Wednesday, July 24, 2013

People Who Are Good at Reading Out Loud

In the mail today, there was a very generous donation check for KSER from a listener named Dennis in Sedro Woolley.

In the "For" line at the bottom of the check most people usually write "donation" or "KSER Pledge" or something similar. But Dennis wrote "World Class Journalism."

Whether Dennis was referring to the unbiased local coverage every morning and afternoon from Sondra Santos and Ed Bremer or some of the incredible national and world coverage KSER provides from Amy Goodman or John Hockenberry, we'll accept the compliment.

I used to work in commercial radio with someone who always called our news anchors "people who are good at reading out loud." I was reminded of that 'reading out loud' description by the San Francisco TV blunder in the aftermath of the tragic July 6 crash-landing of an Asiana Arline Boeing 777 jet at SFO.

You've probably seen the YouTube clip of the KTVU TV news anchor 'reading out loud' the fake names of the four pilots of the plane.The clearly fake and insensitive names were also shown on the screen while the anchor was reading. She managed to slowly and carefully pronounce all four phony names.

I've worked in newsrooms - radio and television -  and I know how hectic things can be during a major breaking news story. And I know it's pretty easy to make mistakes, especially in TV news when you have multiple people feeding breaking developments to anchors, often talking into their earpiece while the anchor is on the air.  But this incident didn't happen in the uncertain hours after the crash or even the same day. It was much later, after the station had already run quite a heavy schedule of promos touting their coverage of the crash.

I've been trying to imagine a similar scenario wherein Democracy Now's Amy Goodman would read all the way through those obviously fake names without realizing it was a hoax.  And, while I'm sure Amy makes mistakes from time to time, I just can't imagine her doing something similar. Nor could I imagine the flub being made by John Hockenberry or Ed Bremer or Sondra Santos.

That's not to suggest they're perfect. Or mistake-free. Or better.  Or they have more listeners or viewers.  But the difference is they are talking to newsmakers and asking questions and probing issues. They're either talking about what they know about or asking questions of others who do know. What they're not doing is 'reading out loud.' 

So, Dennis of Sedro Woolley, we'll take the 'world class journalism' compliment - even if sometimes the competition sets a pretty low bar.  
And any donation to KSER is always appreciated. As an independent, non-profit community voice, we couldn't do it without you and your support.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

KSER Current Events Quiz - Are You Smarter than a DJ?

Due to overwhelming popular demand, here's another KSER current events quiz. (Well, one person asked for it...and that was a little overwhelming.)

Check your level of current events savvy.  Just 10 questions. Answer all 10 correctly and win the right to brag to your friends and family!  Answers at the bottom.

1. ABC's "The View" just hired a replacement for Elizabeth Hassebeck, after she left to join "Fox & Friends."  Who is the new co-host on "The View"?

a.  Democracy Now host Amy Goodman
b.  Someone with a decade of newspaper experience
c.  Someone who posed naked for Playboy
d.  George Zimmerman

2. One of the hosts of KSER's Saturday lineup recently did his very last KSER show.  Who is the 'former' KSER DJ?

a. Van Jones, host of Green Collar Radio
b. Van Ramsey, host of Pull the String
c.  Van Cliburn, host of Pull the Piano
d.  Van Morrison, host of Into the Mystic

3. More and more media outlets which have been offering their content online for free, are now starting to charge for their content. The industry term is "Paywall."  Which of these organizations is still providing their online content for free 24 hours a day?

a.  The Seattle Times
b.  The New York Times
d.  Sirius/XM Radio

4.  All of the KSER DJ's have one thing in common.  What is it?

a. They're all members of AFTRA and make minimum scale of $42,500 per year
b. They've all spent time working as circus performers
c.  They're all volunteers, providing content for KSER for love not money
d.  They all have medical marijuana prescriptions

5.  KSER depends on financial support from our listeners. How can you donate to KSER?

a.  Donate online at the 'Donate Now' button in the top, left corner of
b.  Send a check: 2623 Wetmore Ave; Everett, WA; 98201
c.  Call us 425-303-9070
d.  All of the above

