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A Personal Note from Molly I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I fully intend to recover. I don’t need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammo gram. Done. My friend Marlyn Schwartz says: “If you have ever wondered what it would feel like to sit in a doctor’s office with a lump in your breast trying to remember when you last had a mammogram, I can tell you. You feel like a fool.” I’d say “a damn fool.” My friend Myra MacPherson says that if you want to prepare a girl for her first mammogram, you should tell her to go lie down on a cold cement slab in the garage and run a tire back and forth across her chest. True, but it sure beats a serious cancer. Please, go get the damn mammogram done. That would be the best Christmas \(and New Molly Ivins, December 1999 ,14 DIALOGUE HOEDOWN ON THE ANIMAL FARM Much as I admired Michael King’s incisive article on KOOP \(“Looking for Real Enemies,” him on one point: “In the absence of KOOP, Austin ears would not suffer in dire need of eccentric music, which commercial and public stations already provide in abundance.” Would that this were true. The fact of the matter is that Rod Moag, John Hauser, Tom Manke, and Jim Caligiuri are playing musics, notably traditional country, Western Swing, rockabilly, Cajun and Zydeco, that no other Austin station provides. Roots music, other than blues, gets virtually no airplay in Austin, and it never ceases to amaze me that the home of so many Americana artists does not have a station that reports to Gavin’s Americana chart unlike Fredericksburg! Austin’s radio is much less diverse than King implies. John Conquest Third Coast Music, Austin Michael King replies: I won’t quarrel with John Conquest’s much greater knowledge of Austin radio music. But as he knows by now, KOOP’s version of it is a little less diverse, even since he sent his letter. In late November, programmer Jim Caligiuri learned that he had been dismissed \(i.e., cially because he was in “de-facto non-compliance with the radio station’s pledge drive policy” but in fact because he held the wrong opinions and expressed them publicly, within the hearing of the small group of petty tyrants who now run the station. Other programmers have also left in disgust, and management was reduced to the bathetic gesture of offering “volunteer hours credit” for anyone who agreed to show up to the station’s December birthday party. I love the music too. But the background dissonance is too much to bear. THE VIEW FROM INSIDE I really enjoyed your articles on community radio. Having recently moved to Austin from Houston, I listened both to KPFT and KOOP in search of an alternative to the mindless drivel found on commercial radio stations in both cities. I am a professional broadcast engineer working for a huge radio conglomerate. I landed my first job twenty years ago at a small, familyowned radio station in Nacogdoches, at the ripe age of fifteen. During the course of my career, I watched local control and local programming disappear from radio stations as corporate control and the associated demand for ever-increasing profits became the norm. The reality of commercial radio in these times demands that we take no chances with our programming. We have no choice but to provide programming that is scientifically developed to be as inoffensive as possible. In order to maximize profits for our owners, we must not stray from what our programmers know will succeed. The tried and true path leads to boredom and mediocrity. Community radio has the potential to provide an alternative. It generally fails to do so. In order to succeed, a radio station must do more than produce and transmit a program. It must produce and transmit a program listeners want to hear. KOOP and KPFT have both failed in different ways. KPFT adopted an inoffensive music format as a way to increase the number of listeners. They did this at the expense of news and public affairs programming. KOOP took the opposite approach with the most diverse selection possible. Unfortunately, the result is an unpredictable and inconsistent program. If commercial radio exists for advertisers, then community radio exists for listeners. Community radio stations cannot put more emphasis on their programmers than their listeners. The listeners must come first. Putting the listeners first means not letting personal ideology compromise program quality. It means broadcasting “Democracy Now” even when you disagree with Pacifica management. It means broadcasting “Alternative Radio” even when David Barsamian slams you at a conference. It means providing a consistent and entertaining program one more compelling than is available from commercial broadcasters. One theme I consistently hear from community radio programmers is that station management is undemocratic. No organization can survive without direction. To have direction, there must be someone with the authority to set policy. The community radio disputes I read about all have one common theme: Programmers arguing over who should or should not be the person in authority. They so focus on this they lose sight of why the radio station exists. While they argue and fight among themselves, the listeners switch to another station. I close with three things for community Always focus on your listeners, never on yourserve everyone equally. Do the best you can doesn’t work if no one listens. Strive to provide a consistent and entertaining program at all times. Never let internal politics compromise program quality. I hope someone in the broadcast booth is listening. James L. Reese Austin PROCEED WITH CAUTION I think I understand my friend, Ronnie bugsystem \(“Crimes Against Democracy,” Novemdreams that “full public funding of public elections” is a remedy for Crimes Against Democracy. Centrally planned, bureaucratically administered, publicly funded “public elections” are commonplace in twentieth-century political history. Whether or not the planners and bureaucrats are of the left or of the right, results are typically 98-2 or 99-1. Would a rational person anticipate that a “public election” planned under the auspices of either Ralph Nader or, say, Newt Gingrich, result in a 51-49 outcome, no matter the source of funding? Central planners, as a general rule, have a goal to be achieved by a plan. All such plans presuppose “public” support and whether such “public” support is voluntary or coerced is immaterial to central planners. It would be a poor planner, and a poor plan indeed’, which is either approved or rejected by a 51-49 result. In my lifetime, neither central planners nor bureaucrats excite admiration rather they arouse caution and, in my opinion, skepticism is required. Scott G. Baum Jr. Houston 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 21, 2000