Lift up communities through media
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"Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy."
- Walter Cronkite

News coverage of 900 communities in the U.S. has gone dry since 2004. News media today polls as unfavorably as Congress. Press-Government relations are strained well beyond a breaking point while inflamed anti-media rhetoric burns like the wildfires ravaging the West. You can read source articles about news deserts from Poynter’s Tom Stites HERE and get familiar with the campaign to protect our first amendment that Free Press has launched HERE. Suffice to say, it’s not a pretty picture.

Please click the links above and take a gander because there are bright spots too. Three hundred newspapers have pushed back against the tide via editorials. Though confidence in media writ large is at a very low ebb, people still have a high degree of trust in local media. That’s very good news for local media services like yours. It comes with a sense of urgency to do your best work ever.

Doing your best work is what NFCB’s Regional Summits have been all about this summer. We’ve spent time with dozens of station leaders, diving deep into the nature of leadership, the alchemy of team building, and the power of strategic decision-making.

Enjoy the fruits of Ernesto’s harvesting labor in this autumn newsletter. Our team here at NFCB couldn’t be more proud of the work you do and of our earnest efforts to help you make it count. The stakes are high, but so are the rewards!

Happy fall,

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters


Station safety and security

In August, shots rang out at community radio station WORT in Madison. A late-night assault at the Wisconsin community media institution left one person wounded with non-life threatening injuries. A suspect, reportedly masked, remains at large.
Gun violence at community radio stations is a rarity. In 2007, Houston's KPFT had a shot fired into its studio by a passing car, but such incidents are otherwise few and far between. However, with White House criticism of the media and physical attacks of journalists elsewhere, there are many worries about safety. Heightened tensions may get station organizers and managers strategizing on how to protect volunteers and staff in the best and most unobtrusive way possible.
Although there have been concerns the national rancor over the media played a factor in the WORT shooting, local law enforcement has unequivocally stated the incident had nothing to do with targeting of media. Nevertheless, what has transpired in Madison may push your community radio station to think more about building security, overnights and beyond.
How is your station doing with basic security measures? Is your internal culture one where volunteers are aware of safety on premises, or are people a bit too comfortable, even complacent, when it comes to danger? Do you hear about volunteers propping open doors at night, leaving the station studios accessible to anyone, or oblivious to the possibility of a robbery, assault or other crime?
There are many places to begin your journey to a safer community radio station.
A few reads on the issue of community media security include:
  • The best place to begin may be your local or state emergency communications apparatuses. These regional committees compile scenarios, tests and knowledge for stations like yours, so you are ready for any emergency that comes your way. You can find your local task force at the FCC's website.
  • Another federal resource is the Centers for Disease Control, which presents scenarios and tips for organizations like yours to tackle emergencies.
  • The Public Radio Satellite System has a PDF manual online for business continuity in the event of catastrophe. PRSS is one of the most experienced units at emergencies, and these lessons come from hard-won victories. "No matter how carefully you plan, there will always be surprises. A lightning strike may damage sensitive equipment, or snow may fill the dish. There is only so much your station can do to prevent these things from happening, but with careful planning you can minimize the damage that results. Business continuity planning (sometimes called disaster planning) helps make sure that your operation—delivering audio to your listeners—continues, or recovers as quickly as possible, in extraordinary circumstances."
  • It is a legacy website, but SAFERStations is still referred to by many leaders in community media because it is one of the best collections of guidelines and tools for stations preparing for emergency situations. Drawing from experiences of stations that have survived local disasters, the resource helps the newbie as well as the seasoned readiness expert to get your station on the right track.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has introduced an active shooter preparedness toolkit for a range of audiences. DHS believes anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts of an active shooter incident, and rolls out materials to help your organization. has a quick tipsheet, too.
  • The National Crime Prevention Council offers a PDF manual for school security that covers issues community radio may also adopt. Organizing an action team, identifying potential safety issues, training, and developing a full plan are among the recommendations that apply to stations as well.
  • On Sept. 20, there will be a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. The EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) website is a great place to ready your station for the national event and to learn about security.
Member stations have access to emergency preparedness resources in the Solution Center. If you're not a member of NFCB now, start your station's 2019 off right and join now.

Sean Spence, KOPN

Sean Spence’s career is filled with diverse and complementary activities – with particular emphasis on building organizations, marketing, event production, and fundraising (having raised well over $20 million in his career). He has started and run two successful businesses – The Sunrise Agency (a marketing firm) and Community Events (event production) – served on the leadership team of a $700 million e-commerce company, and worked in a variety of capacities that give him special understanding and expertise in marketing and organization building. Today, Sean is CEO of online ticketing start-up EveryEventGives and general manager of KOPN community radio station. Sean is an active community contributor, both as a supporter of existing activities and a creator of new programs.

