Part of our work in public media in helping people help each other cope with the fallout in the still growing financial crisis is expanding from an engagement project with over 70 stations in TV and Radio in 32 markets to include major programs. All of this work - in the community, in the studio, on the web and among national programmers is starting to converge.
Part of this convergence will happen tonight.
Tonight, Sesame St has a prime time on how all of this is affecting families and children. What is it like to come home one day and tell your kids that you have lost your job? Or how do you tell them that you have lost your home? What confronts your kids when they go to school and have to tell their friends? What about the kids who are now literally homeless?
This was never meant to be part of the American Dream - but now it is part of the American Reality for millions of families.
This show is not a "how to" show - nor is it cute or funny. It takes a devastating topic and is both engaging and straight. It enables people to see that they are not alone - it enables people to see that even when all things may be lost, that the family itself can be a great consolation. It pulls no punches - have a box of Kleenex on standby.
Here are more details of the show. This will give you a taste:
Surely this is stronger than liking a program or getting a a free book or set of knives?This is what I mean by deepening the relationship with the public
I was talking to Patty Cahill yesterday who is just joining the Board of CPB. We were talking about the future and of course about support and broadening the audience. Until now public radio and TV's support was directly and exclusively tied to listeners and viewers. Tied to the connection to our on air content. For a generation, Radio and TV has tried to expand this audience without weakening the quality of what we produced. This approach does not seem to have worked. Our audience is still locked into the same metrics. Our attempts to reach other segments have not given us the results that we had hoped for.
Patty and I dug deeper into what may be happening to our support now that we are doing this project that focuses so much not only on content but on helping everyone. Might this be the more legitimate way of building a broader base of support? Have a look at KNPR's situation here. My bet is that the secret is here. That the more we support all the public, the more that ALL the public will support us. That it is not all about "audience" or content.
As is always the case, the more we’ve communicated about our activities to our Board of Directors, Community Advisory Board and external groups such as the local Women in Communications chapter, the more positive feedback we get over and above the urgency of the topic. There is a profound resonance that what we are doing is what public media can do as no commercial media can: dedicating our resources to focused on air messaging, providing online resources and getting appropriate messages out to audiences who don’t listen to us. (In particular the Hispanic audience, African American and those demographics not associated with public radio use.)
This project answers the question “what do you mean exactly by community engagement”? we hear this from time to time from our board members. They are overwhelmingly supportive of the use of time and resources in this project and understand that this is not related to building audience for broadcast.
We have reported the specific email traffic in previous questions of the week and we have not received a lot of spontaneous recognition for our project from listeners about how they are using the information. Comments such as “please continue your coverage” are commonplace in regards listening.
However: Spring Arbitron numbers just came in for News 88.9 KNPR and looking at the regular Thursday coverage in 10am hour we can see a significant jump in audience year over year – 30% more listening to the 10am hour. We have covered and branded the foreclosure content in this hour every week since the start of April.
We recently received information from the Mexican Patriotic Committee, a non-profit organization that has been in our community for over 29 years. They wanted us to list a community event they are promoting. We have never received such a request from the Hispanic community. The board member who submitted the request said she respected the way Nevada Public Radio is doing outreach to the Hispanic community. She appreciated the fact we are trying to communicate with them about the foreclosure project.
This is an email I received from our local HUD office contact:
“I wanted to thank you again for all of your help. Since partnering with you & KNPR our call volume has increased dramatically. We have also seen an increase in our “walk in traffic”. I have spoken to people who have heard about our programs on your station. You have helped us reach people we may never have reached, were it not for this partnership. I look forward working with you all for a very long time. Thanks.”
Phyllis Hargrove, Operations Specialist U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Field Policy Management.
We partnered with our local volunteer center to hold a volunteer-a-thon as a way of helping the center receive much needed exposure. We also wanted to give people who had recently lost jobs or hours from their jobs an opportunity to do something meaningful for the community, to have a place to go to during the day, to learn new skills, to share their skills and make valuable contacts.
This is an email we received from the Volunteer Center:
“United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center had the opportunity to partner with Nevada Public Radio during National Volunteer Week in April 2009. Our ‘bright idea’ was to partner our request for volunteers with Nevada Public Radio’s expertise with pledge drives and their breadth of loyal listeners. Imagine our surprise when 460 new volunteers signed up on our website and pledged 11,655 hours of service to the community over the next 12 months! These 460 volunteers were from a sector in the community that we might not ever have reached without this partnership. We are indebted to Nevada Public Radio and value our collaboration. It is our hope that this partnership endures for many years to come.”
Robin Kelley, Volunteer Center Director
So the reduction in the GDP number is less than was feared - Hooray! What is going on with our media? The headlines are as boosterish as they were as we went into this crisis. Every glimmer of a green shoot is heralded as a breakthrough.
I am working in the 32 worst hit states in the US and I can tell you from looking at them every day - times for people are getting worse. A Katrinaesque America is emerging but there are no headlines. You have to search to find it. For now.....
The largest county in Alabama - includes Birmingham - is literally falling apart:(NYT)
In every part of Jefferson County — Alabama’s most populous county and its main economic engine — government managers have been scrambling to prepare for Saturday, when two-thirds of county employees eligible for layoffs — up to 1,400 — will be lost in an effort to stave off financial ruin.
Basically all government services are stopped - even burial!
There is a pattern here. The most corrupt and the most inept and the most politically divided states and cities are the first to fall - unable to cope with the complexities of the collapse in tax revenue.
Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, could be compared to a person who has lost his job, watched his retirement investments evaporate and is stuck with a house that is worth less than what he owes the bank. Some of the county’s woes stem from the financial crisis that has pounded so many communities: its sales and property tax revenues are down by $40 million, and it borrowed billions in a sewer bond boondoggle that is the municipal equivalent of a subprime mortgage, using failed exotic bond deals and swaps concocted by investment bankers.
But the county has additional troubles: the sewer project was riddled with corruption, and in January a court ruled that a tax the county relied on for more than a quarter of its general fund was illegal because the Legislature repealed it in 1999.
State lawmakers could easily fix that problem by re-enacting the tax, but deliberations have dragged on even as the county has halted road maintenance, delayed opening a courthouse, announced plans to close half its customer service locations and asked department heads to submit the names of those who would be laid off on Saturday.
As I learn more about California, Michigan, New York and New Jersey - I wonder. The fabric of where people live is unraveling.
In Canada we remain isolated from what is happening in many US Cities - isolated for now.
As we explore what it is like in the places hit hardest such as Ohio - that have had the jobs go forever - we see the emergence of Ghost Towns. Once unemployment reaches 15%, they seem to die. Here is a story I found on MarketPlace:
"It makes you wonder, if for different reasons, we’re going to see more ghost towns across America. Just think of all those subdivisions and shopping malls that are being abandoned.
John Wasik, author of “The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream,” says this:
“The whole premise of the ‘Cul-De-Sac Syndrome’ is we hit a dead end,” he said. “We hit a wall of unaffordability. I want to convey the idea that we are building, selling and developing communities that are not sustainable.”
“Sprawling urban areas with no public transit or connection to a central city … will become ghost towns if high energy prices return and persist,” he writes, adding that both scenarios are likely in a healthy economy.
From an LA Times real estate blog:
A financial analyst fresh from a tour of construction sites in the Inland Empire (east of LA) is warning Wall Street of a “ghost town” where finished homes sit vacant and additional homes are still under construction.
“At several properties, there were a significant number of fully built homes sitting vacant along with a large number of additional homes still under construction,” Sandler O’Neill & Partners analyst Aaron Deer wrote today after touring developments in Corona and Ontario. “At one master plan community, the entire development appeared to be vacant — with the exception of crews working on new construction, it was a ghost town.”
And that was a year ago.
As we talked about a few months ago, cities like Flint, Michigan that don’t want to wind up like Cairo might just tear things down and start over, thinking smaller this time.
As markets rise in anticipation of a fix for CIT and analysts ask whether improved bank earnings are a sign that the economy has bottomed out - things are getting desperate in many communities as the number of empty houses blights entire areas.
“I would say it’s hurricane season for foreclosures and 150 Katrinas are pounding urban neighborhoods across the country,” he said. “It’s forcing us to reinvent the way we do community development.”
Noting that 654 homes in New Jersey were repossessed in February, Mr. Morrissy added, “We have to grow the scale of our commitment — rescue troubled properties, organize citizens as neighborhood guardians, get new homeowners into the picture — or this thing is going to devour us and our neighborhoods.”
Is is a surprise that I see this headline today? (NPR)
-- The Washington Post -- "Poll Shows Obama Slipping On Key Issues": "Heading into a critical period in the debate over health-care reform, public approval of President Obama's stewardship on the issue has dropped below the 50% threshold for the first time, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll Obama's approval ratings on other front-burner issues, such as the economy and the federal budget deficit, have also slipped over the summer."
We all talk about change. But most hate it and most of all most hate to have change imposed upon them.
Back in 2005 when NPR ventured into a nation wide debate about how everyone in Public Radio would have to change, we could all agree on what we should do - but like knowing that you should give up smoking or lose 20 pounds, we got stuck on the do. We got stuck on the hard work of changing ourselves.
One of the really wonderful aspects of the Facing the Mortgage Crisis is that many of the 76 stations that are participating are changing.
They are becoming part of their community - they are giving their community its own voice - they are really getting to understand how social media can expand their reach and connection - that "voice" is mellowing - the are becoming vital to the future of where they live.
Here is a link to just 3
Our community now goes beyond the public media demographic that we think we know and understand to many new people and organizations that are struggling to make sense out of a very painful crisis. Additionally, our sense of public service has greatly increased and appreciate the value of community engagement - to the point that “community engagement” becomes a non sequitur - how could public media not be fully engaged in their community? Leonard Sternberg CET/WXVU
How did this happen?
I think it is because we found a great issue - rather than try and be "New" as an abstract - we became part of a movement to save our communities - it must have felt like this in WWII. In so doing our walls broke down.
Over the next few months, I will explore this process of transformation further because I think that a great lesson is to be found here and I don't understand it all yet.
But I suspect that the general lesson might be this - that the more of us who make working on renewing our communities, the more we will ourselves expand as people. It may be that this crisis opens us up to see how much we need others - especially people who may not be like us or look like us.
As the hype about Green Shoots continues and the profits roll in on Wall Street - what is the picture on Mainstreet?
On Thursday, RealtyTrac released a report that showed home foreclosures nationally have risen 15 percent for the first half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. RealtyTrac’s figures suggest Texas’ foreclosure levels have dipped almost 15 percent compared with the same period last year.
RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said the record levels of foreclosures come “in spite of the industry-wide moratorium earlier this year, along with local, state and national legislative action and increased levels of loan modification activity….” and are being driven by unemployment and a high number borrowers who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.
“Stemming the tide of foreclosures is a critical component to stabilizing the housing market, so it is imperative that the lending industry and the government work in tandem to find new approaches to address this issue.”
There seems to be two Americas - those who work in the real world of where people live and the financial system that has other priorities.
It would seem that we are just beginning the work in Pub Media to make a difference in the real world - where we become part of the story ourselves.