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"When your great passion and skill meets the world's great need,
therein lies your greatest fulfillment and success."

- Frederick Buechner

 
Since its beginning, radio has offered a warm and powerful medium for connecting the heart, the head, and the imagination. For those of us who work in community media, those connections are our most treasured currency. It is our passion for creative expression and our skill in illuminating the connections it fosters that makes our programming resonant and relevant. When we don’t do that, when we approach the craft as business as usual, we lose the spark. Without the spark, fulfillment drains from the experience, and without fulfillment, success cannot be attained. 
 
As we wind down the year at NFCB, we are enumerating the highlights we experienced in this newsletter. Once again, Ernesto delivers in his interview with the long-time General Manager of KUNM, Richard Towne. He also throws some fuel into the mix of things to ignite your passion and skills for your work in the coming year. 
 
This week I was volunteering as a DJ at my local community station. I took a call from a listener who told me that the radio had literally saved her life. She was struggling and the radio was a life line. It was a humbling reminder of the circle we try to complete: belonging, purpose, meaning. I can think of few experiences that are more fulfilling than making a difference in someone’s life that is constructive rather than destructive. It’s easy to forget that in the daily grind but as this season of reflection approaches… I hope you’ll take a moment to enumerate the fulfillment and success the year has brought you. It feels good and it is a great vaccine for cynicism.
 
Best,
 
Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
skane@nfcb.org
 

 

2020, 2021 NFCB events and more

NFCB is coming to the end of a successful 2019 that featured a national conference, continued work on a major community radio support initiative and webinars focused on fundraising, underwriting and many more topics. But 2020 is shaping up to be even better.
 
NFCB membership has empowered community radio stations through a range of services, including grant and resource education, webinars and substantial discounts for mission critical needs at stations. In addition, member support has put NFCB at the table of important conversations impacting community media. Members together strengthen NFCB’s effectiveness in communicating the value of what we do to policy makers and to the public at large.
 
Community radio stations that continue to support NFCB by maintaining their memberships, as well as stations joining NFCB before the end of the year, will be in the loop for some big 2020 announcements.

What exactly is in store for community radio in 2020?
  • In January, member stations can join community radio colleagues and some of noncommercial media’s best attorneys for an important training webinar on political broadcast rules and the 2020 election. Politics in the country is more prominent than ever, and your station will need to be aware of the latest regulations related to what your station can and cannot feature on the air. What are the rules for inviting candidates to be interviewed? Can you play music against President Donald Trump during primary season? Get your questions answered in the first webinar of the year, exclusively for NFCB member stations.
  • Be the first in the know for NFCB’s 2020 Community Media Digital Engagement Clinic, a multi-day seminar aimed at helping community radio station volunteers and staff — at the lowest cost possible — to get trained by some of the best educators around about all aspects of digital platforms for community media. From writing for online audiences to video production to engaging new connections in an organized, intentional and programmatic fashion, NFCB will equip your station and its producers with all the skills needed not only to create innovative digital content at little cost, but also to think through the strategic objectives your station may have for the digital space.
  • Get the first glimpse of dates and location for NFCB’s 2021 Community Media Conference. The Community Media Conference is the United States’ oldest and largest gathering of community radio stations. For more than 40 years, stations large and small, from coast to coast and beyond, have come to NFCB’s conference for leading edge conversations on station growth, equity, capacity building and much more. Following the most recent national conference, NFCB has been reviewing your feedback and ideas. The upcoming national convergence of community media activists, organizers, producers and leaders promises to be our biggest and best yet.
  • A full agenda of webinar trainings, including sessions on underwriting scripting, music reporting and good governance; new materials on planned giving, community radio podcasting and more; and a weekly update on grant and fellowship opportunities for stations, regulatory updates and access to the latest news and trends affecting stations.
NFCB wants to thank you for your continued engagement with our organization — your organization — built over decades through the efforts of people like you. Membership powers NFCB, and new and renewing members together show what community radio can truly be.
 
With vibrant programs and many surprises planned for 2020, please show your continued support for community media by renewing your station’s membership or by becoming a member today. Current members have already received renewal notices. Stations not currently members can get membership information here.
 
 

Richard Towne, KUNM

With more than 45 years of experience in non-commercial radio, Richard Towne has brought to community radio a heart and a head for all aspects of station and local life. His experience is diverse, and includes time with California’s KUOR and Public Radio International. Since 1994, Richard Towne has been manager of the University of New Mexico’s KUNM. The hybrid of local talk, news and music has won many awards over the years. He is today in the process of building for KUNM’s future.
 
