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College Radio Watch: Radio Orientation and More News

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 08:17

What if college radio was an integral part of every student’s college orientation activities? Sounds amazing to me. This week I learned about Hamilton College’s mandatory “orientation trips,” which provide students with an immersion into various topics and activities as part of their transition to college life.

One of the 4-day trips, Stay “Tuned”, focuses on music and radio and includes a visit to Hamilton’s college radio station WHCL. The trip description states in part:

“We will explore the behind-the-scenes of recording studios, meet professionals in the recording industry, visit local indie record shops, and, of course, listen to live performances, including an outdoor music fest! Upon returning to campus, we will take a visit to the campus radio station, WHCL, where we will get a close-up look at station management and campus broadcasting. Those interested will have the chance to learn how to create and host their own radio show during their time at Hamilton.”

In a profile of WHCL, its General Manager Peter Kelly speaks of the powerful impact of that orientation. Kelly recounts, “I was a part of the orientation trip ‘Stay Tuned,’ which focused a lot on music and radio. We visited a few radio stations, but on one of the later days, we went to WHCL and were allowed to do a show, and I’ve been in love ever since. I’ve had at least one show every semester, and I don’t see myself stopping!”

This is a serious step up from simply having a college radio station on a campus tour route (which can also be quite an accomplishment on hectic tours). Do you know about other innovative ways that colleges are introducing students to their campus radio stations?

More College Radio News Profiles of Stations and Staff Funding and Infrastructure Popular Culture Events Alumni

The post College Radio Watch: Radio Orientation and More News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Don’t Waste Your Money on that Bluetooth Cassette Player Kickstarter

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 19:21

Last week – coincident with the original Walkman’s 40th birthday – I saw all these articles reporting on this supposedly “world’s first” Bluetooth enabled portable Walkman-style cassette player/recorder, named IT’S OK (yes, the brand is in all caps). Reactions to this Kickstarter ranged from snarky to excited, but all the coverage struck me as a little too credulous.

Always hoping that someone is going to start making decent quality cassette decks or players again, every so often I search around on Amazon or Ebay to see what’s on offer. In the back of my head I thought I’d seen a cheap Bluetooth tape player before, for far less than the $75 intro price promised to Kickstarter supporters.

Turns out, my memory was correct. This Digitnow branded “cassette to MP3 converter” has been available on Amazon since August of 2018 for a price that fluctuates between $29 and $39. Over on Ebay they’re $39.99.

In addition to playing to your Bluetooth headphones, it’ll digitize your cassettes directly to a microSD card, or to your computer via USB. Two additional features missing from the IT’S OK. Now, I’ve never used the Digitnow player, so I can’t vouch for the quality of playback. But my guess is that it’s about as good as the cheap knock-off Walkman you might have bought at K-Mart in 1989, so caveat emptor. I also have serious doubts that the IT’S OK will be any better, even at nearly twice the price.

Already suspicious of the “feasibility study and first handmade prototypes” on the Kickstarter timeline, today I saw a video from YouTuber VWestlife wherein he identifies an extremely similar cassette player available on Alibaba for as little as $7 in quantity direct from China. VWestlife also points out that the IT’S OK player isn’t even in stereo, specifying “Classic Monaural Sound.”

He does note that since all the parts for the IT’S OK are readily available, the Kickstarter likely isn’t a scam. You’ll just get a flimsy mono cassette recorder/player worth maybe $20 in parts – or available from other sources at about $40 – for your $75. And you’ll have to wait until December to get it. Or you can wait until after the Kickstarter ends and get it for $88 (no kidding).

I’ll admit to being enticed when I first saw headlines about the device, but it didn’t take long for me to see that this Kickstarter is mostly hype, seizing on the Walkman’s nostalgia moment and slow news week to get some free press release journalism coverage.

I have no snark for anyone wanting a new cassette Walkman today, and wish that reputable brands like Sony and Panasonic still made them. If you’re in the market I’d first try to find a decent used one, or take a shot on any of the dozens of $20 ones scattered across online retailers and Ebay. (While you’re at it, you might as well get one with a radio.) Aside from the cognitive dissonance around the apparent anachronism of the IT’S OK player, I don’t really get the appeal of adding Bluetooth… especially in freakin’ mono.

But if you decide to bite and get one, please do let us know how it goes.

The post Don’t Waste Your Money on that Bluetooth Cassette Player Kickstarter appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #201 – A Fantasy FCC Serves the Public Interest

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 21:34

A different media world is possible. What if the FCC truly regulated in the public interest, creating policies and services that promoted community voices and civic values? It does happen occasionally, but not often enough.

It’s easy to assume our media system turned out this way because it was inevitable, but in truth it was the result of hundreds, even thousands of decisions, at all levels of government, influenced by multitudes of actors, from major corporations to community media activists. That means there have been, and still are, many opportunities for change, and improvement.

But what would that revitalized FCC look like? Matthew Lasar has some ideas, based upon his years of researching the Commission, going back to its pre-cursor, the Federal Radio Commission, created by President Herbert Hoover, a Republican who opposed privatization of the airwaves and believed in a robust public service obligation. Matthew’s suggestions may not be what you think. We invite you fantasize along with us.

