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NYC hillbillies

From: Robert Johnson
Date: Sun Feb 10, 2002 3:57 pm
Subject: Listener's Lament

Well, I was right. It's Hatfields and McCoys, and they've grown in numbers from the free-Pacifica movement. McCoys say Hatfield leaders are corrupt. Hatfields say McCoys' bull-goose looney is a secret agent. McCoys say Hatfields plot against elections. Hatfields say McCoys try to dictate elections.

You don't tarry long in BAI land without facing the implicit question: "Be ye Hatfield or McCoy?" I still believe some of what they say about each other, see bad behavior in both, love folks in both, and belong to neither.

Here we have high rhetoric but frat rat dynamics. Many do what they complain about -- especially while complaining about it. But they don't fit lock-step profile, god bless 'em.

Or do they? Radio is sexy, a voice can reach millions -- or not, the stakes are high, thinking in two dimensions can be a comfort zone, and as the song says, "Some say hooray for our signs." So personalities have their groupies, and self-appointing posses canvass for recruits. They all want to defend "the people," and fight each other.

Meanwhile, we face a Homeland Security nightmare under media chokehold.

Much is said about outreach for listeners. How about using fifty thousand watts of ubiquitous radio waves for outreach? Through production and programming that speak truth to power in ways that reach people outside the choir.

Media condition the public to glossy formats with compelling language and music that have become broadcast science. Pacifica must first catch public attention in order to compete for it and deliver a message. "Slick" doesn't necessitate "crass," and "premier" is by no means sole property of "commercial." The new Pacifica is entering a digital world with global potential for its radical-progressive report.

I don't care who wins turf feuds, control games and personality wars on this side of the barricade. My radio is more or less back, and I want it better than it was.

For twenty years, Pacifica was my mentor. Its courage and beauty wet my eyes. But more often, I suffered programmer bombast while waiting for guests' expert opinions, or maybe good music, or one authentic insight from one of a dozen usual callers, or real information without tired opinion. Harlem community radio, WHCR 90.3 FM, has the best of all kinds of music with minimal talk when played, and when the community speaks, programmers stay out of the way.

Tell me, Hats and McCoys, do you offer better?

Robert Johnson

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