Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 KSER Voice of the Community Award

From the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund to the Japanese Gulch Group to the Snohomish County Music Project, and more, KSER likes to honor those who make a positive impact in our community.
Every year, for seven consecutive years, KSER has honored local individuals, organizations and businesses that speak up to make a difference. It's the annual KSER Voice of the Community Award Celebration.

And we want to tell you about this year's event and those who will be receiving an award.

This year, we're moving to a new venue: The Orca Ballroom at Tulalip Resort Casino. And you can be there for a special breakfast on November 5th when this year's awards are presented.

7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014
Breakfast served at 7:30 a.m.
Tulalip Resort Casino – Orca Ballroom
10200 Quil Ceda Boulevard – Tulalip, WA – 98271
Located off Interstate 5, Exit 200

For just $15 you can reserve tickets here.

Here are the community leaders who accepted awards at the 2013 Voice of the Community Award Celebration:

(l.-r.) Kristin Eberling; Ryan Crowther; Bruce Russell; Arnie Hammerman; Shannon Affholter; Sandra Vanderven

From the 2012 KSER Voice of the Community Award Celebration:

(l-r) Roger Pawley; Jan Vance; Lillian Ortiz-Self
An award recipient in 2011 was Dr. David Beyer, President of Everett Community College.

Dr. David Beyer
Every year, we receive solicit nominations from our listeners and then our Voice of the Community Award committee reviews the nominations and selects award recipients for each category. This year, it was a long list of worthy candidates. These are the nominees selected by our committee to be honored on November 5th:

2014 Awardees

Community Impact by an Individual: Tom Murphy, Anthropology Professor, Edmonds Community College

Community Impact by an Organization: City of Arlington and City of Darrington – and neighboring communities – for their response to the Oso mudslide (Accepting the award will be Mayor Barbara Tolbert and Mayor Dan Rankin)

Community Impact by a Business: Whidbey Life Magazine  (Accepting the award will be Sue Taves, publisher)

Cultural Impact by an Individual: Ken Kraintz, 27-year arts supervisor, Everett School District

Cultural Impact by an Organization: Whidbey Children's Theater (Accepting the award will be Cait Cassee, executive director)

Cultural Impact by a Business: Everett Historic Theater (Accepting the award will be Craig Shriner, owner)

If you'd like to join us in saluting these outstanding organizations and individuals, order your tickets now.  Then think about who you'd like to nominate for the 2015 Voice of the Community Award!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pay Money, Get Interviewed!

An Everett community leader was interviewed on KSER and she didn't have to pay.

KSER's Ed Bremer interviews hundreds of people every year - Friday afternoon he spent a full hour in the studio interviewing Sylvia Anderson, the CEO of the Everett Gospel Mission.

Sylvia is also co-chair of the Community Streets Initiative, a task force focused on street level social issues  - homelessness, drug use and other problems.

Ed Bremer interviewing Sylvia Anderson
And just like the hundreds of other people who have been interviewed on KSER, Sylvia Anderson didn't have to pay for the air time. Discussing these important issues is the type of community service that is the foundation of KSER.

It may sound like something from The Onion or Saturday Night Live, but, apparently, at least one commercial radio station has been charging a fee for news coverage. Not a fee for listeners, but a fee to the subjects of news stories.

The mayor of Nogales, AZ claims that news coverage and commentary about his city turned sour when the mayor took office and the city stopped paying the town's top radio station for news interviews.

Is that possible? A radio station making town officials pay for news coverage?!?

Oscar Felix Sr., the General Manager of KOFH-FM told The Arizona Republic that it's appropriate to charge for news interviews, but his station's financial arrangements with the city have no influence on news coverage and commentary.

The city is asking the Federal Communications to investigate. Is this just an extreme example?

A few weeks ago, several news sites reported that the online version of the Washington Post had placed links for Amazon products within the body of news stories. A Post official said it was a computer mistake and the Amazon links, normally placed in the margins of online stories, were inadvertently moved into the body of one story. The Washington Post is now owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

How many times have you checked a news website and clicked on a compelling headline, only to realize it was actually an ad. Sometimes you see that small, faded 'advertisement' warning before clicking, sometimes you're click-bait.

The news business, especially traditional newspapers, are struggling to survive in the ever changing and immediate world of internet, mobile and social media news coverage. Having a staff of dozens of union reporters is challenging when you're competing with websites that are being operated with a skeleton crew and free-lance (or just free) 'reporters.'

But when the advertising lines become so blurred that the you can't tell the difference - or when traditional media starts charging politicians for news coverage - it should set off some alarm bells.

It's tough enough to know how much influence advertisers might exert over news outlets when they pay thousands of dollars for commercials or when major politically driven foundations dole out big grants to public TV and radio.

But, if the so-called watchdogs are beginning to charge 'newsmakers' for coverage, then how will citizens ever know the real story about much of anything?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Sources of Information are Corrupted

It seems harder than ever to trust the news.