Support Radio Survivor, Get Our ‘Zine

We’re publishing a ‘zine and you can get one when you support our work at Radio Survivor via our Patreon campaign. Everyone who supports us at a level of $5 a month or more will get a print copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1.

Your contribution will help us continue to spread the word of great radio and audio, and allow us to embark on celebrating the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and LPFM by documenting these important histories. We need 100 Patreon supporters by August 1, 2019 to start this work.

Not coincidentally, that’s the deadline to sign up to get your ‘zine. Everything in the ‘zine will be print-exclusive – learn more here.

Support Radio Survivor today.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #201 – A Fantasy FCC Serves the Public Interest appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: 200th Podcast, Our ‘Zine + College Radio News

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 08:25

It’s been a decade that I’ve been covering college radio on Radio Survivor, which was one of the topics that we discussed on our 200th episode of the podcast/radio show this week. It was a treat to have another rare episode with all four Radio Survivor principals: Matthew Lasar, Paul Riismandel, Eric Klein and myself. We all dug into our deep histories with this project of covering radio from a participant and fan’s perspective and I specifically reflected back on how I got started writing about college radio culture back in 2008 on my Spinning Indie blog.

Radio Survivor launched in 2009 and our podcast began four years ago in 2015. My original intent with Spinning Indie was to shine a light on every pocket of college radio culture so that participants could get some perspective about what’s happening at stations across the United States. I also worked to remind the general public about the important role that college radio plays in media and hoped that people who weren’t listening to college radio would be prompted to tune in to a station in their community or even one that’s far afield.

Eleven years after doing my first college radio-themed blog post for Spinning Indie, it’s gratifying to still be carrying on my original mission, largely at Radio Survivor. Not only do I attempt to do college radio news wrap-ups weekly (as I’ve been doing since 2013!), but I also regularly do field trip reports from my tours of over 100 college radio stations and share various college radio stories on the podcast. It’s also super exciting that the radio version of the Radio Survivor show now airs on five college radio station affiliates in the United States, Canada and Ireland. Long live college radio!

Donate and Get our Inaugural ‘Zine

We’re trying something new at Radio Survivor and will be launching a ‘zine this summer for our Patreon supporters. If you can pitch in as little as $5/month, you’ll get a copy of our hand-crafted publication, full of quirky and fun radio stories and illustrations by the Radio Survivor team and extended family. As always, thanks to everyone for reading, listening and supporting our efforts.

More College Radio News New Stations and Station Revivals Profiles of Stations and Staff Programming
  • WSOU to Cover NYC Fireworks Show Live (WSOU)
Alumni Awards and Accolades

The post College Radio Watch: 200th Podcast, Our ‘Zine + College Radio News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #2: “the downside of radio.”

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 22:02

It is not clear exactly when Walter Benjamin gave his second radio talk, titled “Street Trade and Markets in the Old and New Berlin.” The editor of a volume of his broadcasts that I consult, Lecia Rosenthal, thinks that it aired in late 1929 or early 1930 on Radio Berlin. But whenever it streamed, he served up a wonderful portrait of the Magdeburger Platz and Lindenstraße indoor market halls of the period.

” . . . above all, ” Benjamin noted, “there is the smell, a mix of fish, cheese, flowers, raw meat, and fruit all under one roof, which is completely different than the open air markets and creates a dim and woozy aroma that fits perfectly with the light seeping through the murky panes of lead framed glass.”

It is a wonderful passage. But in this diary entry, I just want to focus on one comment that Benjamin made. He was reflecting on how great it was to return to these halls, which he had not visited since his childhood. “And if I really want a special treat, I go for a walk in the Lindenstraße market in the afternoons between four and five,” he told his listeners. “Maybe someday I’ll meet one of you there. But we won’t recognize each other. That’s the downside of radio.”

Perhaps. Of course it was true that Benjamin’s listeners might not visually recognize him. But apparently it did not occur to the storyteller at that early point in his radio career that they might recognize him by his voice, such as when he spoke to a market stall merchant.

In my years writing about radio, many community radio station hosts have told me that they became truly hooked on broadcasting when, by accident, someone in their signal area recognized them as they spoke on the street or in a restaurant. Years ago I interviewed Don Foster, news/public affairs host at Pacifica stations WPFW-FM in Washington D.C. and KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, for my second book on the Pacifica radio network. Foster described how he would sometimes hail D.C. taxis and the driver would identify him by his voice:

“One time I got in a cab in D.C. and I was going to do an interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president of Haiti, who I had met in Haiti once, and I got in the cab telling the guy I was going to the Haitian embassy, and the cab driver was a Haitian, and he says, “Are you Don Foster?”  And I said, “Yeah.”  And he says, “Oh, man, I listened to the report and the thing you did on Aristide!”  And then when I got to the Haitian embassy he wouldn’t take my money.  Wouldn’t take it [laughing].  I tried to throw it at him; so for me it was like the Academy Award, right?”

Oral History interview with Don Foster, 2002

As for me, it has been a while since I regularly spoke on any radio station. But at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where I teach, I now run an online class in which students participate in streaming video discussion sections. The other day I was working out at a gym near the campus, when I noticed several students practicing somersaults. I told them how impressed I was with their acrobatics.

