Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Horse Named Buckwheat

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I detest the copy they wrote.

Download MP3 for your iPod or other player.


Five Farms

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I've been meaning to mention that the Five Farms series you've seen referred to here is (pardon the pun) coming to fruition. It's a series of five one-hour shows being distributed by PRI and has started airing in some markets with many more to follow in the coming weeks. 

You can listen to the hours (or download them for that next long drive), and see great photography from the farms, at our updated website:

One of the photographers, by the way, is an AIRster: the multitalented Alix Blair.

A shout-out to the visionary AIRster Wes Horner, who dreamed up this ambitious project and created the network of collaborators to make it possible.  


John Biewen
Audio Program Director
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Wikipedia vs. research

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Given PRX, AIR, and other various unnamed platforms, how can we make
our stories better?

I've been thinking about this since this thread started. The comments on the lack of fact checking have truly chilled me.

30 years ago, back when I could afford school, I remember going to the UCLA research library to look up literary criticism on a play by Ianesco. Don't remember which one.

I remember the creepy, skin-tingling feeling of being in a library, surrounded not just by students (albiet wealthier: they were attending UCLA while I smuggled myself in from a community college in the Valley), but by actual literary critics, professors, theater reviewers, writers of plays, maybe even some journalists. I was in the Belly of the Beast, surrounded by Professions, seeking wisdom.It was humbling.

I don't feel that way when I rummage around in Google in my jammies with a cigarette and a cup of coffee with a cat on my lap

The work I'm doing is still earnest, still sincere, still research and still hard work. That hasn't changed.

The MEDIUM has changed. Basically, I'm looking at a TV screen in my living room, not a vast and serpentine labyrinth of the Knowledge of the Ages, spread out before me in bewildering solemnitude.

I'm alone; there are no colleagues, peers, experts, professionals or pompous gas bags around me, except me.

So, I'm sitting at a veritable TV, alone, casual as can be, in MY space, doing MY thing.

There's something about having to open a library door, carry a library card, take hand-written notes about a library book that made me feel part of the Search for Knowledge.

Now, I just feel like an anonymous cog in a gigantic database in the Collection of Information.

Are there any other old ferts here who grasp what I'm saying, who remember #2 lead pencils and little, spiral notebooks in shirt pockets, who kept boxes of 3x5 index cards?

I walked among tomes by philosophers and queens.

Now, I'm spammed by Viagra and Christian moms, earning $5,000 a month.

I think the main paradigm shift is from KNOWLEDGE and, perhaps, WISDOM to information and data.

How can we make it better? It's as old as Moses and as new as blogging: resist the machine that would have us be cogs. We HAVE to be humans.

We have to teach each other, remind each other, encourage each other toward passionate care of the craft, of ethics, personal responsibility and KNOWLEDGE.

I think they don't teach that so much anymore in universities. We have to do it for ourselves and our colleagues.

Once it's forgotten, the special interests and corporate lobbyists win -- if they haven't already.

Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal. We're on the other side of the looking glass, Alice

Musical Migrants

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BBC Radio 4 is running a very compelling first-person series called
Musical Migrants this week, with contributions in large part from
Rachel Hopkin - who is, I believe, an AIR member.

Stories about people who moved to another country because of music.
You can listen again to most of the series at:

, the first part will still be
up for listening through Sunday night.

Countries covered are Jamaica, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Georgia.



Thomas Marzahl

Facebook audio player widget

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Facebook audio player widget

I just tried this and it works. The catch is that you have to register as a "band" with ReverbNation (free) and the tab on your Facebook profile says "MY BAND." You can upload "songs" under 8MB. I did upload one of my pieces, but it doesn't look like that upload appears as an event in the newsfeed (if that's important to you) and you can't "tag" it like you can a video. However, you can collect Fans, who can sign up for your Mailing List.

Another workaround (if you have video editing software) is to render your audio file as a QT movie, using black video. My 5-min 65 MB file uploaded to FB fine. I also rendered the video as an MPEG4, using the mobile device preset H263, resulting in a .3gp format of only 5 MB. It sounded fine, but I didn't try uploading that format to FB.

