when i sing of seeds
i sing down seven generations
times seven times seven.
when i sing of seeds
my song never ends
my song never ends when i sing of seeds
This month in our newsletter, Ernesto has included an interview with Development Director Extraordinaire, Mary Oishi, who just retired from KUNM. Like many, I will miss her. I’ve learned from Mary. I have received her encouragement and kindness when I needed it most. Like others in community radio circles, Mary had many talents. I’m opening this letter with the last stanza of her poem “ When I Sing of Seeds.” I hear her voice speaking the words…smooth as silk.
It’s a fitting poem for broadcasters because that word came to us from farmers scattering (broadcasting) seeds. It’s a fitting time to sing down seven generations too, as new generations are rising up and older generations are winding it down, in our radio field of play.
No matter the generation you are moving in, all of us here at NFCB want to plant the seed for you to attend the Community Media Conference coming up in June in San Diego. The conference is a whole sack of various seeds. You can pick and choose, you can take them home, you can plant them in your station culture, you can tend them and watch them grow. Seven generations down the road, someone you will never know will connect and find a sense of belonging because you planted a seed and kept the radio magic going. Cross pollinate your ideas at the conference. Bring the seeds of your inspiration and share them with others. Join us for a learning celebration that will plant many seeds and make the resulting landscape more resilient and more beautiful.
Fare thee well Mary….thank you for all the seeds you have planted and for singing them down the generations.
Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
2019 Community Media Conference is on
NFCB's Community Media Conference is the time for hundreds of community radio leaders, producers and organizers from across the United States and beyond to come together and chart the future, get inspired and create new visions for community media.
From visionaries to attorneys to those on the cutting edge of community radio innovation, NFCB’s Community Media Conference offers something for general managers, program directors, development and membership staffers, volunteer coordinators, and everyone supporting the efforts of community radio.
Registration for the 2019 Community Media Conference is now open. Early bird registration ensures your spot in one of many conversations with limited availability. Register here to attend.
The 2019 Community Media Conference takes place June 18-20, 2019 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina's Bay Tower. This location places you directly on the waterfront and is just a short trip to the Gaslamp Quarter and the San Diego Zoo. It is a fantastic setting for the community media learning and conversations that are integral to your experience.
And if you are with an organization interested in connecting with community radio stations, exhibit and sponsorship opportunities are available.
Located across from the San Diego Airport, the host hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to those staying on premises. All rooms have engaging views of the marina or bay and the hotel complex offers a variety of restaurant options and other amenities. You can reserve your room here.
The preliminary agenda features sessions that make the 2019 Community Media Conference the must-attend event of the year.
Here is a sneak peek at sessions planned for this year’s meeting.
You can view the current Community Media Conference schedule here.
- Emergency Preparedness - Your radio station is important to its community, and serves its most crucial purpose before, during, and after natural and human-made disasters. This session examines important considerations for every station during urgent situations. You’ll come away with new ways your station can be involved in emergency preparedness; in cultivating financial support for your initiatives; and how to make the biggest difference possible with the fewest resources.
- Digital Strategy for Audience Engagement - Building a digital workflow with your limited means is a challenge facing all of community radio. KUNC Digital Editor/Producer Ashley Jefcoat will show you her proven techniques for how to focus those efforts to make the most impact. From trends in social and digital media, to podcasting, smart speakers and apps, you’ll leave with actionable ideas and resources for maximizing your resources for the best 2019 possible.
- Get It: Spice Up Your Station's Love Life with the Community - Since 2015 KZUM has seen an increase of 60% in listener donations, and online followers have increased by 75% with online streaming up 25%. The station has met its looming CPB fundraising goal, and has seen underwriting support jump up well over 30%! From adding staff and a multi-media internship program to building a second production studio, the station's unique community engagement efforts have created growth. KZUM's Shannon Claire shows how you can do it too.
- Music Rights/Licensing and SoundExchange - Few issues in community radio are as complex and nuanced as copyright and music royalties. Learn the ins and outs of music rights, Performance Rights Organizations and radio's reporting and licensing obligations during a session featuring two of the smartest experts in this area, SoundExchange’s Director of License Management, Travis Ploeger, and Eva Papp of Spinitron. They will present the regulations in a clear and understandable fashion, and field your questions about this perplexing area of radio.
