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Bringing sunshine to community radio.
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“We travel only as far and as high as our hearts will take us.”
 Anasazi Foundation,
The Seven Paths:
Changing One's Way of Walking in the World
  
The month of May brought a whole lot of travel our way at NFCB. Our team went to Grand Rapids to launch our summer of Regional Summits. Our hosts from the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (home of NFCB member station WYCE) rolled out the red carpet and we got to try out a road show that was jam packed with practical tips and tools. We’ve got our sights set on Charlottesville in July and are grateful to the folks who attended and helped us get the season off to a good start.
 
A few days after Grand Rapids, Ernesto and I met in Chandler, Arizona to attend Native Public Media’s Native Broadcast Summit. As the quote above mentions, the heart has a role in where your travels take you and this event was straight from the heart. Ernesto and I were so humbled to be in the presence of Native broadcasters from across the country to learn about what they are creating and how they are navigating the many changes occurring around them. It was a great opportunity to connect with a number of our NFCB member stations and share the insights we have been collecting about the lay of the land in community radio.
 
We’ll be making lots of tracks this summer traveling around the country visiting stations and covering our summits and I can tell you that the amount of heart that goes into the work you all do is what keeps the wind in our sails at NFCB. It’s inspiring, it’s essential, and it’s valuable.
 
Hope to see you on the traveling road this summer!

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
skane@nfcb.org
 
 

Growth in Grand Rapids

In May, NFCB had the honor of welcoming community radio dreamers and doers to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our Regional Summit featured a range of stations, from Kansas City to Lincoln, from Indiana to Minnesota and beyond. The event happened May 17-19. Together, we learned so much about this treasured community media space, and how to make it better.

From interactive workshops to assist NFCB members to connect in more meaningful ways with existing donors to creating impactful content with slim resources, Regional Summits are aimed at positioning community radio stations to be more responsive in crucial moments. Plus, a special Leadership Seminar, led by NFCB CEO Sally Kane at all summits, gives high-level training stations rarely have access to locally.

NFCB's first summit of 2018 was hosted by WYCE via its parent organization, the Grand Rapids Community Media Center. GRCMC a multi-platform media and technology assistance organization whose mission is to build community through media. The summit was held at Wealthy Theater near downtown Grand Rapids.

Few cities and community media spaces xould be as interesting to start the 2018 summits as the scene in Michigan.

Grand Rapids is a beautiful town with a river running through it and a thriving public art scene. ArtPrize is a galvanizing force in this regard and now attracts over 500,000 visitors a year, leaving a legacy of lots of public art. The city has long held a commitment to public art spaces and culture as economic drivers in its community.

Focused on optimizing revenue, engagement, content and organizational capacity, NFCB’s Regional Summits are exclusive gatherings aimed at helping community media leaders work smart to accomplish great things for your community. These quality, low-cost gatherings are intended to fit your station’s budget and celebrate localism, a key value of community radio.

Sally Kane opened the summit with a look at NFCB and the community radio ecosystem. Her talk focused on how local stations can be most impactful as organizations to listeners and constituencies.
 
Summit panels featured a diverse range of subjects. Mike Beach, John Groundwater and Tanya Marie Singh talked about the importance of emergency preparedness for community radio, given the growing number of natural disasters as well as human-created incidents nationwide. Melanie Coulson of Greater Public took a deep dive into fundraising, from sustainer programs to cultivating relationships with donors. Creative Many's Joe Voss brought together Grand Rapids stakeholders to show how stations could turn partnerships into more substantive results for community media. And finally, Quinn Matthews and Shane German of host station WYCE took attendees behind the scenes of its extensive volunteer training program, automation, social media and other tools that have made WYCE an award-winning, successful community radio station.
 
Neenah Ellis of WYSO was one of the Regional Summit's big hits. Her presentation focused on ways of fostering community through conversations sparked by radio. She showed how her station uses its content to further its mission and attract listeners in more innovative ways. Julia Haslanger of Hearken explored related themes as community media looks to engage audiences and have more inclusive discussions.
 
NFCB looks forward to seeing stations like yours at Regional Summits in Charlottesville in July and Santa Rosa in September. For more information, please visit NFCB's Regional Summit page.
 
 

Nathan Moore, WTJU

When NFCB Board Treasurer and WTJU General Manager Nathan Moore was a teenager, he watched a movie called Pump Up The Volume, in which Christian Slater operates a pirate radio station out of his basement and later his Jeep. Nathan says he had neither a radio station nor a Jeep, but thought that looked "cool as hell." Twenty years later, he works in non-commercial radio, now as the manager of the station hosting NFCB's Regional Summit in July.

Moore still does not have a Jeep, but did answer some questions about community media.

What has kept you motivated for so long in community radio?
 
