Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Moving my public radio dollars

Last week, I moved my public radio dollars 75 miles up the road. Specifically, from Rochester, NY to nearby Buffalo. Here's why.

The Rochester public radio outlet drives its news programming through an AM transmitter whose signal falls off  near the city limits. Forget bridges and overpasses; overhead electric wires blot out the arthritic signal. Station personnel say they're aware of the chronic signal problem, and have plans to address it. And that's been their story for years. Their morning and afternoon drive-time NPR network programs are simulcast on a local FM college frequency, which helps a bit. But the rest of the news programming may as well originate from Nome, Alaska. The AM signal is wretched.

By Cjp24 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons
I've waited, but I often compare the Rochester signal deficiencies with NPR programming in Buffalo, NY. Its audience is served by two FM frequencies: one for classical music, another for news programming. For listeners in more distant Olean and Jamestown, news programming airs via FM repeaters.

This means I can usually hear Buffalo's NPR news in my car or on any radio in my home or office. I don't need to rely on an Internet signal. If you operate an FCC-licensed transmitter, I should be able to hear your signal without relying upon a modem, WiFi signal, and smartphone.

During a recent fund drive, Rochester station announcers spoke about how donations go toward new equipment. I'm not sure that money makes it to the broadcast signal. Where does it go?

If you look at both the Buffalo and Rochester stations' Schedule J (IRS Form 990) from 2015, you discover that the public broadcasting CEO in Rochester earned $412,739 -- about $30,000 more than the Buffalo CEO ($382,569). Plus, the Rochester station paid another vice president $197,000.

That $600,000 payout to the Rochester station's two top leaders hasn't helped its news signal reach listeners in its own backyard. No public radio station has problem-free signals, but years of banishing its strong news content to a moribund AM signal with no remedy has cost them my support.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Who mourns for a narcissist?

A 1967 Star Trek episode (circa Kirk, not Picard) finds the Enterprise crew confronting a super-being who claims to be the ancient Greek god Apollo. Capt. Kirk quickly determines that Apollo is a narcissist who thrives on worship and adulation. Kirk advises a crew member:

Michael Forest as Apollo, Leslie Parrish as Carolyn.
Star Trek, "Who Mourns for Adonais?" 1967.
"He thrives on love, worship, attention ... We can't give him that worship, none of us can. Especially you ... Spurn him. Reject him."

Maybe that's a way to deal with another narcissist who seems to crave constant attention. The 45th president of the U.S. insists on such glorification, linking his name with any economic uptick, whether or not he's actually deserving of credit.

And, as we've seen, he's just as quick to lash out and childishly ridicule those who point out his inconsistencies.

Worst of all, the news media seems unable to decline covering the smallest of the incoming president's online tantrums. Perhaps they can't, since it's really their job to cover the head of state's every public utterance. For better or worse.

Most of us aren't media professionals. We needn't retweet every pre-dawn boast or criticism coming from Trump Tower. We're not required to provide commentary or links to published news accounts. We needn't post photos of him, whether flattering or otherwise.

So, I've chosen to spurn the 45th president in my digital feed. He won the election, but not the social media platforms I use. I don't need to devote my Facebook timeline to his every utterance; there are many other positive topics to share. And, I'll try very hard not to post links to stories about him; if I have to, I'll try to delete the photos that feed his narcissism.

In short: I will spurn him. And if more of us choose the same course, he will have less to rant against, and less of an audience to captivate.

If we're fortunate, it may marginalize his caustic effect on our civil discourse.