“Are you Professor Matthew Lasar?” one of them exclaimed. “I’m one of your online class students!” She identified herself by name and I remembered her from one of our email exchanges. What I found most interesting was that she obviously recognized me not because of my appearance, but via the sound of my voice. I would like to think that maybe my voice is distinctive. But it is just as likely that rather than watch the pre-recorded videos for our class, she just listened.

I do hope that at some point in Walter Benjamin’s radio career, someone heard him ordering some cheese or beer from a market vendor and cried out: “Omigod! You are Walter Benjamin! The guy who does those great talks on Radio Berlin. I loved your talk on the Berlin Schnauze. You are so awesome! We love your show!” It is one of the most satisfying moments for any radio host.

This is an ongoing diary that reacts to and reflects on Walter Benjamin’s radio talks.

The post Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #2: “the downside of radio.” appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #200 – How We Survived a Decade of Independent Publishing

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 07:01

Radio Survivor celebrates 10 years on the internet and four years podcasting with our 200th episode. Matthew Lasar joins Jennifer Waits, Eric Klein and Paul Riismandel for this review of the last decade in radio that matters.

Matthew tells the Radio Survivor origin story that sprang forth from his I.F. Stone inspired research deep into the digital catacombs of the FCC database, unearthing comments that broadcast execs never imagined would be public – such as one who accused prominent media reformists of being “communists.”

Jennifer recalls how a literature review for a journal article on college radio revealed how little scholarly work existed on the topic, compelling her to document this important media form that Matthew says he has learned is, “the first public radio.” “The present is future history,” Jennifer observes. This prompts Paul to comment how we’ve begun to fulfill that promise, given that Radio Survivor now has dozens of citations in scholarly works.

On the way through these stories, everyone notes the changes in the broadcast and online media landscape since 2009, how some publications have come and gone, and offering reasons why Radio Survivor has managed to survive. It’s a discussion of interest to anyone who has tried to, or wants to, sustain a passion project fueled primarily by volunteer labor.

We’re making a ‘zine!

As we announce on this episode, in August we’ll be publishing our first ever print project, hand made in the spirit of great independent radio.

We’ll send issue #1 to every Patreon supporter who gives at the $5/month level or more. But you have to be signed up by August 1, 2019.

Plus, every new sign-up gets us closer to our goal of 100 Patreon supporters so that we have a foundation to do the work of documenting the upcoming 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.

See our ‘zine page to learn more, or go ahead and sign up now.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #200 – How We Survived a Decade of Independent Publishing appeared first on Radio Survivor.

We’re Making a ‘Zine for Our Supporters

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 06:01

We wanted to find a special way to thank the readers and listeners who support us every month via our Patreon campaign. Something unique, hand-made and in the spirit of great college and community radio.

Why not make a ‘zine?

If you’ve never heard of a ‘zine, it’s an independently produced publication, often photocopied and hand-assembled. The history goes back to mimeographed science fiction fanzines published as far back as the 1930s. Adopted by punk and underground music fans in the 70s and 80s, the name was shortened to ‘zine to reflect a broadening in subject matter beyond just fandom. For more history, see this brief timeline.

For Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1 we’re writing and assembling pieces that we feel are fit for a more tactile format, breaking free of the strict layouts forced upon us by blog software. You won’t find these pieces on our website or anywhere else online. Here are more details:

  • Radio Survivor Zine #1 will go to everyone who contributes $5 a month or more to our Patreon campaign.
    • You need to have completed at least one payment in order to get the ‘zine, but if you’ve signed up by Aug. 1 we’ll send the zine as soon as that first payment is made.
  • The deadline to sign up is August 1, 2019
  • We’ll send out the ‘zines in August 2019

Here is a sampling of the features in Radio Survivor Zine #1:

  • “Wild Flowers and Radio Towers”
  • “Radios I Have Known and Loved”
  • Hand-drawn illustrations and cartoons
  • more more more!

If you sign on as a Patron of Radio Survivor you’ll also be helping us reach our goal of the 100 supporters we need to do the work of documenting the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.

Sign up now to reserve your copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1!

The post We’re Making a ‘Zine for Our Supporters appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Reflections on the Walkman and Radio on the Occasion of the Former’s 40th Birthday

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 02:37

The Sony Walkman celebrated its 40th birthday on Monday, July 1. While portable audiocassette recorder/players that you could connect to headphones had been around pretty much since the invention of the medium, the Walkman was the first one designed specifically for stereo playback on the go, for personal listening, without even a tiny speaker.

Although the Walkman is principally a cassette device, I’ve always associated it with radio. Sure, in some ways it’s almost anti-radio, giving the person on-the-go a completely individualized listening experience. The first model lacked a tuner, but it wouldn’t be long until a receiver became almost standard.

A child of the 80s, I remember lusting after a Walkman, though the first generations were priced well beyond the reach of a pre-teen. Around 1983 or 1984 nearly every electronics manufacturer made its own version, and by then I managed to save up about 25 bucks, enough to buy the bottom-of-the-line Sanyo knock-off.

As I recall, the Sanyo was on the bulky side, with just three buttons: play, stop and fast-forward. Rewind was too sophisticated for such an inexpensive device (worth about $60 in today’s dollars). If you needed to rewind you flipped the cassette over and fast-forwarded the opposite side. But it did come with those iconic cheap 80s headphones with the orange ear cushions (as seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy”).

