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Forget Flyover: Why Work in Community Radio in 2017

Community media offers a lot to graduates and pros seeking a job change.

The end of the year came with many essays reflecting on the importance of graduates and those new to public media working in areas besides big cities or the East or West of the nation. Some people aren’t trying to hear that, of course, but as an organization based in the Mountain time zone, which serves a large number of media organizations in rural, small-market and medium-market areas, NFCB has seen a few upsides to these areas.

If you’re graduating or a non-commercial media professional, aspirant or friendly seeking a change for the new year, here are a few reasons to consider working in the so-called flyover states and for community radio stations:

  1. Opportunity. A constant refrain in community media is the need for new, fresh leadership. It’s true. A lot of stations have people of a certain age and some are looking at retiring or cycling out of their jobs as program directors, news directors, general managers and so on. What do these boards of directors want? You. They’re looking for a new voice to their areas to help them see what they don’t, to bring enthusiasm and a different attitude. With smaller staff, these organizations tend to have more of a startup culture, but you’ll learn a ton, be regarded more as a new leader than Assistant to the Assistant Manager for Twitter Scheduling at Large Media Group, and help legacy media into the future. In addition, you may just discover in such an environment something you are really great at, cultivate a particular skillset or get mentoring in areas you always wanted to learn.
  2. These regions make you better at what you do. Community media is more in touch with what’s happening in America than you’d think. Sure, it’s got its quirky people and problematic stuff. It’s also got its touching stories and resilience. As a born-and-raised Texan, I can tell you from experience whatever liberal bubble exists in these areas doesn’t insulate you like it does on the coasts. Not having a reef of several states buttressing you from the currents in the country makes you a stronger journalist, a more perceptive person and a better leader.
  3. Money. The pay-to-COL in a small community is not bad at all. If you have dreams of owning a place, having a yard and room for a dog above 15 pounds, getting that in D.C. is going to take awhile.
  4. Helping shape the discourse. If Election 2016 showed us anything, it’s just how out of touch coastal media was with the political moment. More than a few media types have explored how the media got the race to the White House so wrong, with regional biases and isolation turning up high on the list. Being more engaged with the rest of America situates community media for telling better stories, having more resonant conversations and educating people about many perspectives. Community media has the potential to build bridges that others may not.

Many public media thinkers have suggested working in far-flung places as a good way to get experience and expand one’s worldview. While a great deal of federal and other money flows to giant non-commercial media organizations, a new Administration makes this stability possibly uncertain going forward. The start of 2017 gives us all a chance to evaluate our goals for the new year. Working in community radio should be on your list.

2017-09-21T00:32:11+00:00 By |