Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who's not talking to NPR?

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I wrote the following to a frustrated radio reporter. Potential interview subjects won't talk to her, because of the rhetoric circulating these days about NPR. i wrote the following:
I'm going to respond to you as a listener who discusses all this stuff with other listeners on FaceBook and elsewhere.

A lot of us (as you can hear from the boos and laughter at the last CA governor candidate's debate on the issue of negative ads) are pretty fed up with the rabid, cynical mob mentality of contemporary political tactics. Most of us don't voluntarily listen to or watch the mouth foamers out there and are frustrated by it when someone forwards us an audio or video file. We are wondering how we are supposed to address truly critical issues in an atmosphere where school board members call for "fags" to die and campaign volunteers stomp opposition folk on the head.

We come to public & community media battered and bruised by all this, because we know we'll actually learn what the hell is going on and who's doing something about it, without a sensationalistic knife fight or freak show. This is particularly true of local decision making. ClearChannel, satellite radio, PBS (in most markets who can't afford to produce local programming), Faux Noise and tantrum (not talk) radio don't give a damn whether the candidates for President of the Navajo nation are on the take, know what a Gay person is or want to sell our birthrights to coal and uranium miners.

I know it's not your job as a reporter, but I think we need to open the doors, be as transparent as we can and have town halls and other conversations, on the local level, about public and community broadcasting, what this resource is, what its mission is, what journalistic ethics are and how we intend to provide our listeners with solid information they can actually use. Maybe public & community radio stations need to hold open houses. It would increase the subscriber base, inform the community and bridge the chasm between rabid rhetoric and what's actually happening behind the microphone.

As for your morale, you need to understand that we depend on you. We don't tell you that often enough, true. But that might actually be a compliment. We have come to trust you so much, we just expect you to be there for us. We might not even know your name or what you look like, but when we turn on the radio, you're there, and we know we can trust you because your standards are high, your curiosity is intelligent, you expect to present verifiable facts and you're not going to -- intentionally, at least -- mislead us.

If someone gets huffy and refuses to speak to you, could an editor or station manager speak with that source, explain the circumstances and try to support your need to get the information from that source?

This is not, none of it, going to be easy. It's like we can't slide down into the Dark Ages fast enough. But public and community media are probably the only brake we really have and we listeners really do support your hard work, even if we don't say it often enough. So, thank you.
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