Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones: Why community radio is a great fit for Localore

Editor’s note: Sally Kane, the CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and the former executive director of KVNF, a rural public radio station in Paonia, Colorado, where Julia Kumari Drapkin’s iSeeChange project was created during Localore 2013. Kane’s essay about Localore’s effects on her station were first published on the NFCB blog.

NFCB CEO Sally Kane
Sally Kane, CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters

I’m told by my Aunt that my great-great-grandfather was fond of saying “turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.” Every time I think of that I get a clear image of hopping over obstacles that once blocked my view by seeing the larger pattern that clears a trail. Localore is a project that has had exactly this effect on my personal and professional life.

When I decided to take a chance and create a short film about KVNF Community Radio and place it on the runway for Localore 1.0, I knew that our station was a treasure that had everything it needed to welcome an innovative reporting project into the fold and help give it roots. I knew that all too often when journalists are dispatched to “get the scoop” on a news story in a rural area they come into town, talk to a few people, grab the soundbites, and head back home. I wanted to shake up that dynamic because that formula can diminish our voices as much as it can amplify them.

Opportunities for journalists to take a deeper dive and be changed by a connection to a place or the people from that place are rare. Having producer Julia Kumari-Drapkin come to our “place” and spend a year developing her innovative climate change reporting project iSeeChange changed me. It changed our station. It changed Julia.

We got to see that we are not the “under-served, under-resourced, under-educated, under-populated” demographic we (and other rural communities like ours) are often perceived to be. We got to show the richness of our knowledge, skills, and commitment to one another. We got to shine, and our shining lit a fire in Julia that inspired her work and her heart.

Localore’s Finding America plants a seed of real opportunity for community radio stations to show the world what they have: a rare connection to sense of place that is grounded in an experience of belonging to something larger than yourself. Something you can lend your voice to, hear it reverberate, watch it expand, and actually experience the transformative effects over seasons and even decades.

Take a chance on believing in the richness of what your station has, what it offers, and what a difference it makes in your community. The myriad stumbling blocks that weigh so heavily on you in the day-to-day struggle to keep your station going just might start to look like stepping stones that lead you to a new and exciting vista or at the very least some higher ground.

Meet the Localore: Finding America teams and stations at