Whirlwind Week of Networking Greets KVMR At National Radio Conference

SAN DIEGO --  It was a whirlwind week of networking, story-trading, getting  know how, getting  learn how and getting inspired.

That's the 42nd National Federation of Community Radio national conference in a simple sentence, with maybe 250 in attendance 

First, there were pre-conference intensives, which could be intense. Then everyone was there for the opening reception, familiar faces dotting a growing number of new and young faces (KVMR 89.5 FM Development Director Cynthia Tweed was at her very first one), while KVMR General Manager Ali Lightfoot ran into, duh, her mother Marty Durlin, the new GM at KZYX-FM in Mendocino County.

Then a renegade group of 16 attendees -- all 3 KVMR representatives, plus others from Colorado, California, Washington, Wisconsin, Hawaii and more -- helped fill the left field bleachers at a San Diego Padres baseball game.

Oh, don't worry, next day the opening sessions and meetings ran from 8 a.m. to past 8 p.m.  Extra innings, you might say. 


Keynoting the day was "The Art of Relevance" best-selling author Nina Simon, executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, where underserved groups and minorities were brought into the nonprofit's reinvention.

"90% of content is now created by community partners," Simon noted. "We've made it a welcoming space." 

They sure did.  

Within four years, they'd gone from 17,000 annual visitors to 148,000, staff grew from 7 to 40, the budget grew from $700,000 to over $3 million, and Simon has served as a consultant to many museums and non-profits. 

One exhibit was "Lost Childhood: Foster Care To Adulthood" that Simon noted was "by, of and from foster youth themselves." 

"Now we focus on how we can do it, not why we can't," she told the community radio.

No surprise, she got the first standing ovation of the week. 

Off to "Ask The Attorneys," where panelists included KVMR's broadcast attorney, Michael Couzens, who drew smiles when he said the FCC is now giving stations advance notice of station inspections and is helping community radio staff get their public files in order without fines. 

"It's not so true that they (the FCC) regard licensees as enemy, as it's seemed in the past," according to Couzens.

Also under discussion was copyright problems on websites and in social media, plus stations must give web access to visitors wishing to look at station public files, which are now online. 


At lunch, candidates for NFCB's Board of Directors spoke briefly.

"I ran for the steering committee of NFCB in the '70s because there were no people of color on the board," said one woman. "Now I'm running partly because I believe I'm the oldest person in the room. I'm 74."

Digital strategies, on-air fundraising and emergency preparedness were next on the agenda, followed by "Makeovers" with focus on content, revenue, engagement and capacity. 

Stations using the "Community Counts Initiative" checked in at the engagement session. 

The general manager of KZUM (Lincoln, Nebraska) talked about "celebrating diversity in Nebraska's most diverse town" and "introducing the city to its citizens." It now features a show in Vietnamese on Saturday afternoons. 

WMMT in rural Kentucky, offering "Restorative Radio" worked on "ensuring WMMT is by and for all members of our community", including portraits of prison families who have a loved one at a nearby state penitentiary. 

And WERU in Blue Hill, Maine, called theirs "Share The Air" as the station manager told the session "we're trying to make WERU relevant to a broader audience, particularly younger audiences."


And now for something completely different. 

Of course, you'd know "Consensus Decision Making in Community Radio" would bring 'em in. 

Joseph Orozco, longtime GM of tribal station KIDE in Hoopa, California, had everyone introduce themselves to each other one-by-one.

"You've just cleared the first hurdle,"  he explained.  "You have looked everyone in this room in the eye, and so have they  all looked you in the eye."

"That's the beginning of creating consensus," added Orozco.

The next morning, last day of the conference, award-winning communications attorney John Crigler got more honors, now that he's retired after "30 NFCB conferences," he said. 

"The real constant is you and your imagination," Crigler noted. "If you're not having fun (in community radio), you'll never make it.  But it was clear to me that community radio was really, dearly worth fighting for."

At speeches end, up popped a member of the audience who said, "How many of you know someone who has been personally touched by the work of this man?"

Nearly all hands shot up.

Meanwhile, KVMR's Lightfoot got an up-close look at how WFMU -- a pacesetting music station near New York City -- developed a new "Morning Drivetime Show" in a session of that very name.

One of the final sessions was on "Trust, Ethics and Community Media" with NPR Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen, who receives all complaints and comments about National Public Radio news. 

With allegedly more than 10,000 public mistruths so far in his Presidency, one GM asked why isn't the term "liar" used for Donald Trump on NPR?

"It's not always possible to know what his intent is," Jensen responded. "You don't know if he's getting bad information from somebody else or if he's meaning to spread 'lies'"

"Also, lies is a tough word to be heard. You want your voice to be heard with as large an audience as possible, and using 'lies' may turn off many listeners." 

Quite the conference. No lie or mistruth there.