- Strategic Planning - Strategic planning is used by many nonprofits to set priorities and get all stakeholders working together on goals, as well as set the organization's course amid changing conditions. However, a recent NFCB survey indicated most community radio stations had yet to create a strategic plan. Join this session to learn about organizing strategic planning, and leave with tools and resources to evaluate a plan, and to implement and consolidate the many voices contributing to your objective of a stronger, more sustainable radio station.
- Managing Amid Resistance & Conflict - Communication challenges are something we all face every day, maybe several times a day, especially at stations governed by volunteer boards and programmed predominately by volunteers. KZMU's General Manager, Serah Mead, will lead a session about different types of resistance and demonstrate with examples how resistance can be transformed or at least more clearly understood. Take your leadership skills to another level with this new perspective on a communication basic.
From the ever-popular Ask the Attorneys sessions to intensives on human resources, audio production and major gifts, to networking and conversation with people who 'get' you, the 2019 Community Media Conference is that rare and wonderful moment that community radio gathers and celebrates. Register now to be there, and stay subscribed to this newsletter for more updates.
Mary Oishi, KUNM
Mary Oishi, Development Director at KUNM for the past 13 years, and Underwriting Rep for 5 years prior, retired at the end of January. She began her career in community radio at KVNF in the mid 1990s. In addition to working in community radio development and volunteering on-air, she is a writer with two books of poetry, Spirit Birds They Told Me (West End Press, 2011) and "Rock Paper Scissors" (Swimming With Elephants, 2018), and a memoir in progress: The Little Jap That Lillie Raised.
If someone told you all those years ago that you’d be retiring after more than two decades in community radio, would you have believed them?
Right after I started at KVNF in the mid 90’s, I was “bitten by the community radio bug” and I knew in my heart I would never leave (and I never will). However, retiring from the professional side of radio is something few of us are able to do. Fortunately, since KUNM is licensed to a university, I was granted that opportunity.
What has made KUNM so special to you?
KUNM is a unique station, in that it is a hybrid college/community station with a solid and dedicated professional staff as well as about 100 community volunteer programmers. It is also unique in that it carries a mix of programs from a variety of providers, yet the lion’s share of each day’s broadcast schedule is still produced, curated and hosted by devoted and knowledgeable local volunteers. More than 30 years ago, the license-holder decided to make sweeping changes to the programming, but the listeners banded together and filed a lawsuit asserting that it constituted breach of contract since they were not getting the programs they donated to in the pledge drive that just ended. A judge sided with the listeners. I don’t know of any other comparatively-sized station where the listeners cared enough about keeping community in their community radio station that they went to such lengths to protect it.
How has the station changed most to you?
The next generation of staff and volunteers may not have as much sense of the rare treasure that is community radio. They may not remember or be aware of the concerted attempt in the 90’s to consolidate and centralize everything, or of the mostly successful effort to define and conflate noncommercial radio with one content provider only. Those of us who hold that memory need to share with them the most salient aspects of our history. It’s important. Community radio is one of the strongest bulwarks of the First Amendment, one which does not require broadband (or even literacy) to engage. It is also one of the most effective defenses against wholesale propaganda and/or “respectable acceptance” of the wholly unacceptable.
Do you think the people have changed that come to community radio? If so, how?
I love the variety of people who keep showing up. At KUNM, we have Native voices, women’s voices, Latinx voices, Generation Justice (youth radio), queer and trans voices, African American and Asian American voices—representative of the people here. Community radio used to be stereotyped as the place for hippies, and it’s that too. But we’re so much more. We’re reflecting the communities we arise from to serve: whether it’s a low power neighborhood FM or a flagship Pacifica station in L.A. or Berkeley. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.
Complete this line: If community radio is going to stay around in 50 years, it must ___.
…never lose sight of our mission and the value of what we do. Whenever egos and personal agendas and lesser politics cloud that or threaten to obscure it completely, we need to pivot to it like true north. And then we must not be afraid to innovate to make sure that vision does not fade and the mission keeps inspiring those who come after.
