Alan Chartock: Message from The President

WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock shares his thoughts in this monthly column.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany.  He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program for almost twelve years, higlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project on WAMC and offers commentary on other WAMC programs such as Midday Magazine.

People with good minds can be very passionate. Take the case of the current Presidential election cycle. We hear from people of all political persuasions who are quite sure that we are being blatantly unfair, usually about Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Now don’t get me wrong – when the Massachusetts primary rolled around I voted for Bernie. I had announced that I would because I believe that journalists have a responsibility to let their audiences know where they are coming from. I have interviewed both Bernie and Hillary on the air so I am very surprised at some of the vitriol we have heard about the station’s alleged “position” (we never take sides) in favor of Hillary. I try to be fair on our daily Roundtable panel. I have explained that I think Bernie is right on the major issues. I have also explained that I believed Hillary would capture more of the centrist voters and be more electable.

Political Season

Apr 1, 2016

If you haven’t noticed, we are in the middle of a Presidential campaign.

As you may imagine, we receive a lot of mail at WAMC – here are a few of our listeners’ recent questions.

This, as always, is where the rubber hits the road. Monday, February 1st is where and when we gather as a group to see whether we still have the will to keep WAMC going; so far, so good. We need a million dollars three times a year to make it happen. That’s a lot of money and the fact that we can do it makes us the talk of the nation. Some of our colleagues just don’t believe it. That’s because this is more than a radio station. It is a group of people who are intellectually curious and committed to ethical behavior. When someone calls me up and tries to typecast us, either on the right or the left, the first thing I ask is whether they’d like to do a commentary, laying out a position on a contemporary problem.

Okay, dear readers, here are my fearless predictions for the coming year. I offer them every year with the following warnings. Some of them predict things that I don’t want to see happen so I offer them to put the evil eye on them. Then sometimes I offer predictions that I don’t necessarily think will happen but I want to make them self-fulfilling prophecies. Finally, there are those that I really think will happen. As always, it is up to you to figure out which is which.

The Washington Post recently published an article that spoke of the “graying” of NPR and its member stations. It was a fascinating look into the ways in which young people get their news -- through podcasts and social media and not by listening to the radio.

No Static At All

Oct 29, 2015

There is one sure thing about WAMC and that is that life here is always interesting. Nothing is static. We know, for example, that the first hour of The Roundtable is a tremendous success. Wherever I go, I hear from people who make it a must-do to listen to the panel on The Roundtable. Everyone reacts, some more strongly than others. Each of the participants has developed a following and each of us has some detractors.

The Drive

Sep 29, 2015

The crucial, life-giving fund drive begins Monday October 5th. I don’t have to tell anyone that this is where we live. No fund drive, no station.

The New Geography

Aug 28, 2015

Everywhere I go, people stop to tell me how much they love this radio station. I really appreciate those on-air testimonials that people volunteer to record, attesting to their “WAMC-hood.” Now that we are all “apped” up and you can hear the station anywhere in the world (I heard it as clear as a bell in Colombia S.A, and in Italy), people listen all over.

What It's All About

Jul 24, 2015

Wow, there are some days that the first hour of The Roundtable gets almost too hot to handle. As you know, we try to keep things moving, switch out the people on the panel, and read e-mails so that everyone can have a say.

You Make It Happen

Jun 26, 2015

As we enter the summer months, our gardens are flourishing, our children and grandchildren are swimming and the programming on WAMC changes ever so subtly. For example, WAMC is proud to play every Boston Symphony Orchestra concert from Tanglewood. What could possible be better than sitting under the stars, listening to the best music ever composed?

Oh brother! Oh sister!

Here comes the fund drive. We did amazingly well in run-up to the drive but now we all have to show our stuff. A lot of people put money into the locked box -- some because they want more regular programming and less on-air fund raising and some because they will be out of town.

Reasons

May 1, 2015

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. 

It's A Dog's Life

Apr 1, 2015

I was talking to Murray, the world’s cutest and brightest dog.  As you know, he was taught to speak English early on. It’s amazing. The dog knows so much that I’ve been trying to convince Joe Donahue to let him have my spot on the first hour of The Roundtable every once in a while.

One For The Books

Feb 26, 2015

Here we are, just a few short weeks after the historic WAMC fund drive. Between the locked box that raised half of the money before the on-air drive started and three and a half days of actual fund drive, we ended up with a million dollars in the bank.

It Is Always You

Jan 29, 2015

I recently met someone who told me that she knew I am not really as nervous as I say I am about the upcoming February 2nd fund drive. I’ll let you in on a secret. I’ve done about a hundred fund drives and I worry before each and every one of them. I lose sleep; I break out into inexplicable sweats; I have nightmares. It is always up to my Roselle to remind me how people love the station, how much they depend on it and how they would never let it fail. You know that nightmare we have about the exam in the college class we never even knew we were registered for? This one is that we have a fund drive and the phones don’t ring and the on-line pledges don’t come in. Roselle always puts her hand on my neck and assures me that everything is going to be fine. And, of course, she has always been right.

Here are my fearless predictions for the coming year. Remember the rules. These can be things that I don’t want to see happen and so I hope to put the whammy on them by predicting them. They can also be things that I do want to happen, so I predict them in order to help make them happen. Then, there are those predictions that I really do think will happen. I leave it to you, dear readers, to figure out which is which.

End Of Year Tax Time

Dec 1, 2014

Toward the end of every year, we all seem to receive a slew of solicitation letters. Let’s not kid ourselves. People wait until the last minute to decide where to send their tax-deductible contributions. They have a great many choices. There are genuine charities that really deserve their money. There are churches and synagogues, temples and mosques. There are environmental organizations and educational institutions, hospitals and more. And then, dear friends, there are the WAMC stations. If you don’t use the radio station, perhaps this is a time to tune out. But if you do, let’s deal with the reality of what, as a communal group, we are up against.

One of the best things on WAMC is the first hour of The Roundtable, every weekday morning between nine and ten.

We are about to embark on one of the most telling fund drives of all. The truth is that we are only as good as our last fund drive.  We have to raise a million dollars. Some of this money is already in the locked box and we are grateful for everyone who has already done something. There is a relatively tiny bit of money in our First Amendment Fund to be used at the discretion of the Board of Trustees if someone or something threatens our right to do our job. But otherwise, we live from fund drive to fund drive. Failure, of course, is not an option.

At the beginning of October comes the next fund drive. Before you groan, please try to remember how much these drives mean to the continuation of the station that you listen to and depend on.  Sooner or later, someone has to pay the piper. The only way that we can be sure that WAMC remains in its present form – with the freedom to say what we want, preserve balance, and operate as we have been doing -  is for each person to do what they can. When that happens, when everyone pitches in, the station flourishes. I was recently at Tanglewood and several folks came up to say hello. They proudly announced that they loved the station and were members. Obviously, I thanked them with everything I had in me. That’s because when someone tells me that they understand, I am incredibly, personally and humbly grateful. I know that every day people tune in and often stay tuned in. They often tell me of things that I haven’t heard and I am grateful for that, too.

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