Grassroots Radio Conference: radio with heart

by Julie Shapiro, Lissenup

the annual grassroots radio conference is coming up this weekend, july 27 - 30, in madison, WI. basically a bunch of radioheads from community, grassroots, volunteer run and low-power stations across the country will descend upon the town and spend a few days "figuring out more and new ways of social action, making new friendships and renewing old ones, and creating great radio." Sessions will include: "public journalism: philosophy and ethics," "activism around FCC, censorship and obscenity issues," and of course the ever-present "gender/womens' programming" topic will be covered as well.

i've been to a couple GRCs in the past and i have to say - while i may be considered a more conservative attendee (no, i don't actually think that 'democracy now' is our only hope for salvation. humor! people! a sense of humor can be revolutionary and edifying too!) - i can also vouch for the fact that something really special happens over the course of each gathering. the sheer passion that attendees have for their stations and colleagues is tangible, and contagious, and restorative. and people really really really believe in the power of the radio to make change, and educate, and stimulate listeners to important action. it's heartening to witness and participate in, especially since i spend so much of my time with independent producers who are struggling to make a career out telling stories on the radio, but are doing so often without the firm support of stations or communities behind them. the producers i work with often don't have something to care fiercely about, or feel proud to be part of in the same way i can always sense is all around me at GRCs. and i happen to think it's important to care fiercely.

though i respect, not to mention adore the community of public radio producers i've come to know over the past six years, the public radio system at large feels pretty sterile, isolated and starched compared with the sometimes crazy, often manic and totally dedicated community station devotees. (and of course, it's whiter than white. but that's another discussion for another time.) there's a lot of overlap between the public and community radio worlds, and also a lot of mutually agreed upon separation, but in the end maybe the easiest way to put it is to say that while they both offer invaluable services to their respective audiences, listeners and practitioners, the community radio world proudly wears a certain sense of moxie that's unmatchable, in its own right. simply - it's refreshing.

so, uh, see you in madison?

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey