My family has been catholic for generations. It started in Ireland and my ancestors brought their religion with them when the potato famine occurred. Because I can’t condone the theological and canonical beliefs of the church, I don’t practice my ancestral religion but none of that stopped me from reading Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical Letter, Laudato SI. He focuses on the environment so I was surprised to discover that he had some things to say about media as well. In Section IV #47 he writes:
“Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation can also arise.”
What struck me was that community media is an exception to the phenomena of “a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation ” that the Pope describes. Perhaps it is because I am sampling web streams from NFCB member stations in the office every day (and it is pledge drive time) but, when I listen, I hear authentic and complex human experience expressed in the voices of ordinary people who create local programming every day on community stations around the country. I hear the emotion, the laughter, the sadness. What’s more, when I listen to my local community radio station KVNF, I not only hear the “real” people but I know them. I often know what they care about and why. Community radio, done well, can be an antidote for isolation and despair. We don’t always hit that high water mark but when we do, it goes straight to the heart.
In the midst of profound pressures to “scale up”, “polish up”, “move the dial” at your station, it’s helpful to remember that there is a great deal of humanity being expressed on the community airwaves and people feel it. That alone is a great contribution to be making to your neighborhood.
You can read the whole Encyclical here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html