You’re one of the most recognized faces in the NFCB community. What about all the stations you have met most touches you?
We are the ones with heart, the real people who live in our communities, rooted to the place and the culture we call home, yet keenly conscious of our global citizenship, our larger home. We are the ones who appreciate and showcase our local artists and activists, our organizations that are doing the actual work for justice and sustainability and human rights and everything that matters. I love the way we honor the elders while bringing in the next generation, both to mentor them and to amplify their voices in a meaningful way. And we do it all on a shoestring, sometimes by taking risks, sometimes by sheer force of will, it seems. The people I have met since I started more than 24 years ago are some of the warmest most dedicated peaceful warriors I have ever known.
You have been to many NFCB conferences over the years. What would you tell someone who’s never been to an NFCB conference as an encouragement to go?
Oh my! By all means, go. I used my vacation and paid my own transportation to be able to go. It’s that important. The camaraderie, the fresh ideas, the connections you make will refuel you for the rest of the year. It’s too easy to just keep your head down and plow by yourself or with the same few stalwarts. But it’s also hard to do that month after month, year after year without burning out or growing stale and stuck. Find a way. It will keep you sharp and energized and up to the task. Plus after hours it’s a big party! (And, as Emma Goldman said, “if I can’t dance, I won’t be in your revolution.”)
What’s your favorite conference memory?
There are so many: speakers, workshops, and friendships born. But I will expand a bit on those I mentioned on the listserve. Who can forget the NFCB Conference in San Francisco when the Shock & Awe was falling and the whole city, it seemed, was in the streets? I kept running up to my room between sessions to tune in KPFA, until the protests came right down the street past our hotel and I couldn't help myself: I was out there, tears streaming down my face. Or who can forget Houston and Papa Loves Funk (courtesy of WWOZ), where I danced like I was 25--and walked back to catch the train with Nikki from KGNU, feeling like I was 85? :) So many times since Hurricane Maria, I have wondered about the women from Puerto Rico who came to Denver a few years ago—wondered if their station survived, wondered how they themselves came through. Being at an NFCB Conference, for me, personalizes every part of the nation.
As a writer and a poet, you channel ideas, history and emotion through words. What words come to mind for you when you think of community radio?
Commitment, local, authentic, together, passion, freedom, expression, friendship, love.
What advice would you give the next generation about leading these stations?
Kele Lamp, the woman at KVNF who trained me how to “do radio” in the mid-90’s, emphasized that “dead air” is your worst enemy. That is true in a literal and figurative sense. First, we are well past the time when FM was the only worthwhile listening. In the 21st Century there are so many options. We absolutely need to consistently produce radio that is compelling, prepared and presented in a way that honors and earns the listeners’ time and attention. But it’s also a time people are frustrated trying to navigate an increasingly impersonal world. They crave human interaction. That’s a void we can fill, with our live radio, our real human being behind the mike, the voice of a friend. We are the antithesis of dead air. We need to stay warm and live and human. That will carry us, urban and rural, across platforms and whatever the future brings.
Secondly, we can’t keep this beautiful resource alive without manifesting the resources (funds) to do that. I led (or significantly participated in) 42 pledge drives. While I salute Pacifica for coming up with this original crowd sourcing, it is my hope that we come together and find an effective alternative to interrupting the programming with direct fundraising. Again, with so many listening options, it’s too easy to just tune it out and go away.
What will you miss most?
I will miss the great team I worked with every day, especially the Development staff at KUNM. And of course, I will miss the broader community radio family and the wonderful people I met through the NFCB.
Viral news and misinformation
In mid-January, television, digital and radio outlets exhaustively covered what seemed to be a tense standoff between a 17-year-old high school student and an elderly Native American man at a protest. Over the weekend the story went viral and much was made of the boy, the older man and others nearby. However, as more video footage appeared, many of the initial allegations were disproven. The Washington Post reflects, “the incident, and the finger-pointing that followed, seemed to capture the worst of America at a moment of extreme political polarization, as discourse once again gave way to division, and people drew conclusions on social media before all the facts were known.”
Moreover, the affair became another instance of media chasing developing viral stories, which were amplified by social media as fact.