Facebook audio player widget

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Facebook audio player widget

I just tried this and it works. The catch is that you have to register as a "band" with ReverbNation (free) and the tab on your Facebook profile says "MY BAND." You can upload "songs" under 8MB. I did upload one of my pieces, but it doesn't look like that upload appears as an event in the newsfeed (if that's important to you) and you can't "tag" it like you can a video. However, you can collect Fans, who can sign up for your Mailing List.

Another workaround (if you have video editing software) is to render your audio file as a QT movie, using black video. My 5-min 65 MB file uploaded to FB fine. I also rendered the video as an MPEG4, using the mobile device preset H263, resulting in a .3gp format of only 5 MB. It sounded fine, but I didn't try uploading that format to FB.


A new round of themes-in-progress are detailed below and we're coming
to you for story pitches, thoughts and suggestions for our upcoming

How this process works: When you send in a story idea to me, I'll
respond with a generic email letting you know that I received your
pitch and that I've read it. I promise. I read every pitch. (I
won't send you the auto response until I've read your pitch so expect
a day or two delay sometimes to get that email.) If we think the
pitch is right for us, or if we need more information from you, I'll
send you another email asking for more info on the story or letting
you know we'd like to commission the story. But if you don't hear back
from us within two weeks, beyond the initial auto-reply email, it
means the story just isn't right for us or for the needs of that
particular show. The idea of doing it this way is just to get through
pitches and get back to all of you contributors a little more quickly.

Like always, these themes are shows we're actively pursuing right now
but we're always on the lookout for new stories or ideas. So if
you've got a story that you think would work especially well for us
but doesn't fit a specific theme listed below, please send it along

Thanks so much for your pitches. All of us here are very appreciative.



ORIGIN STORY: This show is coming up in about a month so if you've got
an idea, you might want to get in touch pretty soon. Basically, we're
looking for stories about beginnings - or, rather, stories about the
story of the beginning. Creation myth stories would work well for
this show. But also true stories, maybe, about a little known or
surprising or unexpected beginning. We're working on one story about
a man who is trying to set the record straight about his career
achievements, including but not limited to, writing the "It Takes a
Licking and Keeps on Ticking" slogan, inventing thumb-wrestling and
popularizing the eating of shrimp in the New York Metropolitan region.
 We've also got a story about corporate creation myths. A story we'd
love would be where the origin story itself is almost more important
than the actual thing it spawned. If just the tale of
how-we-got-started is too good to let the thing fail. Historical
stories would also be great for this show. As you can see, we're
pretty open to anything.

THE FALL GUY: We're looking for stories about people who take the
brunt of the abuse, usually undeserved. We're working on one story
about federal indictments against mortgage fraudsters and examining
who gets charged and, tellingly, who doesn't. Another story is a much
smaller one where a lowest-on-the-totem-pole office worker tries to
hire someone even lower. Stories that would be great for this show,
too, would be stories of patsies or dupes, taking the blame for
someone else's crime or actions. Maybe a story about trying to
manufacture a scapegoat? Using a person to make an example of

DETROIT: We're putting together a show about the fall-and-fall of the
American auto industry. We're trying to answer bigger and more
complicated questions: Who can we blame? And smaller, more concrete
questions: what happens in Central Michigan during a summer furlough?
Other questions: are American cars any good? Is the demise of the
auto industry such a bad thing? How many people really are being
affected? If you've got more questions for us or thoughts on this
show about under-reported or unexpected stories out of Detroit in the
last ten years, please let us know.

TO PROVE A POINT: After a fight with his father ends with the father
yelling "and I bought that car!" a grown son decides to take his wife
and kids on a 10 hour trek walking back to their home. The father is
waiting for them when they finally get home and the father and son
immediately start up their fight all over again. We're looking for
more stories about going to extremes to prove a point. Stories about
making illogical decisions or cutting off a nose to spite a face,
would work well for this show. Even better, though, would be a story
about actually making a really brilliant move fueled entirely out of
revenge or malice or pride. We'd also love a story that weighs the
pros and cons of a decision, where the point to prove is actually
really important and does justify a seemingly extreme decision or

FRENEMIES: Our own version of US WEEKLY. We are a little worried
about the 2007-ness of this theme but, on the other hand, we can't
help ourselves. We love frenemy stories because a frenemy is the
worst kind of nemesis to have - are they entirely bad and full of
hate? Or is there a part of them that really still is our friend?
We're working on one story about the FBI's friendly overtures to
certain Muslim groups in the last few years and the, of course,
ulterior motives both sides had in the arrangement. Personal stories
would work really well for this show - stories about friends or family
members who seem to give with one hand and backstab with the other. A
story from an admitted frenemy would be nice here, too. Maybe a
corporate frenemy story?

