I really want to get past this and build a new and creative world for us and for you. We will and we are. We’re going to post a new interview in just a few minutes.
I wanted to write a few words about last night, as well.
The gathering last night was amazing. It was a cold snowy night. A night that saw many events across the community cancelled. But in Charles Village, an auditorium was filled with 300 people or so.
The people there represented our community. It was Black, White, Asian, Latino, elders, youth and middle aged, gay and straight. There were truck drivers from Baltimore, school bus drivers from Bel Air, steel workers from Dundalk, university professors from every discipline, lawyers, nurses, doctors, social works, inner city activists, students, school teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists and artisans. Some were activists who came as an organized group but most were just folks there to speak there mind.
It was inspiring to hear what my listeners and station members had to say. Sure, on one one level it was about me and about the fact that I have been part of people’s lives in this community for the past fifteen years. But all this was and is much larger and more important than any one man or any show on public radio.
This is about community, about building community and a radio show that drew diverse communities together. It is about the future of public radio and what the public means in public radio.
Speakers stood to tell Tony Brandon, Barbara Bozzuto, Andy Bienstock, the management and board of WYPR that the program gave voice to the voiceless in this community. People testified that they had been introduced to voices, people and ideas from our community that they would never run across in their daily lives. One inner city activist, Dante Wilson, said that all the media shows is negative images of Black communities. He said that our program showed the world that there is a different side to the streets of Baltimore and people who were working to make a difference.
School teachers stood up to say that nowhere else did teachers and regular working people have a forum to speak to the public. Jewish-American and Arab-American leaders were there because our show was a place where ideas were non-threateningly shared.
It became clear that the people in that audience felt that the Marc Steiner Show was a place that built community, built bridges between the diversity we live in, and created communication. One thing was very clear; people understand that and want public media to be a place to build community.
The concept of public ownership of the airwaves was foremost in the minds of those who attended last night. The “your” in Your Public Radio is more than just words. When I came up with those call letters, it meant that it was to be a community owned and run station. I believed it, the people who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the station believed it, and in the ensuing years those who became members of WYPR believed it. I told them to believe it, and the station during its fund drives told them to believe. We were telling them a lie.
Last night the community demanded that the station management and board include them in the process. People believe that listener-members should have seats on the Board of Directors. They should be part of the process of directing our public radio. Some demanded that the board resign or that Tony Brandon and the management resign or that the board should fire the management and start over.
A theme that was constant throughout the night was people demanding that the public mean something in public radio.
Out of this meeting the CAB will write a report to WYPR’s Board of Directors. The meeting is March 12th. You may attend that meeting. You just have to register with WYPR to reserve a seat.
This is about the ownership and future of public radio.