It's kind of crazy -- this is now my 20th year working in college and community radio, and I've had a lot of motivations for that work over the years. Sometimes it has been the sheer fun or sense of purpose in creating something beautiful or thought-provoking. Sometimes for the challenge and joy of empowering and guiding others to do the same. Sometimes, I've been driven by a Gramscian impulse to change the status quo through media.
 
But the constant that keeps me going is summed up well by an old Vonnegut quote: "The most daring thing young people can do is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured." We live in a world that is at once interconnected technologically yet deeply atomized socially. There are few institutions that bring people together in genuine communities. Community radio stations can serve as some of the best institutions to do just that.
 
What keeps me going is an urge to nurture my community's sense of itself -- using music and conversation to help people feel connected to one another and to actively, constructively participate in our community. The medium of radio happens to be one really good way to do that, and it's a medium I really like working in.
 
In working with students, what insight have you gained about what attracts young people to radio? What do college students find most interesting about radio?
 
WTJU's student-run sister station, WXTJ 100.1 FM, is only a few years old, so it's been really interesting to watch it form brand new traditions from scratch. What brings UVA students in the door is often a passion for music -- especially music that's a little more on the fringes. As students settle into WXTJ, they find a creative community of people who are also into music, arts, and all manner of creative endeavors.
 
What I was genuinely surprised by was how the students use the term "radio" in a more expansive way than I'm used to. "WXTJ" and "WTJU" are the broadcast stations we run, but for the students here, "radio" means broadcasting plus an entire community of people, house concerts, art shows, an annual concert in the UVA Chapel, and more. Being part of "radio" means all those things, not just DJing. I think that student-driven community centered around music and arts, with actual broadcasting as an organizing hub, is what the students are really after. Finding a place to belong and nurture creative possibilities.

How has working with college students changed the way you talk about and relate to radio? You teach students about radio, but what have they taught you?
 
The biggest thing is that it makes me not let up on the gas. The media landscape has been changing for a long time, and tougher changes (for our medium) are coming before too long. When every car has on-board 4G+ connectivity, with Spotify and Pandora alongside FM, what's the value proposition of FM radio? On that car dashboard, why do we matter to a listener?
 
Working with and around young people reminds me every single day to work toward an answer to that question. I see their media consumption habits and priorities. I hear how they talk about radio. They remind me to think about radio more expansively. Spinning great records on FM radio remains very important. But it is not sufficient for the future of this station or this medium.

What's the best part about what you do?
 
I have always considered myself a generalist, so the best part is the variety itself. On a given day, I might record an interview in the studio, write a grant, deliver a talk at the University, drive to the transmitter to fix something that knocked WTJU off the air, analyze our latest audience data, and work on plans for our fall concert series. (This combination literally occurred a couple weeks ago.)

Paired with that variety, the best part is getting to try some new things. Some projects and ideas ended up being flops, but others -- like that fall concert series -- are now signature parts of what we do.
 
What tool can you not live without in your job?
 
I use dozens and dozens of different tools in my work, but the most indispensable one is probably my phone. I use it for email, browsing, and phone calls, obviously. But I also use it for WTJU's social media management, music playing, interview recording, video production, audio streaming, and more. I've even used it as a back-up studio-transmitter link in emergencies -- playing WTJU's webstream through the phone and plugging the audio output into the back of our transmitter. (It's important to remember to turn on call forwarding when doing this trick.)
You've worked in very decentralized stations. What advice would you give those who are there and feel really frustrated by such organizations?
 
There are many ways to structure an organization in terms of decision-making. Different arrangements on the centralized-decentralized spectrum each have their strengths and weaknesses.
 
Honestly, though, frustrations with a "decentralized" structure are often just frustrations with an organization that has grown stagnant -- unable to take a hard look at itself, question everything, re-assess its mission and role in the community, and put the pieces back together into an effective plan for the station to thrive in the future.
 
No matter what structure a station chooses, balancing the interests of the many stakeholders involved in a community radio station often proves challenging. Regardless of the chosen decision-making structure, the deciders (whoever they are) should:
  • Always stay rooted in mission and audience service.
  • Listen to your people.
  • Use real data.
  • Make balanced decisions. 

I could go on and on about what each of these means. But if the deciders center themselves in these practices when approaching tough organizational and programming questions, better outcomes for the station are much more likely.
 
If the station seems really stuck in a rut, that can be overcome. An effective coalition builder can make a big impact in a decentralized structure -- appealing to the very values that make these stations so special.
 
Just remember: everybody wants to be heard; everybody wants to be respected; everybody wants to feel a sense of belonging. And there are no magic bullets to get there -- just a lot of conversations and bringing a large number of people with you.

What do you most wish you'd known when you started this journey?
 