THE FINE PRINT: For this show, we'd like stories that more literally
take place in the fine print - in a legal contract or user agreement
or credit card application. But we're also open to stories that live
in a sort of metaphorical "fine print" - where there was, maybe, an
implicit agreement or understanding that wasn't really apparent to
either one or both parties. The literal stories can be about legal
nightmares or binding arbitration or fighting with a corporate giant.
For other stories, though, maybe they could be about sort of willfully
overlooking details or circumstances that later turn out to be

Julie Snyder
Senior Producer
153 West 27th Street Suite 1104
New York NY 10001
(212) 624-5012

Friday, May 22, 2009

places to pitch

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VP for News Ellen Weiss says that despite the belt-tightening at NPR, there has been no edict for programs to cut back on acquisitions from independents. All shows have been challenged to cut costs where they can and, she says, some may be putting a higher bar on buying pieces but that overall work is still being commissioned. Editors are still interested in pitches. Contact the regional editors listed on the AIR pitch page - or me ( first if you'd like an opinion on your pitch. Of course, NPR's Newscast unit is always interested in wraps. 1-800-433-1277.


William Troop at The World says they are indeed in a budget crunch and while they are still wanting to receive pitches, they are only taking the ones they feel best match their international focus and style. This will remain the case at least until the end of their fiscal year through June. He's predicting that the '09-'10 budget will have a somewhat downsized acquisitions budget and that the bar for commissions will remain high.


John Haas at APM's Marketplace says they are still taking features from independents. Features are considered at a weekly meeting on Fridays (soon to move to Thursdays). MP features are shorter than many shows (2-4 minutes depending on which show it winds up). He says local economic/business/personal finance stories with national implications are considered. Stories pegged to recent news or specific dates have the best chance. They also regularly review more timely material - quick turnarounds pegged to the day's news - but mostly they work with folks they are familiar with on those stories. John says pitch to him if you like:


Leda Hartman at The World Vision Report says like anywhere else, their program is trying to do more with less but they are definitely still accepting story pitches. The program has had to cut back on paying as much on travel as in the past so it's best to be clear about that on a story pitch up front. She says, rather than being able to help pay for overseas travel, the program is trying to work with reporters already stationed where the stories are. To that end, they are looking for experienced stringers in Asia - Pakistan/India/Afghanistan.


APM's The Splendid Table, says Jen Russell, is commissioning very few pieces these days. What they do accept is more likely to be a finished piece as they are under-resourced to edit a piece. So they will check out your 3 - 5 minute produced piece if you want to send it to her for consideration. As usual, have a good idea if it will be a good match for the show.


LOE's Eileen Bolinsky says that at the moment, LOE is not acquistioning outside of what they have already assigned. She expects the doors to open up again soon.


OAG's Gary Waleik says they are still accepting pitches from freelancers and paying at the same rate they have in the past. Their softer longer features are booked a month or two in advance. More time-sensitive shorter features considered too. Check out their website first to see if they've recently covered the topic you're pitching.


New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth has a small budget for freelance work, according to producer Avishay Artsy, "as long as it’s sound-rich and fits the mission of our show, which is covering new ideas and trends. " They pay $60/minute for features produced for their show, $100 for pieces re-broadcast and between $75 - $150 for producing "interview scripts" (not sure what that means). Contact Avishay or Jen Nathan


Lester Graham at the ER says they are taking pitches, paying independents, operating full steam ahead. Looking for new freelancers in the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. He says visit their website first (, go to "About Us" and "Submission Guidelines" first.


