Monday, August 20, 2018

A Tribute To Radio; An Ever-Changing Medium

Today is National Radio Day. It is especially poignant for me as this is the first time in my carer that I have not been officially employed by a radio station. But my passion for, and belief in the medium is still strong, even though I recognize the many challenges radio faces in 2018.

Having a view from the sidelines, however, has given me some objectivity.

When I was young, I had 3 sources of electronic entertainment: radio, television and my personal collection (records/tapes then CDs). TV was a shared experience where everyone watched the same thing and my parents picked the show. Radio, however, was very intimate and one-on-one. I was in control. I had a small transistor when I was very young and when I got older I treasured my full scale stereo system, which included my FM receiver, because always included in my musical experience, no matter what else came along, was radio.

Radio was my source for new music discovery. After hearing a song I liked on the radio, and learning all about it from my favorite DJ,  I'd go out an buy the album.

Listening to the radio, and listening to songs in my collection went hand in hand. They complimented each other. I never thought of them as being competitive. If I didn't have radio, I'd have never have heard the songs I ended up buying. Because my collection wasn't mobile and a radio was, I'd listen to the radio everywhere I went, in the car, at work and at home. Although I'd spend hours listening to my vinyl, I would still love to hear my favorite songs, or brand new ones "curated"  into a playlist that came out of my FM radio. Those stations and their playlists and the air personalities who "schooled me" on music became a soundtrack for for the many seasons of my life.

Clearly, the radio industry has changed dramatically. For anyone under 30, radio might be one, (hopefully is still one) of many sources to find audio at the touch of a button, and mostly in the car. But it will never be as it was because the technology surrounding it has made it only one of  multiple sources for music and media.

While I still love radio, and am nostalgic for those memories of my youth, I admit,  I consume most of my music through the many digital platforms available to me. Because there are so many sources to find great music uninterrupted by commercials, I tend to curate my own lists. But what I miss in these DSP's is the information I'd get between the songs, and I believe the one way radio can remain relevant is to return to that part of what made radio great: intimacy, one-one-one communication, and, in a word: personality. Radio's more music less talk strategy may have been relevant before Spotify and Pandora, but much less so now. because there is NO talk on these streaming services.

In short, we need to bring back talk between the songs. More music less talk is not a viable position on over the air radio anymore because radio cannot compete in that area. MORE talk, (of the right kind, of course) not less is what may bring people back to radio. Personalities that keep you company. Personalities that inform, entertain, console, educate and overall, just serves that role of a companion.

Personalities are emerging, however, on YouTube and other video streaming platforms. Personalities are becoming stars via a podcasts. NPR has, through its podcasts, extended it's brand well beyond its airwaves. While radio chose to eliminate much of its local focus for syndicated air talent to cut costs due to the overwhelming debt caused by conglomeration, online services are quietly filling the void becoming the "farm team" for talent that local radio once was. Don't get me wrong, no one can argue the talent and entertainment value of nationally syndicated  shows like Howard Stern, Bobby Bones, Ryan Seacrest and their predecessors like Casey Kasem, Rick Dees or Paul Harvey...but those stars of the past  may not be coming from radio or TV in the future.

I'm not so nostalgic for old radio that I think we need to completely return to the way it was done way back when, but as far as personality and locality, I think we can learn a lot from the mistakes of deregulation to help turn this ship around.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

I Admit It, I'm a Slacktivist

Slacktivism is a relatively new term  for "feel-good" measures in support of an issue or social cause that doesn't take much effort. And I feel a little called out as I read more about this phenomenon. I mean, isn't it  good that I sign an internet petition? Share a social media post on a subject I feel is important? Well, yeah, but when it it not followed by action on my part, I become a slacker. 

Social media can be exhausting- especially for a diplomatic/empath/people-pleaser personality type like me  Whether in the expression of  an opinion, or sharing information about something I care about regarding politics, religion, the environment or saving animals; taking a position on something that some in my social media (or daily life) world will disagree with can be, well uncomfortable. 

And really, why bother? Does sharing an opinion, an article or an issue that stirs debate really accomplish anything?

I hope so. 

I want the world to see and feel and understand the horrific cruelty of factory farming, and I want it to stop. But the discomfort it causes spreading the word would cause me to lose "friends". I recognize my white privilege and know my experience in my skin color is completely different and less negative than so many persons of color, and I believe taking a knee is a perfectly fine way to express protest, and know that expressing that opinion as the football season approaches will cause more "debates".  I think Trumpism has been terrible and our country is more divided than I've ever seen in my lifetime. From his immature tweets, to his policies that have separated families at the border, I don't like a lot of what is going on, and  I want to to do something about it. I want to say something about it, I want to find like-minded people who will help me champion a cause about it. But my non-confrontational personality makes any form of activism a challenge for me.

A few months ago, I told my daughter, Elise Cordle Kennedy, that I needed to take a break from social media because I needed to protect my mental health. What she said made me both proud and ashamed. Proud of her; ashamed of me, for my slacktivism. 

She said, "I think we have both an opportunity and a duty to not sit down and stay quiet. There are so many people who are not given the privilege to "sit it out and take a hiatus" from the daily rigor of injustice and persecution that they live. It has been easy to sit down and stay quiet for a long time on so many things: poverty, racial injustice, global warming, international rights for women, LGTBQ discrimination, but the time for staying quiet has long passed; thankfully so. We cannot afford to stay quiet, much like we cannot afford to not participate in our electoral system, much like we cannot afford to patronize businesses run by bigots or jingoists, or the factory farm industry, or the unending list of cruelties and businesses that can no longer be tolerated. We need voices of tenacity, intelligence and stamina, because the fools and charlatans will never be quiet."

Wow. How did she get so smart? So brave. Elise is now studying policy and working toward a Master's Degree where she can fight for change when she believes it's needed. I think I'd like to change the world and step out a bit of my comfort zone...but then reel it back in because I feel I'm not that brave.  And I can't debate in the harsh style that so many others who may not be smarter than me but are a lot more confident....and a lot louder. 

History's biggest change agents probably weren't very popular. Those women who were jailed and beaten so that I'd have the right to vote probably didn't get invited to the cotillion. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Gloria Steinem , Jenny McCarthy, Cesar Chavez- I bet they were/are pretty intense and maybe not a whole lot of fun at a party as they were out there changing the world with opinions many don't agree with....fighting for  civil rights, women's rights HUMAN rights! But where would the world be without them?

I have a friend who speaks out openly on social media and beyond. It has cost her in relationships, and social media 'friends'. I don't always agree on her style, but I usually agree with her position and commend her passion. I think there needs to be some sort of diplomacy even with those we disagree with the accomplish change. If I, for example, I am dealing with a  racist, sexist, homophobic human being, and that person is in power, I might have to work hard to learn something about what motivates them, find a common ground point to  then be in a position where they might be open to a change in opinion...or at least a lean toward the middle. Sometimes that can sway a vote...and move the needle. 

I am going to try to do more to get outside of my comfort zone in a way that I hope I can slack less,  and act more over the causes I believe in, whether it's for a candidate, a law that needs changed to protect the environment, or saving puppies, kittens or turtles. 

And whether sharing an opinion on social media really makes a difference...well I guess that is for another online debate.