We were lucky to have three of the AIR team (check out their new website) with us doing their first public presentation on their new body of work Localore: Finding America. Ever-brilliant Sue Schardt, AIR’s Executive Director, shared reflections on the impact and opportunity of community media:
In 1967, when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act Lyndon Johnson said, “‘public broadcasting will be free, it will be independent, and it will belong to all of the people.’ He said, “today we dedicate a portion of our airwaves for the enlightenment of all of our people.” This is a very important set of words, he had fantastic idealism.
Fifty years later we have realized much of his vision. These aren’t ordinary times. We know that. It’s a time of great disparity, where people can’t feed their children. There is disparity in wealth, in being able to send your children to school, and we’ve seen here in St. Louis of course the disparity in the way our law enforcement live and breath in our communities. We bring hope. Those of us in public broadcasting know how to bring enlightenment. And that’s what we do. This is at the heart of our strategy. It is heart, a human feeling, that guides our intellect, our planning, our inventions, as we make a new story of America. It’s the opportunity we have right now. Community radio stations, those who have spent their careers building a hyper-local connection, a human connection, to the people living in the far corners of their communities, [can] use technology to illuminate those things that bind us. It’s a moment of unprecedented opportunity for community radio stations, for independent producers, and for all of us who are committed to a new public broadcasting that truly serves America.”
PRX’s John Barth gave us a TON to chew on. One snippet:
“Community media is now more relevant than ever because people have the tools to contribute and have their voice heard. What community media can do is provide the training, provide the focal point, the center for a lot of those voices. Community media can provide the standards for how the conversations take place. It’s not enough to just get behind a mic and talk. Community media can say, “hey, this is what we’re about, this is what we are trying to achieve, what do you got?” It’s about being able to channel the community voices in a larger way into something meaningful. “
And finally, some pearls from Dr. Kira Banks who spoke to us about Unconscious Bias in the Media in the wake of Ferguson:
“Media does really shape our narratives, it shapes how we see the world, and there are ways in which we have to be mindful that the stories we are telling, the narratives we are telling, don’t fit into biased frames about groups of people. So to talk about protestors as this negative group or to talk about thugs as coded language for black men engaged in some criminal act, or the assumptions we have about different groups of people. I think the importance to cover [issues] in a sensitive way and a systemically aware way has always been there, but I think that Ferguson, and the dynamics of Ferguson, have pushed us to be more critical about how we cover stories and about how we cover race issues in a more responsible way.“
Full of good thoughts and words, the summit was also full of fun and friendship. We’ve got five more to keep it going … join us!