In the first week in June, we will resume the business of trying to keep our station alive. Ray and I will hit the microphones at 6 in the morning and each and every person will make a personal decision of principle and conscience. Each of us will decide what it is that we treasure about our radio station. There will be those who say, “Let someone else do it” and there will be thousands who recognize that they truly care for the station and what it stands for: free speech, freedom of opinion, courage, empathy, understanding and sharing. Some people will look for reasons not to give, even though it is clear from their letters and communications that they are listening all the time.
I have always believed that it all comes down to character and to what we learned from our parents about sharing and responsibility and even anger management.
Every once in a while I will receive an angry letter among all the affirmative ones which indicates to me that the sender listens a lot but doesn’t support the station. I recently heard from someone who had documented all the critical things I have said about Governor Andrew Cuomo. So detailed was this person’s list, it seemed as if he had been keeping notes on the process. When I searched the membership rolls for this person (he did, at least, sign his name), he was not there. He had never given a dime, even throughout all the years before Andrew Cuomo was elected governor. Never. Not one dime. Years ago, the Cuomo people were seen keeping a dossier on the journalist Liz Benjamin. It caused more than a little stir in the press corps and among people who value the work of the press corps as independent bodies keeping a watch on public officials. One person who was close to the journalist told me, “No question they were trying to destroy her career.”
I thought about that as I read this guy’s letter. He was so specific about all things that I had allegedly said about the governor that for a moment, I thought about Liz Benjamin and wondered whether I was getting the same dossier treatment. Then, of course, I dismissed the thought that the governor of the State of New York would assign someone in his press office to the task of keeping track of what I was saying. I know that this governor considers himself a man of conscience and a believer in American democracy and has extolled the virtue of transparency. Anyway, this anecdote is just one example of how a person can justify not sustaining the radio station to him or herself.
The first hour of The Roundtable provides many diverse views on contemporary subjects, usually in the news. However, some listeners pick up on what one of the participants says and vociferously object to the opinion. In a few cases, that opinion becomes the reason for not giving. I recently heard from a man who hated the music that is played between segments, both on NPR and during The Roundtable. I mean this guy was hopping mad and made the accusation that contemporary music was garbage and that the people who listen to the station were older and wanted dignified classical music. Yet years ago, a top musician came into my office and said that he would “lead a charge” against the station if we kept using snippets of classical music between programs. In other words, people can find individual reasons for being mad but there will always be one reason for giving the money to make the station sustainable: you use it and find it valuable. I’ve said it so many times that it may sound trite but boy, do I ever mean it: “We can’t do it without you” and “We’re all in this together.” Thanks for staying with it.