Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Norma Bruns - KSER Volunteer From the Beginning

Norma Bruns has been involved with KSER ever since there has been a KSER.

Ed Bremer likes to say that Norma was practically waiting to get in the door the day the station went on the air in 1991.

For much of our nearly quarter-century of community-focused public broadcasting Norma Bruns has researched, produced and been the voice of the monthly League of Women Voters 'Magazine of the Air.' The program airs the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m.

Month after month, year after year, Norma has been instrumental in creating and distributing voters pamphlets, holding candidate forums, presenting information on important community issues and bringing all those issues to the airwaves on KSER. She's either produced and hosted the show or provided her feature "Norm's Notes".

This past Monday, KSER volunteer Michelle Valentine and the other producers of  the League of Women Voters Magazine of the Air honored Norma for her remarkable years of service to the people of Snohomish County and her incredible streak of on-air work at KSER.

Norma Bruns 'takes the cake' behind the mike at KSER
In 2008 the Seattle Times wrote a feature on Norma and her league colleague Mary Jane Thompson and the work they have done to inform voters in Snohomish County. You can read that story HERE.

On this past week's broadcast, even Snohomish County Executive John Lovick called to congratulate and thank Norma for her many years of community service. He called her a 'rock star.'

And Michelle Valentine, who was recruited by Norma to be part of the KSER monthly league show praised Norma for what she called the four "I's" of her personality - Inspiring, Intelligence, Inviting and Intuitive.

"Norma was the common thread through all the various topics we presented," says Valentine, "She always provided the freshness to each program along with the respect for all individuals at the table regardless of agreeing with them or not."

Once every four years the cable TV networks take a few months to conduct a handful of debates and then replay snippets and soundbites. The rest of the time, many important issues get little or no coverage.

But Norma Bruns and the League of Women Voters don't wait for a presidential election cycle. They have been informing KSER listeners every single month since 1991.

Thanks, Norma!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

KSER Voice of the Community Awards - 2014

We had a full house at Tulalip Casino Resort Wednesday morning, November 5th, to recognize the recipients of the 2014 KSER Voice of the Community Awards.

(l-r) Craig & Curt Shriner; Sue Taves; Ken Kraintz; Cait Cassee; Tom Murphy;  Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert; Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin
This years award for Cultural Impact by a Business was presented to the Everett Historic Theater and was accepted by new owners Craig Shriner & Curt Shriner.

Curt Shriner and Craig Shriner
The award for Community Impact by a Business was presented to Whidbey Life Magazine and was accepted by Publisher/Co-Editor Sue Taves.

Sue Taves, Whidbey Life Magazine
The award for Cultural Impact by an Individual was presented to Ken Kraintz. Ken was the Arts Supervisor for the Everettt School District for 27 years helping to guide the curriculum and accomplishments to the highest of education standards.
Nina Martinez and Ken Kraintz
 The award for Community Impact by an Organization was presented to the City of Arlington and the City of Darrington and the surrounding communities of Oso for their response to the March 22 mudslide.
Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin
Emcee Karen Crowley, Barbara Tolbert; Dan Rankin

The award for Cultural Impact by an Organization was presented to Whidbey Children's Theater which offers training through classes, camps and production opportunities for children from pre-school through high school.

KSER Foundation Board VP Nina Martinez and Whidbey Children's Theater Executive Director Cait Cassee
The award for Community Impact by an Individual was presented to Edmonds Community College anthropology professor Tom Murphy who founded the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field School. Tom has also done extensive environmental and cultural restoration work for Lynnwood's Gold Park and Paine Field.
Nina Martinez and Tom Murphy
KSER is a forum for diverse voices in our communities and for the seventh consecutive year we have recognized individuals and organizations that speak up and make positive change.

Everyone wanted a photo of the KSER Voice of the Community Award Recipients
Thanks to Chris Wartes and Christophoto for photographs from the event. (See more photos at the KSER Flickr page.) And thanks to our listeners who made nominations for this year's Voice of the Community Awards.

You can nominate someone or some organization for a KSER Voice of the Community Award. The nominating process will be open next spring and summer. So if you know of an individual or organization that should be recognized, mark your calenders and make a nomination in 2015.

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.'