The cable channels all seem required to have a point of view - Fox News is for conservatives; MSNBC is for liberals; CNN is supposed to be 'down the middle'. But just this week, in covering the protests and police response in Ferguson, Missouri, CNN used this breaking news graphic:

Turns out the 'source' in this case was apparently a female caller to a radio talk show. No one could confirm if she was at the scene of the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown or not.

One person who thinks news coverage is part of the problem is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In an essay for Time, the former NBA and college basketball great asks, "How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent." You can read the full Kareem Abdul-Jabbar essay here.

But even Time isn't the pillar of journalistic integrity you may have once considered it to be. Just this week Hamilton Nolan at the website Gawker published this story on how Time is ranking its writers and reporters based on several factors, including website hits and how beneficial a reporter's stories are to advertisers!

There's nothing wrong with quality advertising. After all it kept great newspapers afloat for decades and kept great news shows like 60 Minutes and Nightline on the air for years. But there used to be an imaginary wall between the editorial content and the men and women selling the ads. Now, however, we see a legendary news organization judging reporters on their 'advertising-friendliness.' What's a reporter supposed to do...especially in this day and age of fewer good reporting jobs?

I started seeing this destruction of the imaginary wall between editorial and advertising more than a decade ago. I worked for a large radio chain with headquarters on the East Coast. They were trying to seal a huge advertising 'buy' with WalMart at a time when many towns and communities were trying to fight new stores coming to their area. It was also a time when WalMart did very little radio advertising. We got a visit from a regional manager of the radio company who suggested we should try to avoid any negative content on the air about WalMart. It was understood to be a very strong suggestion.

How do we turn this around? Good question. Twenty years ago, 90% of the broadcast media in the US was controlled by 50 companies. Now 90% of the broadcast media is controlled by 6 companies.

For every independent media outlet like KSER and every hard-hitting journalist like Amy Goodman, there are cities full of corporate-owned cookie-cutter formatted radio and TV stations. That old saying about the people owning the airwaves is starting to seem quaint. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

KSER Foundation Board of Directors

Four local citizens were elected to three-year terms as members of the KSER Foundation Board of Directors Tuesday evening, August 12, 2014.

The four newly-elected board members are Alan Jacobson, Branch Manager of the Evergreen Branch of the Everett Public Library; Nina Martinez, a health care business consultant and Chair of the Latino Civic Alliance; Robert Shoup, Engineer; and Laurie Wheeler, Owner of Maestra Communications.

Our community is fortunate to have a group of hard-working people who are willing, on a volunteer basis, to serve as board members for the KSER Foundation.

"We need a voice that doesn't belong to corporate America. The value of public radio lies in the fact that it is beholden to its listeners alone. Every public radio station is invaluable."
                   - Alan Jacobson

Alan Jacobson

"I believe public radio is a powerful solution to bring communities together. KSER effectively promotes well-informed information to its listeners and challenges them to think in broader terms."
                    - Nina Martinez

Nina Martinez

Strong communities have an informed and involved public that is engaged in arts, education and political issues. KSER and KXIR have an important role in supporting these initiatives.
               - Robert Shoup

Robert Shoup

"Our airwaves are owned by the people and should reflect the diverse and divergent views and cultural expressions of the people. I love KSER's commitment to broadcasting local voices and regional points of view."
                 -Laurie Wheeler

Laurie Wheeler
The four newly-elected members join eight other KSER Foundation Board members who are currently serving on-going terms on the board.

You can learn more about the entire KSER board online at

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Making the Internet Less Fair

Sometimes it's easier to listen to KSER, or many other radio stations, on your computer instead of on a radio.

At the moment, in theory, when you visit a website or stream audio or video all things are relatively equal. Whether you're watching a movie on Netflix, downloading a book from a giant corporation like Amazon, or listening to your local independent community radio station, we're all sending our 'product' through what the late Senator Ted Stevens called a series of tubes. The rest of us just call it the internet. And for the most part we're all on equal footing.

But all that might change, depending on what the FCC decides on the issue of 'Net Neutrality.'

Unless you're a media attorney, understanding all the details of the debate on 'Net Neutrality' can be challenging.  Amy Goodman had an excellent synopsis of the debate this week on KSER, explaining the basics of the issue and the political angle that happens to involve the son of Colin Powell. If you didn't hear it, you can read her commentary here.  Or, just look at this Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon by Ruben Bolling.

Like many of these debates, it seems what the people want takes a back seat to what the big corporations want. Is there a user of the internet who would prefer that powerful corporations can buy better internet speeds? Does the average person want smaller companies, local start-ups or individual bloggers to get left in the dust or possibly shut out completely?

You probably know that Comcast is merging with Time-Warner Cable making it an even bigger cable behemoth. This week AT&T announced it's buying DirectTV in a $67-Billion deal.  A few weeks ago the FCC did decide against allowing radio companies to own more radio stations in an individual market. In the bigger markets, the maximum number of stations one company can own is eight. The radio industry wanted that raised to twelve. For now, the FCC has said no to the increase.

