AIR at #NFCB17: From Local to Infinity and Beyond (by Way of Community Media)

Editor’s Note: In July 2017 AIR staff and Board attended the National Federation of Community Broadcasters Conference in Denver. Along with New Voices alumni and Localorians, we are grateful to have been a part of this inspiring convening of minds. What follows are some personal insights and applicable takeaways for AIRsters from two AIR staffers who attended: Marketing and Communications Manager Kate Krosschell and Program Director Tran Vu.

Kate Krosschell: NFCB underscored for me the conviction that your community is brimming with stories by and for the people—go out and find them! As former Morning Edition Executive Producer Tracy Wahl said in Denver, “On Twitter you’re still narrowcasting.” However useful Twitter can be in the story gathering process, she advised journalists at NFCB to seek stories beyond social media by sitting at bus stops and standing in line at the grocery store; just ask people to tell you about themselves.

I’m also encouraged by the renaissance in audio thanks to podcasting and digital media. This has given rise to, in NFCB CEO Sally Kane’s words, talented makers who are younger, more inclusive, and digitally savvy: “Social media is bringing a broader scope of citizenry that we can interact with, and art & culture organizations in rural locations are mobilizing as economic change makers in media.”

Thanks to some such changemakers at the conference, both indies and stations alike, who dazzled me with their talks about citizen and audience engagement, I’m excited by the prospect that we can harness media—social, digital, audio—to highlight the values of visibility and inclusivity in our quickly changing world. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of media to bring change by speaking truth to power. I’m so proud to watch the gifted makers in the AIR and NFCB networks champion this, full-throttle.

Kate’s Three Takeaways:

  1. Radical Inclusivity. NFCB convened KALW host of Your Call Rose Aguilar, Senior Director at Free Press Joseph Torres, President of Native Media Resource Center Peggy Berryhill, and Writer Ijeoma Oluo to speak about inclusivity in media. I was heartened by the tough conversations and especially these words of wisdom from Ijeoma Oluo: “Think about the moments where you take a risk and ask yourself: who decided this was a risk?” In our work as media-makers, we have the tools, audience, and bravery to practice radical inclusivity by questioning who calls the shots and owning media ourselves to tell authentic stories. Let’s not wait for someone else to do it—let’s shore up our resilience and travel all the avenues to make bold, inclusive media with and for all of the people.
  2. Thriving in chaos. “Change is the only constant in this world,” said Sally Kane when opening the conference plenary on change. Yes, we’re living in whirlwind times. But it can also be exciting, because creativity often comes in liminal states. We can embrace the chaos. As our CEO Sue Schardt said during this session, “Chaos is a state that is highly subjective to influence. This is the heart of intentionality.” Independent producers are lightning bolts of energy that surge into action during times of change. At AIR I work to applaud and encourage all the intrepid AIRsters and creatives in our industry who chase risks and innovate for public media and beyond.
  3. Local matters. Community media understands this better than most. Time and time again at NFCB I saw examples of innovative projects, events, and social media efforts that place communities and their stories front and center. Radio races, karaoke nights, and live storytelling events gave way to more engaged communities. As an independent, you have the flexibility and creativity to combat isolation in yourself or your community by seeking out the stories around you in unconventional forms. Need ideas? Read Break Form.


Tran Vu: I was activated by the types of bold conversations we had at NFCB. I have experience in community organizing, and I saw the same thread of questions and motivations at NFCB about making change through authenticity. Community media is positioned in just the right place for this, thanks to its mission of serving audiences.

Tran’s Three Takeaways: 

  1. Know Thyself. We’re in the business of threading together people’s and communities’ narratives, but NFCB reminded me of the importance of introspection for makers. Self-examination and unforgiving honesty with ourselves are crucial to making powerful media because this challenges our worldview and points out our blind spots. As Ijeoma Oluo put it, “Nothing you do will be honest if you are not honest about yourself.” I think we all should be taking this maxim with us so that we can create with consciousness and intentionality.
  2. Accessibility and Mission-Driven Work: In my session on podcasting, I’m Not Ira Glass: Community Media Podcasting for Everyone, I tried to underscore the idea of mission-driven work and accessibility by sharing my work as well as tools and things I wish I’d known earlier as an independent podcaster. Access to resources came up a bunch during the conference, and I think it’s important to always be questioning the intentions behind one’s work and who they’re for. Who’s telling the narratives and who’s listening? Funding can be very tough these days so I believe that having a clear mission helps provide creative sustainable energies and fulfillment when other resources might not be there. “Start with a mission and vision. Think about what stories you want to tell and what’s not being told. Who owns and creates the narrative?” – Tran Vu
  3.  The Importance of Community Radio Right Now. In the session on inclusivity, Rose Aguilar spoke about the intersection of truth and making room for local voices: “At this critical time, we need to be critical truth tellers. We owe it to our communities and to each other.” Community radio is ultimate platform for this, because it’s the medium that is both local and universal simultaneously. As makers and curators of media, we have a responsibility to include local voices and to do our due diligence to reach out intentionally and not simply default on the go-to voices already in our rolodexes.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t close by celebrating Sue’s intrepid efforts on this mission, for which she was honored at NFCB with the Michael Bader Lifetime Achievement Award. Check out the video below and thanks to our dear friends and colleagues who contributed!


Note: Thank you to WNYC for their open source audiogram code on Github and to Sparemin for their easy-access tool from that code.