You’re one of community radio’s veteran station managers. What has been the secret to your longevity?
 
Well, I started from a point of privilege and I've had a lot of good fortune over the years working with some truly great people. I still think radio is magical. And, as live broadcasters, we are never doing the same job twice. That part is really important.
 
I think the secret to my longevity is that I have never broadcast a commercial. If I see a commercial on TV, I immediately go and wash my hands. I've learned a lot over time; from mentors, colleagues, volunteers and students. I am happy every day I come to work. Mostly though, I have learned a lot from listeners in the communities I have served.
 
What did you learn after taking over as manager that you didn’t expect at KUNM?
 
I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of aspects. KUNM had a formidable reputation and I soon learned why. Our volunteer music programmers have a really deep working knowledge of all types of music. They are really delightful at presenting Freeform and our specialty music programs. I was surprised to find that the third turntable was for 78's. Another great thing I learned as I settled into life in New Mexico was how deeply KUNM was woven into the fabric of our communities. KUNM started in 1966, about 30 years before I got here. Nearly everybody I was meeting for the first time had a KUNM story -- maybe they used to volunteer or had been a guest on a show -- maybe they loved our Singing Wire or Train to Glory programs. KUNM was known and cherished by so many. I had a great starting point for my work here.
 
What KUNM initiatives keep you energized?
 
KUNM is an intense hybrid radio station. Started by students and still at the institution (University of New Mexico) but licensed to the Regents of UNM who are appointed by the Governor. Financially self-supporting with many UNM services but no cash. More than 100 community volunteer broadcasters. A full-time staff of five in our Newsroom. Five full-time fundraisers. Twenty paid staff total. With ten paid student interns. A mix of news from NPR, Democracy Now, Native America Calling (launched in 1996 at KUNM). Our YouTube music video channel for local bands recording in our deluxe 96-channel recording studio. Our partnership with Generation Justice - our Youth Media leadership co-conspirators.
 
I am excited to be building an endowment for KUNM's sustainable future - about $1 million in commitments to date. I am also working with younger leaders on our professional staff so they can fly the plane when I retire and step out someday.
 
Are there skills or tools you can’t do without as a manager?
 
I love sound, and working with sound. I love to listen, so that's important. I like the tool called Appreciative Inquiry to help me understand issues or topics coming into my office. Sometimes, people with ideas understand the "what" and the "when" but have not crystalised the "why" and the "how". That leads to collaborative discussion and development. Oh, if you can't plan, you can't manage people respectfully.

Richard Towne and Sayre Key-Towne at Generation Justice<
KUNM's Youth Media partner. Photo by Roberta Rael.
KUNM has been associated with NFCB for many years. Do you have any favorite NFCB memories to share?
 
I sure do. NARC 2, 1976 in Telluride, CO. The National Alternative Radio Conference was the early working wave of folks giving birth to NFCB. We were camping out with all-day work and late-night conversations around campfires. Lorenzo Milan was there. Visionaries like Tom Thomas and Terry Clifford, the awesome Nan Rubin, The McLears, and Bruce Theriault - so many people, so much curiosity, so much love of community. I was starting my third year as a noncommercial broadcast professional and the NARC 2 conference was hugely formative to my view of how noncommercial radio could serve the community. I never looked back. Now, look at NFCB as it exists today. Truly amazing.
 
Are there community radio issues you’d hoped we together would have solved by now?
 
There are a couple of challenges that need solutions. How do we collectively provide equity and sustainability for small and rural stations serving poorer communities whose people may not have enough discretionary income to support their vital community radio station? Can NFCB become a national beacon for philanthropists who are willing to help keep smaller stations in the business of providing a critical community voice? I wonder how KUNM will maintain its relevance in the community when there is not a strong allegiance to call letters for young people? We believe that community radio is well-positioned to continue serving into the medium-term future because of our legacy of community engagement as a hub of community information. How do we leverage that heritage strength to be the community hub of tomorrow, including in public places and all digital platforms?
 
Stations are going through lots of changes these days. If you would advise boards on what to look for in managers, what would you tell them?
 
I would advise board leaders to give me a call (no charge) and discuss any aspect of their search. I've helped plenty of stations and have the capacity to help plenty more. I approach hiring with a "heart and head" style. Recruit like crazy with both your head and your heart but let your heart lead. Once you have a bunch of applications in your applicant pool, use your heart and your head but let your head take the lead. If you don't have consensus on a finalist, lead with your head, not your heart.
 