But there is one ownership rule the FCC may eliminate: cross-ownership of radio and newspapers. There's been a long-time ban preventing companies from owning both a local newspaper and local radio stations. There are some exceptions, 'grandfather' clauses in a few markets. But now the FCC has tentatively concluded there is no reason to keep the radio/newspaper ownership ban in place.

Is that a move the people want? One organization that is fighting to lift the ban is NAMB, the National Association of Media Brokers. Wonder what they'd have to gain?

If you don't think some of these rule changes make sense, you can call or write your member of congress. But remember, they're being lobbied daily by the big corporations that will benefit from the rule changes. 

Personally, I'm just going to keep donating to KSER to make sure that we have local community radio and hoping KSER always has equal access to that 'series of tubes.'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When Pirates Are the Best Option

Have we gotten to a point where some listeners - even government officials - think that an illegal 'pirate' radio station is the best option for local community news and information?

In Boston this week, Touch 106 was raided and shut down by the 'Feds.'

Touch 106 was a "pirate" radio station. They had no FCC license. In fact, the federal government had tried previously to shut them down but couldn't gain access to their building. Prior to the shutdown, Touch 106 had operated illegally, but not unsuccessfully, for eight years.

From time to time, illegally operated 'pirate' stations get shut down. But what makes the Touch 106 story so interesting, is the reaction from listeners and community leaders.

Even Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told the Boston Globe he was incredibly disappointed, "Touch is a very important voice in the community."

Leading radio trade publication Radio Ink referred to Touch 106 as "The Benevolent Pirate" and quoted radio consultant Donna Halper as saying, "The Touch story speaks to a much bigger issue: the FCC's lack of interest in promoting live and local programming and it's willingness to allow a handful of giant conglomerates to simulcast and voicetrack rather than be a presence in the communities they are supposed to serve."

There's even a petition on to bring Touch 106 back to the Boston airwaves.

The FCC, as you might imagine, has a different take. The station was operating without a license, they were apparently interfering with other legally operated stations that were broadcasting on or near the same dial position.  That's why federal agents raided the studios and confiscated most of their broadcast equipment.

But what does it say when listeners and many government leaders (even the Governor!) are suggesting that the best local community service provided by broadcasters is being provided by an illegal pirate?

One Boston city council member said he was going to do everything he could to get the station back on the air, calling it, "A community institution, information resource, and vehicle for civic engagement and social change."

Those are the same words we'd use to describe KSER and KXIR. The difference is, we've been operating legally since 1991, serving the North Puget Sound as an information and cultural resource.

Of course, it might be more 'dashing' to just operate as a pirate station - and a lot cheaper. We wouldn't have to pay FCC attorney fees. We wouldn't have spent more than $350,000 to construct a tower and launch KXIR at 89.9 on Whidbey Island. And now, with that second station, and with continued support from listeners like you, we want to improve and expand our service to the communities we reach.

Perhaps if  more communities had locally-owned independent public radio stations like KSER and KXIR, some elected officials and governors wouldn't find themselves in the awkward position of defending pirate broadcasters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eight is Enough

For now, at least, the big commercial radio companies are stuck with ownership caps.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled this week there is no need to raise the number of stations a company can own in an individual market.

If you're old enough, you recall a time when a broadcast company could only own two radio stations in your town - one AM and one FM. For decades that limit served the industry well. Then deregulation occurred in the mid-90's and, suddenly, companies were allowed to own up to eight (8) stations in a major market. And in many big cities, that's exactly what happened. Not only did the biggest companies get bigger, but, in some cases, they would buy the eight stations with the strongest signals in town.

Before deregulation and consolidation, radio companies complained about competition from other media, in particular, cable television. But recently, those same radio companies have been moaning about another source of competition: the internet. That's why several years ago, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) got involved.

The NAB is a trade organization that represents the commercial radio industry. They lobbied the FCC to lift the 8-station ownership cap. The new number they wanted was twelve. It was argued that in order to be competitive, companies needed to own more and more of the radio pie.

While two used to be enough - and then eight was enough - the big companies said twelve was the new magic number. But this week, the FCC said 'no' to the NAB and ruled that the 8-station cap would remain in place.

It's way too late to save many of the great local broadcast companies that used to be part of many communities. Most are long gone, gobbled up by larger national chains with loosened ownership restrictions. That's why you might hear the same person doing traffic or weather reports on three or four (or more) stations; why the music playlist you hear in Seattle is exactly the same as what you'll hear in Portland or Miami or Denver; why in many towns that used to have robust radio news teams, there is little local news coverage at all.

Of course, radio doesn't have exclusivity when it comes to a flood of consolidation and deregulation. Many industries have been through similar upheaval. At least for now, however, the big corporate broadcast companies are on hold when it comes to growing caps.

But don’t expect the NAB or the handful of big commercial radio corporations to give up. For them, eight is not enough.