I might have wanted one with a radio, but the extra five or ten bucks would have been too much of a stretch for this middle-schooler.

Thanks to the Pocket Calculator Show’s extensive archive directories of portable stereos I’ve concluded I had likely had the Sanyo M-G7, without radio. The lack of receiver would be supplemented by a Magnavox D1600 tiny portable AM/FM radio I received as a birthday gift. Back then I think we’d have called it a “Walkman radio,” since it didn’t have a speaker, intended only for headphone listening.

Radios like this were directly influenced by the Walkman. Tiny transistor radios had been around a couple of decades by the early 80s, and most included an earphone jack for discreet listening. But they almost always had a tinny speaker intended for most of the listening, offering overall a mono, low-fidelity experience.

New breed Walkman-style radios were headphone-only, and much tinier. That Magnavox was the size of a deck of cards, only about one-third as thick. Plus, it offered FM stereo. Though, in reality, because the headphone cable doubled as the antenna, you had to find a really strong signal to get that stereo light to go on. Even so, sometimes even the slightest movement could kill it.

It wasn’t long after getting that first Sanyo player that I desired an upgrade that was smaller, sounded better and might even rewind tapes. Thereafter every Walkman-style player I’d get would have a radio – never would I have considered one without it. That’s not just because I’m a life-long radio nerd.

Sometimes you’d get tired of the one or two tapes you have with you, and want to hear something different. Or I’d want to catch a specific show while on the school bus or out walking. Also, in the days before good rechargeable batteries, often the radio still worked decently even when worn-down batteries made Metallica sound like Leonard Cohen.

Though Walkman is a Sony trademark, the only actual Sony model I ever owned was one a heavy-duty, water-proof, bright yellow Sports Walkman from the early 90s. As it turned out, that would be my last one, for all intents and purposes. Though I’ve owned a couple more in the intervening years, they were all recording models that primarily saw duty as cheap field recorders.

By 1991 I got my first Sony Discman portable CD player, which competed for listening time with the cassette Walkman. I didn’t give up on cassettes, since these were the days before CD-Rs, and I was still a prolific mix-tape maker and trader. But since I bought most of my music on CD the Discman was more likely to be my travel companion.

One con of pretty much every portable CD player I’ve owned is that none had a radio. I seem to remember such existing, but they were far less common than cassette players with radios. I wonder if maybe the far more sophisticated CD electronics posed more interference than the comparatively primitive cassette mechanicals.

The lack of integrated radio persisted as I graduated to minidisc as my primary portable music device in 1997. Though sometimes derided as a failure, the format lasted more than 20 years, and at that time it gave me all the recording convenience of a cassette, with near-CD quality, in a much smaller package.

I remember one minidisc recorder I owned that had a radio integrated into its wired remote – a wired remote with a headphone jack was a common feature – rather than on the unit itself. Again, I think the minidisc electronics created too much interference to have it housed in the same case a radio. Though it was a clever workaround, performance was disappointing. So, it went mostly unused.

That’s why I always had a little Walkman-style radio in my arsenal. Often used for daily public transport commutes, they were always in my travel bag to scan the dial when visiting different cities.

For a while, in the awkward time between the slow decline of the minidisc format and the rise of the smartphone I had a tiny Sansa branded MP3 player that featured a surprisingly good FM tuner. That actually got a lot of use even after I got my first iPhone, since it was the size of a couple of chapsticks, taking up almost no space in any bag.

I’m a little chagrined to admit that I don’t currently have a Walkman-style radio now. It’s true that the smartphone dominates my portable listening, and for most trips, short or long, I’m more inclined to choose podcasts or my own music. I do still travel with a radio, but these days I use one with a speaker, shortwave reception and a built-in digital recorder. True, it’s bigger than the tiny Walkman radios I’ve owned, but it does a lot more, too.

Thinking about it is making me want to get one. Turns out, there are still plenty out there, though most are from obscure Chinese brands. Looks like too small a niche for Sony anymore. That said, you can get a cute little red Sony MP3 player that has a radio for about $60, or an FM-enabled Sansa Clip Jam for less than $30. It’s just that with the MP3 players you give up AM reception.

Given that new portable cassette players are even more rare, it may well be the case that the Walkman-style radio has, or will, outlive the cassette player that inspired it.

At least until Sony decides there’s enough nostalgia dollars out there to cash in.

Feature image credit: Grant Hutchinson / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The post Reflections on the Walkman and Radio on the Occasion of the Former’s 40th Birthday appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: Ten Years of College Radio Coverage and More News

Fri, 06/28/2019 - 08:00

I’m back from some college radio travels in San Diego and can’t wait to share more tour reports in the coming weeks. It’s always such a treat to meet fellow college radio participants and fans and with each visit, I find myself wandering down research rabbit holes as I hunger to learn more about the history of each and every college radio station that I encounter.

These tours are a small part of what I love about Radio Survivor. It’s been a joy to think deeply about the intricacies of radio culture over the past decade; delving into high school radio, transmission art, the incredible growth of LPFM, and even funky stories about radio in pop culture.

My colleague Paul Riismandel reflected on our 10 year anniversary in an eloquent post this week, which also digs into the Radio Survivor origin story and takes a look back at our early work in 2009. As I look ahead to our 200th podcast, I’m also anticipating my 160th radio station field trip report (as soon as I get caught up!). I’m so proud of the website, podcast/show, and radio resources that we’ve built for our fellow radio fans. Thanks for reading and listening!