Kathleen McKenna says they have scaled back on acquisitions recently and right now, Here and Now is not commissioning new material by independents. She's hoping things will change before long but isn't able to say when.


David Krasnow says in their current fiscal year (which ends June 30) they have not cut back on commissioning an average of 2 to 3 independently produced featured in each new show they prepare. He's not sure what the new budgets will show in terms of acquisitions.


Jared Weissbrot at Soundprint (the half hour documentary series) says it's largely "business-as-usual at Soundprint. Anyone with grant money looking for a national outlet is always welcome. Anyone with a proposal that totally wows us, we'll do our best to fund/help fund. Anyone with a finished product that we like, we'll offer up an acquisition contract based on factors we've discussed before." (see my interview with Jared for more -

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Boot Cokie!" Some questions

Perfectly Obvious Cokie
Behold how little substance NPR's Cokie Roberts can pack into four minutes of airtime.

"his criticisms could be leveled at most any talking head on most any show."

OK, here are my questions:

if this could, indeed, be leveled as a criticism against any talking head on any show, what does that say about mental laziness among talking heads? Are they discussing issues of import to voters and constituents, or merely using the time slot to float trial balloons from their political affiliations and lobbying influences?

Also, if we're speaking of the influence of commercial media's talking head shows on public and community radio, why would we allow them to define the terms of what we say and how we speak?

Might we not consider speaking from a more authentic and more informed voice, rather than theirs? Ought we allow the corrupting influences on the talking heads influence us, as well?

Using Ms. Roberts as an example, Ms. Roberts speaks, I'm thinking, in a rather generic manner. She seems, very consciously, trying not to alienate anybody.

When she's done, or as her introduction, it is mentioned that she has a new book on women's history.

Might it not be better if Ms. Roberts spoke from her authority on women's history, when discussing beltway politics, rather than aping commercial talking heads?

Surely, we've progressed far enough past the stereotype of feminism as man hating lavender herrings that Ms. Roberts' views on the historical impact of beltway politics on women and, therefore, families and, therefore, culture in general could be insightful and provocative for NPR listeners.Those who don't learn from our history are doomed to repeat it. If we have not progressed that far, ought we not continue to push that envelope?

Perhaps Ms. Roberts' experiences of coming to a place of influence in media have been so informed by the sexism even she - as a member of an affluent, political family -- has experienced that it has has made her voice more timid, assimilated and conceded than it would have been, had it not been formed under the hostility of sexism in her profession that she experienced some thirty years ago. Sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, a microphone is just a microphone.

We need to remember that Ms. Roberts, like me, comes from an historical time when women weren't allowed access to credit, had little control over the conditions of their children's lives, were defined and named by the men who controlled their lives, couldn't prosecute a husband for rape, were medicated for "depression" by addictive substances like Valium and had hell to pay if they entertained the notion of pursuing a "man's" profession.

I see, in my own life, how these have changed my own voice. Perhaps they changed Ms. Roberts, as well. She is a "success" in an unhealthy culture; I am not. Her voice is more conciliatory; mine is not.

While I'm not thrilled that she "phones it in," literally, from home, I do not begrudge her the fact; telecommuting radio in the modern, digital age is saving my life.

Have you looked at your local news tv stations? Are the women intelligent, well-educated in investigative reporting, good journalists? Are they Barbie dolls, flashing a bit of cleavage and bling, batting their eyes as they banter with the dudes who do the more substantive (though also scant) reportage? Are any of them fat or older or living with visible disabilities? Do they look like models or do they look like they work for a living? Do they write the news or make editorial decisions? Or are they just reading from a teleprompter?

I'm going to suggest, for you younger producers here who never saw it, that you watch a movie, "Broadcast News," in which Holly Hunter speaks at a convention to an hostile, apathetic audience of young, local news people. It is a brilliant soliloquy, beautifully written. This was in the 1980s. At one point, she consults her notes and mutters a topic she's deciding not to address, as she sees the audience literally getting up and walking out. The phrase she reads is,"The historical influence of "Entertainment Tonight."

That phrase drilled a permanent hole in my brain. It shocked and horrified me then, and it still does, today.

Newspapers are folding. NPR has cut its news staff. Few local outlets even have real news departments anymore. Fewer even attempt commentary on policy making, local, national or international.