I'll be honest, in my teens and 20s, I was pretty gun-shy about fundraising. I went through the motions, and I developed pretty good skills at on-air pitching and membership letter writing. But I didn't really like it.

It took me a while to understand that fundraising isn't an annoyance or distraction or necessary evil -- or at least doesn't have to be. Rather, it's another way to deepen relationships. Especially the relationship between the station and listeners, but also potentially the relationship between listeners and one another.
 
People -- including many younger people -- want to support organizations that are genuine and doing meaningful work in and for their communities. Fewer people want to simply become "members," but more people want to have an authentic sense of connection. Investing in a station and its content is an extension of that.
 
Got a good idea that'll make your station shine? Get creative about involving the community in all sorts of ways -- including financial support. It's part of making this crazy project called community radio actually work for our communities.
 

 

10 great digital tools

'Digital strategy' is a catch-all term that has incorporated everything from social media to video to websites. And it is not just for the big dogs of commercial radio and television. Smartphones, cheaper gear and the youth movement on social platforms have all made digital storytelling more accessible than ever. Your station can join in as never before.

Community radio has no shortage of volunteers interested in social media and video, but the sheer number of apps, ideas and online gizmos can make plotting the best plan quite perplexing. What are the best ones to use?

Here are ten tools to get you started.

  1. Everyone's talking about podcasts, and your station may have the equipment, but not the time. How about trying Anchor? The free app for Android and iOS puts all the resources for podcasting right on your smartphone. With it, you can podcast anytime, anywhere. Use it to experiment with new ideas or just to try out podcasting in different venues.
  2. The Crowdtangle Chrome extension helps you see how often a link from your website or social media has been shared, who shared it and what they said. The free resource shows you aggregate share counts, as well as the specific Facebook Page posts, Tweets and Subreddits that shared a URL.
  3. Your station may do hours of interviews each week. Why not turn those into social media content with InterviewJS? The free tool makes interviews into embeddable interactive chats that you can share online with audiences. Say the creators, "Storytellers are taken through the process of building a chat story from creating interviewee profiles to composing interactive messaging exchanges combining text, videos, maps, audio, charts or any other type of embeddable content. The result: mobile-friendly stories in the form of an embeddable web app that enable users to engage with interviewees seemingly directly. They can be shared on social media or embedded on your website."
  4. Do listeners share, reference and ask about videos they see online? Want to help your audience separate video fact from fiction? The InVid browser extension allows you to paste a link from YouTube, Facebook or Twitter and get more information about the video's origins. InVid also helps you by allowing extraction of key frames for further inspection.
  5. If your station uses Twitter or wants to break down a conversation on Twitter for the audience, Thread Reader helps you present Twitter in a more accessible way for those who are not as familiar with the platform.
  6. You might love Instagram, but don't neglect some of the fun add-ons. Boomerang takes photos of actions to create GIF-like images that can add some zing to your account. Regrann is among many applications where you can repost with credit photos and video – perfect for that station event where you can curate others' photographs and footage of the big day.
  7. Always wanted to do an explainer video, but not sure where to start? PBS LearningMedia created StoryBoard to allow you to incorporate PBS videos, graphics, and text into a an explainer for a topic. They also feature a Quiz Maker for your storytelling endeavors.
  8. If you want to craft some cool video, apps like Quik and PowerDirector put a massive set of video enhancements, voiceover components and more right in your station's hands.
  9. The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism has introduced PathChartr as a tool to help organizations tell interactive stories. "PathChartr allows journalists and others to quickly create question-and-answer-driven interactives that deliver personalized information. The goal: to help people navigate complex issues and make decisions of all kinds."
  10. Looking to manage and collaborate on bookmarks your station can use for its projects? Or just a place where listeners can submit items of interest? From Google Docs to Trello, there are many apps for this purpose. Raindrop is just one of many you can utilize.

The power of convening

NFCB's Regional Summit in Charlottesville features a session called Digital Team of One (or Two): Tips to Thrive and Not Just Survive in the Digital Media Landscape, featuring Samantha Ragland. Her extensive experience as a journalist and educator includes print and digital, as well as mentorship and intensive training work.

Ragland notes, "You see, you don’t have to know everything in order to have a successful digital media strategy and team. Expect a deep dive into digital channels far and wide: from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to newsletters and push alerts. We’ll identify the greatest need among the group and dig in, discussing best practices for content selection and creation. After learning how to excel on a few specific digital platforms, we’ll work together on the foundational elements of a digital strategy, so be prepared to think, write and share. Part of this process will include crafting the perfect, project pitch, which is often where upper management buy-in begins."

Samantha is collecting your responses on what participants would like to see in this session. You can register to attend here.
 
We hope to see you soon.
 
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