Viral stories without context are just part of a wider web of media's problems. Renée DiResta, head of policy at the nonprofit organization Data for Democracy, recently investigated the spread of misinformation across social media. In addition to the mishmash of memes and misleading stories innocently circulated, a major finding was the persistent storyline aimed at undercutting Americans’ faith in one another and in democracy. Increasingly, DiResta noticed how African Americans and other people of color were the intended audience, and how narratives preyed on the worst stereotypes – white racism, ethnic separatism and more.
In this age of viral news, what role can your community radio station play in combatting misinformation and in making sure the full story is told?
The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism identifies many problems which are exacerbated by misleading stories. Filter bubbles, our own partisan viewpoints and disengagement with others outside our existing networks can contribute to what we believe of a story and our willingness to spread it. Such isolation makes the job of community radio as convener of communities all the more important.
Some explorations for covering viral news in a better way include:
Content discussions will be among the conversations happening at the 2019 Community Media Conference. Combatting misinformation is one of the many priorities needing attention from community media in 2019. With pressures from streaming and more and more content providers in the mix, you need all the support you can get to chart a course for the future. Registration for the 2019 conference, happening June 18-20, is now open. Exhibit and sponsorship opportunities are available.
- Local News Lab’s Declaration of Dependence may be a good starting point for remembering your station’s obligations when it comes to ethics and trust. Clearly, these issues relate back to your engagement and revenue strategies longterm, as loyal audiences are more open to giving and involvement. Do you explain how stories are chosen? Is contact information for your station readily available? Does your station understand the different constituencies in your area and how they consume news? These are just a few of the departures Local News Lab recommends as your station organizes its coverage.
- What happens when research goes viral? Journalist’s Resource shares several recommendations. Reminder for your Post-It Note? Make sure a story is worth covering and a particular part or quote is not blown out of proportion. As a source laments about one report, “I think it was egged along by Twitter.”
- Exposing the Invisible offers cornerstones for verifying content. Its authors acknowledge, “information often spreads quickly and without others checking its veracity before sharing. The prevalence of User Generated Content, content that is generated from tweets, digital images, blogs, chats, forum discussions and so on, also means that more and more people are documenting human rights violations and images of war and disaster. Newsrooms often have tight deadlines and can prioritize speed over accuracy, leading to the spread of images and videos that have been taken out of context or digitally enhanced and text documents that contain misinformation.” Community radio can easily fall victim to such manipulation. This site presents resources for verifying images, video and documents.
- Newseum has a free download of its media literacy campaign built around the acronym ESCAPE (evidence, source, context, audience, purpose and execution). You can download it here. While downloading, there’s a new guide for talking to kids about media literacy, available as a PDF.
- The verification site First Draft News has a Chrome browser plugin to help you identify fake news.
- The effort to avoid misleading viral stories is boosted by building a culture of transparency. Arizona State University’s News Co/Lab unveiled a series of best practices for media engagement in this regard. “We want to help people who produce and share news to learn about work that’s offered evidence of success,” authors write, and share examples of great transparency efforts in local communities.
- Similarly, the American Press Institute advocates for organic news fluency. In the breaking news story, where information is in real time, API says the questions your station should be asking are: “What happened? What do we know? What don’t we know?” Read more about it here.
- NPR’s Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen (a speaker at the 2019 Community Media Conference) comments on the aforementioned story and what NPR did. She also explains key challenges during a news cycle. "Reporters report what they see and hear, and what they believe to be the truth based on other information they collect. As a result of that reporting, sometimes stories will become clearer over time, as more details emerge. It's not an exact science deciding when enough reporting has been done so editors can feel comfortable publishing or airing a story. Sometimes they are published too early, sometimes too late. One factor in the timing is the importance of the story; the more important the story, the faster it generally gets reported."
- A new Wikipedia digital literacy project has launched, in a bid to document bonafide city and town media organizations. The logic? The more real newspapers and more that can be verified, the harder it is to spread fake news and misinformation.
- Neiman Lab shares ways stations can protect sources. Recognizing the cost of a story for a source is critical. Your station may also want to encourage a source to think ahead about how to cope when the story breaks.
We hope to see you at the 2019 Community Media Conference!