We are living in a media age of bread and circuses. We are not an informed democracy; we are over-informed consumers. The lobbyists and special interests control the dialogue on policy in this, the most influential nation on Earth.

Ought we not, as community and public radio producers, resist this trend?

Siskel & Ebert - Broadcast News (1987)

On 5/5/09, L H wrote:

his criticisms could be leveled at most any talking head on most any show. you have to wonder what else is going on here.

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list serv continues

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I am the canary in the coal mine. Because of my behavioral health disabilities, I am more acutely aware of things like exclusive language; it causes me real pain. People misinterpret that as my being "overly sensitive" or "taking it too personally." I see it this way: if it causes me discomfort, it is probably uncomfortable to others, whether they are conscious of it or can articulate it or not.

I only posted this to let people see an example of how much harder it is for people like me to participate at KUNM. We have fewer privileges and are SO overburdened by the disabilities of a society that refuses to respect our dignity; we have to fight so hard for basic survival. When we try to participate in the larger community, we are not welcome; we feel rejected, ignored, snubbed, attacked and stigmatized. Is it any wonder so few of us make the attempt or stay around very long, if we do?

I posted to the group because J called me out to the group. Yes, I've asked J not to email me privately. I don't feel comfortable getting emails from people at KUNM if others can't see them. People have done some nasty things to me when others at KUNM couldn't see them.

Yesterday, for example, I received the following, from someone I do not know, without explanation:

fuck cowboys and the whore they rode in on
do not get me busted

I asked who s/he was and why this was sent to me. The person responded s/he was drunk and had an "intense" day. Like that's my fault?

I don't think those of you who work inside offices during the day, who only show up at the station to do your own shows and who never go to KUNM at all have any idea how brutal and cold my experience has been.

Nobody -- not management, not the Ideas List, not this committee -- has addressed that. I have been, at best, ignored. This suggests that I am appropriately uncomfortable in a dysfunctional atmosphere and culture. I see absolutely no commitment to heal any of that and, because I have the gall to point it out, I am branded.

How is the atmosphere at KUNM any better than the redneck Bible thumpers out here who call me a Communist, a "N" lover and a bag lady?

Every time I make a contribution to KUNM, it is received rudely.

Wouldn't anybody at the station like it to be a happier and healthier place -- for EVERY person who works there?

Monday, May 04, 2009

professional arrogance

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Actually, something is really bothering me about the word, "Professional." The word is inappropriate for the Ideas List. It is exclusive, intimidating and, frankly, smacks of elitist snobbery. It also sounds like only staff and academics are welcome to participate at KUNM; that's too true, already, and needs to change. It implies that being an amateur is synonymous with being a slob or incompetent. An amateur is someone who pursues a study for the love of it, as an avocation, adding the extra burden over vocation, family and other personal commitments. Many amateurs contribute invaluably to the station, and that needs to be appreciated and honored, not devalued.

I would substitute a word like, "adept," "proficient," "competent," "skillful" or "efficient" over "professional."

We are not, most of us -- including some staff, board members and work studies -- "professionals."

That word needs to go.

From Wikipedia

A 'true' professional must be proficient in all criteria for the field of work they are practising professionally. Criteria include following:
Academic qualifications - a doctoral or law degree - i.e., university college/institute

This is ridiculous at KUNM. Most work is done by volunteers. Academic background is not a prerequisite -- YET! -- to volunteer at KUNM, nor should it EVER be! Just because someone can't afford to buy an academic ticket is no reason not to broadcast, work or volunteer at KUNM.

Expert and specialised knowledge in field which one is practising professionally

Again, this is nonsense at KUNM. It's a UNIVERSITY, where people are expected to LEARN things.

Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession

Are people who want to LEARN skills no longer welcome?

High quality work in (examples): creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing or other work endeavours

Everyone is trying to produce high quality work. We need to be tolerant of the diversity of KUNM participants and give them the benefit of the doubt.

A high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities while carrying out one's profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company, or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.)

I'd be more comfortable if the last was better defined. Who determines "high" quality?