More College Radio News Station Sale New Stations Infrastructure Profiles of Stations and Staff College Radio in Popular Culture Programming History and Preservation Events
Alumni College Radio and Music Industry Awards and Accolades

The post College Radio Watch: Ten Years of College Radio Coverage and More News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

A Decade of Radio Surviving

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 12:45

Ten years and 16 days ago we opened the doors on this website. On June 11, 2009 Matthew Lasar inaugurated Radio Survivor with this post: “Congress grills FCC, NAB on Low Power FM.” This was still about 18 months before the Local Community Radio Act was signed into law, opening up the most recent wave of LPFM stations and triggering the largest expansion of community radio in history. But the push for the LCRA really gained traction then, in 2009.

The eventual explosion of low-power FM stations in the US is one of the things Radio Survivor was founded to cover. And cover, we did, in weekly reports beginning December 5, 2013, when all the license applications had been submitted and we and other LPFM advocates began examining the groups who applied. We wrapped up weekly coverage, nearly 28 months later, on July 28, 2016. By that time the vast majority of licenses had been assigned, and there was less weekly action. Looking back at these dispatches, I think you’ll have a hard time finding a more thorough documentation of the flowering of any radio, or communications service.

What’s (a) Radio Survivor Anyway?

Reviewing this first year of publishing, I’m struck by the fact that we didn’t publish a prototypical “hello world” post or other raison d’être. Rather, we just got down to business, writing the stories about radio we wanted to exist and wanted to read.

We did publish an “about” page in which we declared, “[f]or us … radio is a cause. We’re Matthew Lasar, Paul Riismandel, and Jennifer Waits, and this is our news blog about radio’s present, past, and uncertain future.” Then, articulated a mission stating, in part,

As both fans and producers, we write about the problems and prospects of radio.

We embrace college radio stations in crisis. We defend radio pirates. And we care about the on-going survival of our favorite radio stations.

We are obsessed with the future of radio and are charmed by radio historians, radio dramatists, radio bloggers, and anyone else who cares about radio as deeply as we do.

At the close of 2009 we – at the time still just three Radio Survivors – joined forces to write about the 14 most important radio trends of the oughties decade illustrating that vision in practice. Why an un-round number like 14? “Well, ten was too few, and, uh, we ran out of steam at fourteen,” I wrote. Fair enough.

We nominated trends like “Pacifica radio democratizes itself,” “cash strapped schools turn their backs on college radio” and even podcasting – then only five years old – which only came in at number four.

Only in 2010 when a reader asked us to explain exactly “what is a Radio Survivor?” did we attempt more specific definitions. Matthew started with a little foundational history. “I first approached Paul Riismandel last Spring (2009) about creating what eventually became because I was, and still am, concerned that discussion on the ‘Net about the state of radio has become marginal and fragmented… It has become fragmented because most of the big sites that report news about radio do so from the vantage point of a particular corner of the radio industry—streaming, terrestrial, podcasting—and almost always from the perspective of management.”

He went on to explain, “I wanted something more than that.’s mission, as I see it, is to stimulate dialogue about radio from a listener perspective. It is the listener, who does not have a monetary or employment investment in some corner of the status quo, who is in the best position to discuss the future of radio.”

Jennifer started off noting, “when I was invited to join Radio Survivor, the blog had already been named. So, my interpretation about the meaning has more to do with my personal feelings about radio and connections with radio than with the official origin of the name[.]”

“I am also a radio survivor,” she admitted. “Having been a college radio DJ off and on since 1986, it’s hard to believe that I’m still passionate about doing radio (through all of its ups and downs) 24 years after my first stint behind the mic…

“So, I’m devoted to the survival of radio, think radio is a survivor, and have made it my mission to evangelize radio as much as I can in order to remind people that it still has the power to be an incredible force.”

I opined, “ A Radio Survivor (the person) is someone who continues to believe in the medium. A Radio Survivor is not a luddite clinging to her transistor radio while eschewing iPhones and netbooks, nor is he a retro fetishist stuck in the past. Rather, a Radio Survivor recognizes the simple power inherent in broadcast audio, which can be done inexpensively and bring people together in a community.” (Remember netbooks?)

Moreover, “[r]adio, as a medium, has a great chance to survive because of the internet, iPods and mobile phones, not in spite of them.” I think the tremendous growth in podcasting and streaming audio services in the intervening years evidences this prediction well.

Radio Surviving in Praxis, on the Radio

Eric Klein joined our gang in 2015, helping to launch the podcast – and now syndicated radio show – on the occasion of our sixth anniversary, in June 2015. He’d actually contributed a piece a few years earlier, but it would be another eighteen months before he and I would meet and start cooking up plans.

Next we’re set to release episode 200 of the show, which I’m willing to claim as an accomplishment. That’s because, by at least one count, 75% of all podcasts ever launched are no longer in production, and only half of the podcasts started from 2016 to 2018 were still going by August of the latter year.

