Melody Kramer

If I Ran A Station

14 May 2015

Someone asked what my ideal public radio station would look like, if I could start one today from scratch. Cool thought puzzle! Here it is:

I’d set the station up as a faciliator rather than a disseminator. We would:

  1. Run training classes in communities - at local libraries and community centers and in schools - teaching people how to collect audio from their communities and then hire producers at the station edit the tape and help shape them for air. See reporters and producers as facilitators: not a one-way street of disseminating information, but working with the community to unearth a) what stories are important b) the best way to tell them and c) the best ways to share them. The medium is not the message here - sometimes it’s radio, sometimes it’s paper, sometimes it’s a podcast, sometimes it’s the web - sometimes it’s all of the above.

  2. Personalize every complex story we could. KPCC did this recently with their local municipal primary election coverage.

  3. Set up booths around town — again in libraries, at the station, in public spaces — that would allow people to share their stories.

  4. Have a show on that would simply pilot short or longform podcasts showcasing different voices in the community. There’s a precious element in public media that doesn’t allow us to put anything on the air that’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can’t experiment if the bar is constantly out of reach.

  5. Place audio cones in public areas — at bus stations, in parks — that would broadcast stories back out in public places. Partner with the local public bus and put stories on the bus/subway ads.

  6. Partner with local libraries to project every data visualization and map we make on the outside of the building. Anyone who doesn’t have high-speed internet cannot experience interactives. Put them on a building!

  7. Ask people to come on the air and teach everyone in the community something — anything — that they had learned in the past year or so. I can’t think of any show or station that operates in this way.

  8. Set up Storytelling as a Service to train others in the community to tell their stories. (Facilitated workshops can bring in revenue.)

  9. Highlight material from other STATIONS that people in the community might like. Build up station-station relationships.

  10. Share everything we learned about process for others stations to learn. (Perhaps run facilitated workshops.)

  11. Create paper versions of complex stories and put them in tourist bureaus, courthouses, and other places that contain pamphlets. What does a public radio station look like if it disseminates information like a tourist bureau?

  12. Raise money through public-private partnerships that would strengthen the archives and allow material (which costs a lot to produce) to be resurfaced.

  13. Build the public media equivilent of 311. Call a line. Ask a news question. We dig up the answer. Maybe we air it. And we air it in every possible way.

  14. Build a network of block captains to share hyperlocal news. Make them members.

  15. Open source everything. Cheaper and transparent, and allows community to have input in what is build. Have software as a service set up, to build/consult for other stations.

  16. Have Slack instead of email. Email sucks and wastes time and makes people feel overwhelmed.

  17. Not separate departments physically in buildings. This is weird and means people don’t share ideas or information. Pick two names of coworkers out of a hat every month — have them have lunch.

  18. Invite people to the station to record podcasts in an empty studio.

  19. Invite people from community to the station once a month to preview new stuff, give feedback. Maybe the station is a food truck. What’s the station version of a little free library?

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