  It has taken me over one hour to address your reply. I truly detest it when people assume things about me, even when I've written very clearly what I think. Your reaction to my arguments against the word, "professional" truly dismayed, demoralized, frightened, hurt and angered me. I wasn't expecting that. I didn't deserve this. What follows is my attempt to address you as respectfully as I can, but I must say, I'm in tears.


  your aversion to the word professional

  I have no "aversion" to the word; it's simply inappropriate language to describe KUNM and the subscribers to the list serv, and I stated why I thought so. I took the time to research definitions of the word, "professional." I took the time to consult a thesaurus for other options. How we speak informs how we think. How we think informs how we act. How we act impacts others.

  It is interesting, because the word does not have such negative connotations to me.

  It doesn't for me, either, and I don't see why you would assume that. There IS a culture of snobbery at KUNM; several volunteers, work studies and staff have discussed it with me over the years. I'm not crazy, J; it's real. There's no need to solidify that atmosphere any worse than it already is. It needs to be HEALED.

  Your professionalism is not the point of the list serv; it functions as a communications device for ALL at the station. The majority of us are not professionals; we are amateurs. We need not to be disappeared. In fact, we need to be respected and honored as amateurs.

  I'd like other moderator opinions - *IF* this were a list posting, I personally would welcome a personal suggestion from Rogi directly to me rather than putting up what might be a flame-starter posted to the list where everyone would jump in.

  Yet, you posted this chastisement of me to the group, not to me personally. Thank Heavens!

  If the list is discussing policies, as we were, why would I only direct my comments to you, rather than the group? What you had to say is not more important than what I have to say to the group. Why would we not want the group to discuss things that are important to us? Are you aware that I live about 200 miles from the station and that these emails are my ONLY opportunity to discuss these issues?

  I wasn't flaming; I was discussing. I thought you asked for feedback or input about what had been written. I have no idea who first used the word, "professional;" I assumed it came from that Usenet manifesto, not Ellen or you. I thought KUNM was big on "speaking truth to power." When I do it, I hear how inappropriate I am. It's not I who seems to be flaming.

  I cannot imagine this would yield a productive dialog.

  All I did was look up the word, "professional," and state my arguments against the definition! Of COURSE, it's productive dialogue! It's an attempt at opening communications on how we define ourselves. It is ALWAYS productive to learn from others, even amateurs like me!

  consuming the list with word wars.

  I'm not being adversarial; there is no war coming from me. I'm participating. I don't see why it deserves to be turned into a personal attack against me. Is this the big fear: if we HEAR each other, we might actually have to respect each other? Please don't brand me as a crack pot, simply because my experience is different than yours.

  Rogi, Is it true, even though the specific word is offensive to you,

  J, I don't know your life experience, but where I come from, women speak for themselves. I never said it was "offensive" to me. I said it was not appropriate. Please don't put words in my mouth. I don't need editing.

  that the character of what I tried to present was at least understandable?

  Obviously: I even edited it down, as you'd suggested you wanted! I thought that's why you emailed it to us: so we could suggest revisions. I did that, but the word, "professional" didn't sit right with me, so I wrote back.

  Do you assume I'm intellectually challenged, have poor language comprehension or am mentally unstable? Would that be because there is so much discrimination and prejudice against economically exploited people and people with behavioral health disabilities? You do realize that I'm very intelligent, articulate and thoughtful, don't you? Do you realize writing is my profession?

  This is not the first email I've received from you that seems to indicate resentment and condescension. It would appear that I'm being put in my place and this is an attempt to embarrass me. You are the professional here. I didn't attack or try to speak for you in any way. Please grant me the same professional courtesy.

  This is EXACTLY the sort of atmosphere that intimidates and disheartens those of us who have the nerve to break in to the consciousness of the nine-to-five staff at KUNM and presume we have any rights to the facility.

  When I talk to people about why they don't participate in the Ideas List, they use language like, "bitchyness," "nit-picking" and "arrogant" to describe their reception. Those are their actual words, not mine. We NEEDED to ask the community at KUNM THEIR opinions, needs and experiences before we put together anything difinitive for the Ideas List!

  If that's the way people talk to each other on Usenet, I TRULY have no use for Usenet!