An Occasional Struggle To Survive

Speaking only for myself, I must admit to ups and downs with this effort. Scanning back through my output there are definitely periods of greater and lesser activity. Having been a mostly-consistent blogger for nineteen years, beginning with my original blog mediageek, sometimes you grow weary of the grind, run out of ideas or tire of writing for free. (Yes, we do accept financial contributions from generous readers and listeners, but this money primarily defrays costs associated with hosting, distribution and equipment for the site and podcast, rather than paying us as writers.)

When we first started out, I think we really hoped Radio Survivor would generate more income. We ran banner ads at the start, and on some banner days when we hit the zeitgeist just right – like with Jennifer’s annual “Alice’s Restaurant” posts – we would see bursts of hits and brief bumps in earnings. However, the unavoidable reality is that our’s is a niche topic, unlikely to go viral. On top of that, the rates for digital advertising dropped precipitously since 2009, with each page view and click becoming ever less valuable every year. Half a decade in ads still covered our barest of costs, but the ads themselves sometimes were pretty shitty.

That’s why we launched our Patreon campaign in 2015, with our first goal to replace the income from banner ads. I am happy to say that we hit that milestone quickly and have been able to stay above that mark ever since.

We’re not rock stars, nor YouTube stars, on Patreon, but it’s reassuring that there’s a community of supporters willing to help make sure we don’t have to go out-of-pocket, or into debt, to keep this operation online.

Why We’re Still Surviving

Out of necessity, my expectations and investment have changed and evolved over the years. But one of the constants for me has been my fellow Radio Survivors, Eric, Jennifer and Matthew. They’re reason number one why I may have taken a break, but never bailed.

The fact that we have worked together, functioning pretty much as a collective, all these years, with nary a dispute or dust-up, is wondrous. I am grateful for their tolerance, understanding and forbearance, which I have attempted to return in kind. More importantly, I’m thankful for their friendship and kinship in all things radio. It’s rare to find this kind of collaboration with any kind of endeavor.

The other constant is the community that’s grown up around Radio Survivor: listeners, readers and all manner of supporters. We have found comrades around the globe, and we’ve visited many of them. I feel enormously lucky for the opportunity to speak with people on two dozen FM stations across North America, and across the Atlantic in Ireland.

As I tweeted the other day, receiving thoughtful, heartfelt emails and missives from this community really makes it all worthwhile. Every one is “worth many thousands many hits or downloads,” I wrote.

This is a gospel we often preach on the radio show, but I’ll admit it’s sometimes difficult to walk that talk. Today’s online world seems driven by racking up hits, and looking at our stats is sometimes an unwelcome indicator of how small this endeavor is. That’s when I remind myself that the connections are more important than the clicks, that before web counters, Facebook likes and YouTube play stats, when I was a late night community radio DJ, I’d have been thrilled to get a few calls a night, having no clue if I had 25 or 25,000 listeners.

The focus on connection and community, not mass and scale, is the spirit of Radio Survivor, to me.

Still Radio Surviving

If you had asked me in June 2009 if I’d still be writing for Radio Survivor ten years on, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. The truth is that Matthew had asked me to collaborate on a site at least one time before. Yet, despite my deep admiration for his work, I demurred, citing a plate already overfilled with obligations. But when he asked a second time, it was clear to me that two of us would be more effective than one.

When I agreed to join forces, he also suggested that we should at least find a third. I had only recently made Jennifer’s acquaintance after she toured the college radio station I advised. I didn’t actually meet her on the visit, but the students told me about it. So I looked up her website, got in touch and later interviewed her on my radio show.

I just knew Jennifer was a kindred soul, and I’m still thrilled to this day that she was willing to join in the effort we call Radio Survivor. The consistency and constancy of her work and passion has formed its strongest foundation. Then, Eric joining in 2015 only made the whole structure even more sound.

Again, pondering what I would have predicted ten years ago, I have to conclude that it’s irrelevant. We’re still here today, writing and recording words about radio, in all its permutations.

I am still a terrible fortune teller, so I won’t predict if Radio Survivor will celebrate a 20th anniversary. I wish and intend to remain friends with Eric, Jennifer and Matthew, and I’d hate to lose the root of our collaboration and relationship. I also desire to remain in love with radio and the people who also love radio.

I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what happens next week, next year, and next decade.

The post A Decade of Radio Surviving appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #199 – The FCC Is ‘Flunking Statistics 101’

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 23:52

The FCC was back in front of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals again, defending its failure to address declines in minority- and women-owned broadcast stations, amongst other failures. In fact, as our guest, University of Minnesota Prof. Christopher Terry, explains, the Commission claims it’s too hard to assess the change in ownership between 1996 and today.

Prof. Terry notes that the Court expressed skepticism of that claim. It’s just another chapter in the agency’s “legacy of failure,” as he calls it, wherein futile attempt followed by futile attempt to further loosen ownership regulations is built upon a faulty foundation of flimsy data. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the current FCC leadership, backed by the broadcast industry, won’t keep trying. We’ve already seen this in the NAB’s proposal to eliminate local radio ownership caps in hundreds of cities, as we reported in episode #196. Prof. Terry sheds additional light on that proposal, and assesses what a recent Supreme Court decision means for public access television.

Show Notes:

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Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #1: selective snouting

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 19:04

“Today I’d like to speak with you about the Berlin Schnauze,” declared Walter Benjamin on Radio Berlin in 1929. “This so-called big snout is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Berliners.”