6.  The Everett Herald reported this week that an area business has once again been the subject of complaints about an 'odor' problem from nearby residents. What's the business?

a.  The Everett Herald
b.  The Anchor Pub
c.  The KSER Broadcast Studio
d.  Cedar Grove Composting

7.  Several times a year, KSER conducts a Basic Broadcast Class. To qualify for this class you have to meet which requirement?

a.  Be fluent in English and Spanish
b.  Pass a drug test
c.  Fail a drug test
d.  None of the above

8.  A member of a famous family has moved to Wyoming and has announced a run for congress as a Republican. Who?

a.  Former VP Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney
b.  Former KSER Pull the String host Van Ramsey
c.  Former Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon
d.  Former first-daughter Chelsea Clinton

9.  Watch for traffic jams Friday night near Safeco Field because of an expected full house for a concert. Who's performing?

a.  Who
b.  Guess Who
c.  70-year-old guy from England
d.  Sir Mix-A-Lot

10.  Which dog won the KSER Dog Days of Summer Dog Picture contest?

a.  Ozzie the dog
b.  Snoop Dogg
c.  Dog the Bounty Hunter
d.  Harry the Husky


1.  (c)  New host on the View is October '93 Playmate of the Month Jenny McCarthy.
2.  (b) Van Ramsey has pulled the plug on Pull the String. What's he thinkin'?
3.  (c) is always free, not to mention 90.7. Never a paywall.
4.  (c)  All KSER DJ's are volunteers. Not sure about the weed thing.
5.  (d)  You can donate to KSER all those ways and more. Check online.
6.  (d)  The odor issue involves Cedar Grove. Although KSER does have a certain essence.
7.  (d)  No tests or requirements to take the KSER Basic Broadcast Class.
8.  (a)  Liz Cheney, longtime Virginia resident, has moved to Wyoming to run for congress.
9.  (c)  Friday at Safeco: Paul McCartney. He's 70!!
10.(d) Ozzie is the KSER Dog of the Summer!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Amy vs. Jenny vs. Elizabeth

Sometimes you appreciate Amy Goodman even more when you see or hear what's on the other stations and channels.

If you missed the news last week, Elizabeth Hasselbeck is leaving ABC's The View to be a co-host on Fox & Friends, the morning show on the Fox TV network.  In addition to being married to an NFL quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck's brother Tim), Elizabeth cut her TV journalism teeth by being a judge for Miss Teen USA and being cast in "Survivor: The Australian Outback" in 2001.

The View already has Hasselbeck's replacement lined up - they've hired seasoned broadcast veteran Jenny McCarthy.  McCarthy was propelled to media fame with a 1993 $20,000 gig as Playboy's Ocotber Playmate of the Month.  She gained more experience by hosting the MTV dating show "Singled Out" and then appeared in a number of motion pictures, including BASEketball and Dirty Love.

McCarthy has also made a name for herself by claiming that some vaccines can lead to autism.  A number of scientists, physicians and experts, have debunked her claims. called her a crackpot and said her continued crusade "does not make her a mother warrior, it makes her a menace."

Then, there's Amy Goodman. Amy graduated from Radcliffe College in 1984 with a degree in anthropology and spent a year studying at the College of the Atlantic in Maine.  She had been news director for Pacifica's WBAI in New York City for more than a decade when she co-founded her current nationally syndicated program "Democracy Now!"

Amy has won dozens of awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award.

Bill Clinton angrily called her "hostile and combative" after he called WBAI on election day in 2000 for what he planned to be a quick 'get-out-the-vote' message.  Goodman peppered him with questions about NAFTA, racial profiling, and Iraq sanctions.  She challenged him for a solid 28 minutes before he could extricate himself from the call.

Far be it from me to question the broadcast journalism chops of Jenny McCarthy or Elizabeth Hasselbeck. They're both highly compensated and have survived in a challenging, cut-throat they must appeal to millions of people.