You came to your station with a lot of nonprofit experience, and fresh eyes to community radio management. What were the first areas you found were easiest to improve?

Well, this will shock some folks, but fundraising was where we found the quickest, easiest improvements. You don’t have to be a brilliant fundraiser to implement modern fundraising techniques and make it a real focus. Just knowing the mechanics of good fundraising can make a big difference, and pretty quickly.
How have you created new interest in a station with the kind of history KOPN has?
KOPN just passed our 45th birthday, so we have a long, proud history here in Mid-Missouri. Our goal lately has just been to try lots of things – lots of community events and activities – and talk about what we are doing so people can see how full of life we are. We have had concerts, speaking events, a political candidate forum that we hosted with the newspaper, and several other things. We want people to see that it is a new day for KOPN.
With a development background, you have an uncommon pedigree as a general manager. How would you recommend managers without development experience cultivate such awareness in their work?
The first step is to fully realize that the final responsibility for fundraising is ours; as general manager, the buck stops with us. After that, the biggest thing is just to learn about good fundraising – go online, read books, call other general managers around the country and pick their brains. Make the time to learn; do the work; raise the money. There really is no other option.
What issues do you believe stations need to most understand about fundraising?
The number one reason people give to any cause is because someone asks them. So get ready to ask and ask and ask. Don’t be afraid of it. By asking, we are giving people the opportunity to be a part of something big and important – community radio – and we should be proud to ask them. People will say no a lot, but that’s fine, too. People will do what they can, when they can, and it is up to us to ask them, and make sure they know what we need.

What have been your biggest challenges so far, and how did you solve them?
When I say this, I am betting there will not be a single GM who disagrees with me. The people. All at once, the people are the greatest treasure and the greatest challenge. Pretty much every day, there is someone who is upset about something; someone who disagrees with me about something; someone to deal with who has, shall we say, a “challenging personal style”; someone who has advice about how I should do my job; and the list goes on and on. I am not always successful, but I work hard to deal with all of this by constantly reminding myself that all of these people are only an issue because what we are doing is important and valuable to them, and part of my job is to help them contribute and have an awesome experience with us. And sometimes – no matter how irritating it may be to me – they are right and I am wrong. There is so much to learn from these incredible, crazy people who make up community radio, something I am reminded of every day.
Complete this sentence: I can't do this job as well without ____.
… always remembering the history and culture and the community radio brand that have made this place what it is. Thankfully, on those occasions when I might forget this – in the name of raising money or whatever – there is always someone there to remind me.
And finally, if you got a call from someone interested in being a community radio manager, what advice would you give?
Learn stress management. Know and stay true to the heart of community radio. Learn to raise money.

Regional Summit preview

From Sept. 20-22, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters will host its final Regional Summit of 2018 in Santa Rosa, California. This month's summit follows a pair of successful events in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charlottesville, Virginia. Santa Rosa is shaping up to be the best yet, with attendance at capacity.
Some of the highlights include Marilyn Pittman, who has trained some of the biggest names in public and community radio; internationally known speaker and author Kim Klein; KBOO Development Director (and incoming KCAW General Manager) Becky Meiers; and Samantha Ragland, manager of digital storytelling at The Palm Beach Post.

A lunch chat on community radio archiving featuring Rebecca Fraimow, an emergency preparedness plenary moderated by veteran journalist Steve Mencher, and a meeting of numerous Northern California stations to build their collaborative muscle are reminders of the value of these intimate convenings. NFCB's regional gatherings provide stations a chance to meet others in their areas in small-group learning experiences that are rare for our space.

For a sense of what NFCB's events are like, you can see the Regional Summit agenda here.
As NFCB prepares for its 2019 national conference, the final 2018 meetup comes at a critical time for this Northern California town.

Just 55 miles north of San Francisco in the heart of the California Wine Country, Santa Rosa features a thriving downtown area that boasts a plethora of wineries, brewpubs, cycling trails, shops, and amazing restaurants. Though wildfires took a major toll on this community last fall, the city remains strong. The summit is being held downtown at the Glaser Center.
While the venue is sold out, you can follow the event on social media. NFCB's Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram. Member stations will be able to access presentation slides later in the Solution Center.

Please visit NFCB's website for post-summit updates and announcements about the 2019 Community Media Conference, slated for June, 2019.

Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of community media, local voices, and civic engagement.
Copyright © 2018 NFCB, All rights reserved.

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