With this essay, I begin my Walter Benjamin radio diary, a commentary on the radio shows for children that he broadcast from 1929 to 1932 on Radio Berlin and Southwest German Radio, Frankfurt. I have written a brief backgrounder on Benjamin, just to get my little project started. A much better introduction can be heard at the BBC Archive on 4, produced by Michael Rosen. It includes conversations with scholars about Benjamin’s radio scripts and the very first English reading of them by Henry Goodman. I am quoting here from Lecia Rosenthal’s edition of the talks. And, full disclosure, I am really just going riff on these programs, think about them out loud, meditate on what they remind me of, while avoiding any grand conclusions.

Having said all that, Benjamin’s first radio essay is really interested in a certain portion of the Berlin snout: the Berlin mouth, with all its smarty pants jokes, comments, snarky observations, and cracks. It is a mouth designed to defend oneself from being pushed around in a pushy world. Here are some examples Benjamin offered, such as the tongue of this beleaguered horse-drawn cab operator.

“My God, driver,” complains his latest passenger. “Can’t you move a little faster?
“Sure thing,” responds the Berlin cabbie. “But I can’t just leave the horse all alone.”

Or this bartender, perhaps a bit exasperated with some of his drunken clientele.

“What ales you got?” demands one inebriant.
“I got gout and a bad back,” replies the barkeep.

“Berlinish,” Benjamin explained, “is a language that comes from work.” It is a way of speaking for “people who have no time, who must communicate by using only the slightest hint, glance, or half-word.”

I am very familiar with this language, because I grew up in the Berlin of the United States, otherwise known as New York City. I was raised on apocryphal tales of the smart assed waiters who presided over Manhattan’s Jewish restaurants and delicatessens. I offer these vignettes from memory. For example:

A waiter walks up to a table of four men in a Lowest East Side kosher restaurant. “What will you have, gentlemen?” he asks.
“We will start with water,” one says.
Then another adds with a slightly irritated tone: “And, waiter, in a clean glass, please.”
The attendant bows, then returns in five minutes with the water.
“Ok,” he says, “which one of you guys wanted the clean glass?”

Another example: a waiter humbly approaches four elderly women eating at a Jewish deli.
“Ladies,” he gingerly asks, “is anything all right?”

But what I find most interesting about Benjamin’s first commentary is that it offers a very selective and limited definition of the Schnauz. Wikipedia defines the snout as “the protruding portion of an animal’s face, consisting of its nose, mouth, and jaw.” Yet our radio storyteller seems decidedly uninterested in two out of three of those attributes.

The Kaiser and his celebrated snout.

Why? I can only guess, but hovering over this discussion was one of the great noses of German history, that of Kaiser Wilhelm the Second. Remembered by one historian as a “bad tempered distractible doofus” in charge of the German empire, Wilhelm appears to have been primarily concerned with two things: first, his wardrobe, which consisted of 120 colorful military uniforms, and second, the endlessly waxed and fussed over mustache which adorned his nose. It even had its own name: “Er ist Erreicht!” or “It is accomplished,” which, as you may know, also happens to be the last thing that Jesus supposedly said on the cross at Golgotha. When not preoccupied with the decoration of his own beak, Wilhelm obsessed over those of his colleagues. “Fernando naso,” he dubbed the ruler of Bulgaria, whose proboscis he found unacceptably pronounced.

Therefore, I am not surprised that the young Walter Benjamin, already so focused on language, class, and democracy, stuck to the mouth and left the nose, with all its autocratic overtones, to others.

The post Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #1: selective snouting appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Internet Radio on the Mac, After iTunes

Sun, 06/23/2019 - 19:17

After assessing the state and likely demise of the iTunes internet radio tuner, I started to consider what this means for listening to internet radio with a computer, rather than mobile device, smart speaker or appliance. Then we received an email from a reader who reported they still use iTunes for internet radio, in part because it allows them to curate a playlist of their favorite stations for easy access. The reader noted that using station websites doesn’t quite work the same way, and that those sites vary widely in design and how simple they make it to start a stream.

I’ll admit that iTunes does excel at that kind of radio preset-style tuning. It’s something I’d forgotten since I do most of my internet radio listening using my Sonos, where I keep my favorite stations bookmarked in the system’s favorites.

I started to poke around to see what kind of desktop radio apps are left out there. I started with macOS because that’s what I primarily use. I found that there are damn few.

Go searching in the macOS App Store and you’ll encounter about a dozen or so true internet radio apps. But the majority of them seem not to have been updated in the last three to five years. In fact, I found only one that is worth trying.

myTuner Radio

myTuner Radio is free in the App Store and very simple. It has a reasonably comprehensive directory of a purported 50,000 stations organized by country. Besides that, they aren’t otherwise categorized. The search is decent, provided you know the call letters or name. If you’re searching by genre or format, you’d better hope that it’s in the name.

Stations owned by iHeart are pretty much entirely absent, though I could find plenty of Entercom and CBS stations, along with those owned by smaller groups. myTuner Radio has banner ads, but mercifully no audio ads. A paid version gets rid of all ads.

You can favorite stations for quicker recall, but there’s no provision to organize them, nor is there a provision to add a station’s stream URL like in iTunes. While using myTuner Radio is easier than bookmarking station webpages, you may not find all the stations you want, you can’t categorize the ones you bookmark and you can’t add additional ones not in the directory.