But here's a challenge: spend a few mornings watching Elizabeth Hasselbeck on Fox & Friends; then catch Jenny McCarthy on The View; then listen to a few hours of Amy Goodman on KSER. Then you make the call. You decide which makes you feel a little more informed and understanding about the issues facing us today.

Of course, some of the issues facing us can be daunting and depressing. Maybe that's why so many people would prefer graduates of Survivor and Playboy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Van Ramsey - Pulls the Plug

Van Ramsey has decided to pull the curtain on "Pull the String."

Van has hosted the popular Saturday afternoon show on KSER for a decade and has decided he needs a break. Like all the KSER DJ's, Van is a station volunteer - and like many of our volunteers he also happens to have a full-time job when he's not busy getting his show ready and doing Pull the String.

In addition, Van happens to be the keyboard guy and a vocalist in the popular local band the Wild Snohomians. So between the real job and all those late night weekend band performances, Van has decided to take a break.  (We're not upset or anything...he has every right to pull the heart out of the KSER Saturday lineup.)

Van Ramsey at KSER doing his show in 3-D.
You'll probably still hear Van from time to time doing some fill-in work on KSER, but, sadly, this Saturday, July 13, 2013 will be the very last regularly-scheduled Pull the String.  And while you will no longer be able to hear Pull the String on the radio, you'll still be able to catch the Wild Snohomians at local clubs (and on YouTube).

We're hopeful that Van will come to his senses in the future and return to his sweet radio gig, but in the meantime make sure you catch the final Pull the String this Saturday starting at 3 p.m. on 90.7 FM or online at - it's sure to be epic!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Downtown Everett Decked Out for Independence

Some days it seems like almost everyone is co-opting the flag or bragging about patriotism in order to further their own interests.

What politician would be caught without his flag lapel-pin?  How many companies are putting a "Made in USA" label on their product - or in some cases "Designed in USA", but then a tiny "Assembled in China" footnote.

Of course the 4th of July is when we celebrate our independence (while also having a deserved day off and a barbecue). But for some of us, there's a great concern about just how much of our independence is slipping away.

NSA is monitoring almost everyone's cell-phone usage and internet activity. We take off our shoes and get our bodies scanned, and sometimes groped, at the airport. Some jurisdictions are trying to make it harder for citizens to vote, not easier. Giant corporations make billions in profits and pay little or nothing in taxes. People in Skagit County learned firsthand that our bridges and infrastructure are decaying, while the military gets a budget increase that even some of the top brass at the Pentagon didn't want.

Not long ago, many Americans could go to college for free. Now a college education is unaffordable for many, and many more are racking up huge student loan debts.  And while hundreds of thousands of Americans have asked for a solution to the college debt problem, Congress this week went on vacation and allowed student loan interest rates to double. I guess that's good news if you're running a bank.

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer companies have more and more control over the media and the message.

Maybe George Orwell had everything correct about 1984...except the date.

So I'll co-opt the word 'independence' on this 4th of July week and apply it to KSER.  Because, while cities all over the USA are cluttered with corporate owned, similar sounding radio stations and media outlets, KSER remains a rare voice of independence.

When Amy Goodman visited Everett Community College last Fall she told a standing-room-only crowd how fortunate we are in Snohomish County to have a station like KSER. She correctly pointed out that many towns and cities have no such independent voice.

Sure, you'll find radio stations with slicker 'production values' (as the professional broadcasters say) and 'tighter playlists' (the industry term for highly-researched and focus-grouped music) and more 'voice tracking' (that's where the several-states-or-time-zones-away DJ has pre-recorded the show you're listening to).

But what you won't find at KSER are news and public affairs hosts and producers concerned about toeing the corporate line. We are truly independent. No corporate owner. No federal grants. No strings. And that's thanks to you.
We're fortunate to have thousands of listeners who are willing to support the station financially and dozens of volunteers who are willing to devote hundreds of hours of their time year after year to keep KSER as an independent voice for the people.

So thanks.  And happy Independence day!