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Importance of Community Radio in Hard Times

Man in a suit with trees in background Dana Buckingham KBCS GM

August 7, 2020 - 4:41 pm

Back in the late 70’s I worked as the News Director at a small AM radio station in Oskaloosa Iowa. There was an older fellow that was a faithful listener and he called me at least once a week just to chat, share a corny joke or two, and tell me stories about his longtime career in radio. He started working in radio during the 1930s and had only recently retired. I loved listening to his stories about radio’s “Golden Age” and looked forward to his calls.

He told me once, “Never underestimate the power of the human voice alone to make a strong and lasting emotional connection with a listener. There are a lot of people whom you have never met that consider you to be their best friend. Unfortunately, many of them don’t have anyone else in their lives that is close to them anymore. You’re it.”

I’ll never forget that.

A few years ago, I got a call from a woman whose father had died recently. She wanted me to know how much he enjoyed listening to me on the radio.  Apparently, every morning at 9:00, everything in his life came to a stop at the nursing home so he could listen to the radio without any interruptions. She said everyone at the home knew not to bother him during that time.

She told me that she lived in California and came back to Omaha to be with him during his last days of his long battle with cancer. She said he told her stories about me and things that I said and did on the radio over the years. He knew my wife’s name, and even the names of several dogs that we had shared our life with over the years. She got a kick out of that.  He remembered when I first started working for KVNO as an undergrad on the weekends and he followed every subsequent move “up the ladder” I made.

On the day he died he was listening to the radio and I was playing Beethoven and his last words to her before he slipped away, were just how much he loved Beethoven’s glorious Ninth.  Normally, I rarely played the master’s Ninth during my morning board shift because I didn’t consider it a good fit for that time of the day.

But that day, I did.

This story is not all that unfamiliar to many of us that have worked in radio for a long time. There is a special bond that often develops over time between regular listeners and those familiar and friendly voices they listen to on the radio. I used to joke with my comrades that we are a faithful companion, just like a dog that is always there when you need us. It doesn’t matter if you are having a bad day, or screwed up at work, or if your hair is a mess and you are not wearing any makeup; we are always there to entertain and inform you at the flick of a switch. Or, like in many homes today, when you say, “Hey Alexa, play KBCS.”

Those of us who are privileged to work in radio and share our passion for what we do with our listeners, never take that relationship for granted. Many of our volunteer announcers at KBCS have developed close relationships with their regular listeners over the years. We have volunteers here at KBCS that have been sharing their love for music with their listeners for over thirty years. Think about that.

KBCS is always there for you when you need us, even during this horrible pandemic that has so disrupted our everyday lives. Now we are asking for you to be there for us during these trying times. If you have yet to become a contributing-listener to KBCS, or if it’s been some time since you’ve donated, the station needs your financial vote of support now more than ever. Please join others who actively support KBCS by signing up as an on-going monthly donor today.

We’ve just embarked on a year-long “Sustainability Campaign” in which KBCS must make up for funding cuts that have impacted the station, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to cover the $150,000 in cuts KBCS is facing in this and future years, the station is looking to add 1,000 new monthly sustaining members to our dedicated base of supporters.  If we can do that, and maintain our other levels of community support, we can meet our challenge to become entirely self-supporting by the beginning of our next fiscal year in July 2021. Please consider making that commitment right now and I can promise you that we will continue to work our tails off to keep this great tradition of community radio on the air for future generations to enjoy and participate in as much as we do.

Thank you for your continuing support for KBCS.

Dana Buckingham

KBCS General Manager and Proud Sustaining Contributor to Greater Seattle’s Community Radio, KBCS.