I think board members should be networking in their region to make friends with non-profit leaders who might be interested in leading the station. Build a recruitment source list now so you have the foundation for launching a search when you need it. Join the Think.Public.Media website. They have done a beautiful job in bringing job seekers and public media employers together.
 
Is there one thing you are most proud of at KUNM?
 
KUNM is about people serving people. Any community radio station is exactly that. I am proud of the shared mutuality we have created between the volunteers, staff and students at KUNM. We have good people on our community advisory board. And I am proud of our donors for believing in our work and supporting us with their contributions. KUNM now reaches just over half of New Mexico's people so we serve all kinds of communities in our enchanting state. I am proud of our work to serve people from all walks of life. And I am proud of our mountains for holding up our antenna a mile above average terrain. That's pretty high!
 
What’s the best advice you ever got?
 
I am pretty fond of the carpenters' saying, "Measure once, cut twice. Measure twice, cut once." For me, this means a whole lot more than a saw and a board of wood. I still work with the advice "Think globally, act locally." Every community is going to be impacted by the global climate devastation. What does this mean for your community? Lastly, I had great advice about radio announcing, "When you become predictable, you become ignorable." Always bring value to your listeners.
 
 

Community radio resolutions for 2020

The new year is almost here. With the end of 2019, many of us take stock of the last 12 months. Did we get to the gym enough? Did cleaning go as planned? And did your station do everything it wanted to this year?
 
There is a good chance your community radio station had a variety of items on your to-do list when 2019 started. And you can’t necessarily be faulted if you did not get to everything. This has been a tumultuous year for community media. From the national Emergency Alert System test to ongoing Net Neutrality battles, the national landscape has been one of policy changes by the Federal Communications Commission, debates over public funding, cutbacks in states like Alaska and more. Still, station priorities need to get done. What should you tackle first? Locally, your stakeholders have ideas. But visionary leaders need to come to the table with strategies to move a station forward as well.

How important is planning for the next big initiative at your station? It's do or die time in many cities and towns. A new Knight Foundation report indicates the pressure community media faces are being felt everywhere. The public, it notes, needs to be better educated about the importance of support. "The financial strain resulting from changes to the business of making news — especially for the local newspaper industry — has left many communities with little or no local reporting. There is growing evidence of the harm caused by these growing “news deserts”: Fewer residents vote in elections, fewer people run for office, which means fewer choices for voters, and residents are less likely to say they are well-informed about the issues and candidates in local elections. Yet research has shown… that the vast majority of Americans are unaware that many local news organizations are in financial peril."

Here are suggestions for your 2020 resolution list:
  1. Build a more diverse organization, from leadership/staffing on down. The 2019 survey of newsrooms are 58 percent male and whites are overrepresented by 24 points, on average, compared to the communities the organizations serve. How does your station measure up? How can 2020 be a better year for diversity, equity and inclusion where you are? The new year could be a chance for a reset on this issue, if you haven’t devoted as much as you could to these subjects.
  2. Try something new with 2020 election coverage. The coming year offers a host of national, state and local elections for your station to dig into. Check out what a Minnesota organization did with calendar invitations as a community engagement tool. Or how about fact-checking via Whatsapp? There are many opportunities for community radio to do affordable, innovative work in 2020. Journalist's Resource offers more tips to cover local elections.
  3. Launch a station-produced podcast. The bloom has yet to come off the podcasting rose. That is because podcasting continues to see its listenership grow. Stations can still hop on the bandwagon. NFCB is set to release a community radio podcasting guide. In the meantime, check out the series by PRX and Google Podcasts called Podcasting 101. It is a ten-part video series to explain the very basics of podcasting. The videos are translated and subtitled into Spanish, Hindi and more languages.
  4. Evaluate your station’s programming. Community radio stations provide a treasure trove of local programming, but often don’t tend to the needs of DJs once they’re on the air. Program evaluations help your volunteer programmers improve and for the station to assess how it is meeting its mission and serving its audience. Does the idea of evaluating all your programs feel intimidating? Among the 2020 webinars NFCB is offering is one of how to do program evaluations. Programmer evaluation resources are already available in our members-only Solution Center — another good reason to join NFCB or renew your membership today!
  5. Be extra fearless on Instagram. The social media website is the go-to place for younger generations and a new playground for journalism and media groups. How is your community radio station using Instagram these days? It turns out all the focus on the platform is providing many insights and ideas you can borrow. Learn how students are experimenting on IG, using it to tell news stories and connect with others. 
Make sure to check out NFCB.org regularly for case studies of community radio stations doing unique programming, new initiatives and more.
 
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