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio has a desktop Mac OS app that replicates the web or mobile app, more or less. To that end, it’s about as good as those. The directory is enormous, and organized by format, genre, location and language. But as I observed earlier, iHeart and Entercom stations have been removed by their owners.

There’s more flexibility in organizing your favorite stations, by putting them into folders. Yet, TuneIn still has no provision to add a station that’s not in the directory. If you like TuneIn on other platforms, you’ll like the desktop app, but it’s not quite a full iTunes replacement.


Odio (not Odeo) is a free open source app that visually resembles iTunes more than the other apps. It’s directory is more idiosyncratic than either TuneIn or myTuner. I could find some iHeart stations, like New York City’s Z100, but not others, like Portland’s The Brew. I had similar hit-and-miss results with Entercom stations.

Stations are organized by country, language and tag. It took me a bit to figure out how the tags get added, since I saw no feature for doing so in the app. It turns out that Odio uses a directory called Community Radio Browser, where anyone can submit a station. That probably accounts for the idiosyncrasies, since you don’t need to affiliated with a station to submit it. Right now Community Radio Browser lists 24,582 stations, and the project’s webpage has an intriguing list of apps and platforms that use its directory, along with code libraries for folks who might build their own app.

You can maintain a “library” of favorite stations, but there’s no way to organize them.


VLC is a cross-platform multimedia player app. In that way it’s the closest we have to a free, open source iTunes alternative – one that’s also continuously updated.

The app uses the Icecast Radio Directory. Icecast is an open source streaming audio platform, and stations using it can opt in to be listed. As a result the selection is very eclectic, though you may be hard pressed to find a lot of US broadcast stations. What you may find are live police scanners or Chicago Public Radio WBEZ’s all Christmas music stream. There is no organization – search is your only friend here.

Because it’s a perennially well-supported project, there are ways to add other directories, like TuneIn’s. However, plug-and-play they’re not. You’ll need to know your way around your Mac’s file system. It’s not crazy difficult, but it’s not as simple as installing most apps.

I would call VLC’s interface utilitarian. It’s built more for a power user than a novice, though there’s plenty of help to be found with a quick web search. Its two most iTunes-like features are the ability to add any station’s stream and to organize stations in playlists.

Other Options, Caveat Emptor

Researching this topic I encountered at least a half-dozen other free and open source iTunes alternatives offering at least some kind of internet radio feature. However, they all seem to have little to no development for at least three years. They may still work fine for your, but an OS upgrade could easily foul up the works.

Is there a currently supported Mac OS internet radio app I’m missing? Please let us know.

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Podcast #198 – Defending Human Rights with Radio in Honduras

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 23:59

In June 2009 a coup d’etat overthrew Honduras’ democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. Since the coup, human rights conditions in that country have deteriorated. Radio has become a vital organizing tool for defending the rights of indigenous people and fighting environmental destruction, while providing needed information and education to people in rural areas.

In April of this year Meredith Beeson and Ellen Knutson traveled to Honduras with a delegation from the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective. As part of their solidarity work with human rights groups and environmental activists who are experiencing political repression, they also visited community radio stations that are providing critical information lifelines. Meredith is a community radio producer at KRSM in South Minneapolis, MN, who also worked with print and radio journalists on an earlier delegation. She and Ellen join the show to tell us about what’s happening in Honduras, and the important role of radio.

Show Notes:

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What Happens to Internet Radio when Apple Kills iTunes?

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 01:26

I have to admit that I don’t quite remember the last time I browsed internet radio in iTunes. It’s been so long, in fact, that during research for this post, when I fired up the app on my MacBook I couldn’t even find the radio directory. Lucky for me, this Apple support doc helped me […]

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Podcast #157 – Raven Radio in Sitka, Alaska

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 23:15

Alaska’s unique geography and way-of-life leads to unique radio. Raven Radio is a public and community station serving the city of Sitka, along with seven other small towns in Southeast Alaska. The station is not just a source of news, music and culture, but also a lifeline for people living in remote communities where there […]

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Touring KCAW, Sitka Alaska’s Raven Radio

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 23:05

For most people living outside Alaska, if they’ve heard of Sitka it’s because they’ve been on a cruise ship that stopped there. This small city of just under 9,000 people in the Southeast of the state, near the capital of Juneau, balloons in size when ships dock to give passengers an opportunity to take in […]

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My Walter Benjamin radio diary

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 15:56

In which I comment on each and every one of Walter Benjamin’s radio broadcasts. But first, a quick introduction to some of his ideas.

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You are there

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 20:15

You are there. For Janice Windborne, 1950-2019 1 The great radio goddess lives on. I know that this is true, even if others no longer remember her. I know that she flies with her gorgeous cat black wings over cities that wait for justice: over Flint, New Orleans, and Ramallah astride Tegucigalpa and Charlottesville; above […]

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Podcast #196 – The Campaign To Keep Local Radio Local

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 02:13

Can US radio survive even more consolidation? The National Association of Broadcasters is asking the FCC to raise local radio ownership caps in the 75 biggest radio markets, and to get rid of limits entirely in the remaining 194. The prospect of even less diversity on the airwaves has motivated a broad coalition of music […]

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