humaning in the world, I carry the sneaking suspicion that many people shy away from mentoring because it sounds so official. Few people who are tolerable to be around consider themselves an authority on a given subject, and the title “mentor” carries some gravitas,” Roxann Elliott writes. “In short, people are almost scared of calling themselves A Mentor™ – scared of being an imposter. I’m not allowed to use bad words, here, so I’ll channel former Vice President Joe Biden and say, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”
- Mentorship is more than us, but also the community. Consider a nonprofit publication’s effort to mentor military families in writing, providing feedback and teaching. By helping mentees publish first-person narratives, the publication improved its coverage and military families got an opportunity to share their perspectives with audiences that may not otherwise be affected by military service. “One of the cool things about the seminars is that it’s an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for pieces and you have a built in sounding board to see what resonates with other people,” said Elizabeth O’Herrin, a veteran who has participated in two seminars and written a number of pieces for The War Horse on topics such as the challenge of connecting with others after returning home from serving overseas and her wishes to be able to discuss and compare war experiences with her late grandfather.
- Black Public Media’s Black Paper just came out and identified inclusion as a major barrier for people of color in the media space. Gatekeepers and a lack of access to networks were among the issues named. A few remedies are also offered.
- The Society for Human Resources Management suggests best practices in creating your own mentorship program. Clear roles, guidelines and effectively pairing mentors are among the benchmarks for a good program. The post also features a standard form you can use to kickstart your own endeavor.
- Speaking of policy, Chief Learning Officer offers approaches you can utilize to ensure a safe environment for mentees.
- A study of 100 endeavors breaks down what works and hasn’t in mentor-mentee relationships. Asking lots of questions, identifying distinct problems and challenges, and unpacking needs purposefully rather than all at once are just a few takeaways.
- The Online News Association’s 2018 conference has notes from the Making the Case for Making the Time session, including audio from the panel. Central to this conversation is enticing potential mentors to participate, revealed to be one of the hardest parts of building a mentorship program.
- Steal This: Tips and Tricks for Creating Your Own Coaching Initiative presents ideas you’re encouraged to apply elsewhere. “Journalism isn’t the only industry where there’s a need for mentorship, and women aren’t the only people looking for mentors. Similar mentorship projects could (and should!) be created for underrepresented groups in other industries, communities and workplaces.” Among the recommendations: vetting the right coaches, setting goals and being clear on how you help others.