Core Samples |

Core Samples

The medium is the message

–Marshall McLuhan It’s a jungle out there. Accusations flying. Tempers flaring. Fingers pointing. Ironies running rampant. Proper salary levels for executives at nonprofits and news-provider agendas have become the issues du jour. Defensive schemes are being structured to both bring in the "nickel back" while at the same time conducting a full-on "blitz." They’re circling the wagons. Local news outlets, rather than spreading the news, have become the news — what with the Salt Lake Tribune and KCPW and, by default, The Park Record and KPCW, providing conspiracy theorists with fodder aplenty for the holidays. More than a few of the names that are turning up in the media have a familiar ring to them. Whoda thunkit? During recent times, this newspaper has printed more than a few letters to the editor and guest editorials regarding an article in the Salt Lake Tribune concerning the compensation package my longtime radio and barstool buddy, Blair Feulner, toils under at the aforementioned radio outlets. Not too shabby of an arrangement if I do say so myself and, quite possibly, a better deal than the one the two of us hammered out for ourselves down at KMOR-AM in Salt Lake during the Harding administration — Tanya, I believe her name was. Some seem to be questioning the "Trib’s" motives. Unless I miss their point, they wonder why the piece ran at all and why on the front page on a Sunday. They saw a conspiracy afoot. Their take is that the "old-school" print folk were losing the competition battle with the "tragically-hip" broadcast bunch and reacted in a malevolent manner. A caller to KCPW saw "the fingerprints of right-wing slime are all over it." Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! This is not as absurd as it sounds. I was there when just such a right-wing hostile takeover turned KPCW from the "community" radio station the founders (mostly me) had promised to each and every barstool occupant at The Alamo into the "public" radio station it became. There was an immediate reaction to the Trib piece from both sides of the aisle. Many thought that Blair was damn well worth his current pay due to sacrifice on his part during his early years running the station. His incisive interviewing and organiz. ational skills were also entered into evidence As near as I can tell, the opposing side sees it as a betrayal issue. Some of them take the position that community radio carries sort of a grassroots, non-commercial onus and that the reason they contribute is that they have always believed that it was their station. This bunch of tree-huggin’ altruists most likely includes a fair amount of the same folks I lobbied for support back during the "station creation" days of the late ’70s. My assignment — and I chose to accept it — was to represent the "street scene" on the initial Board of Trustees for Park City Wireless. "To the barricades!" I would yell. "And bring your spare change!" It’s not that I was nave in those days — well, maybe a little — but, as it turned out, I was certainly refusing to recognize the direction that others foresaw in KPCW’s future. Being in denial, I think they call it. Which brings us the blustery winter evening of Feb. 19, 1979. A gathering is taking place in a smoke-filled back room at the Treasure Mountain Inn. Tom Bock, Blair Feulner, Becky Widenhouse and myself are in attendance representing the Board of Trustees of Community Wireless of Park City. What Dan Wilcox is up to is anybody’s guess. The rest of us, however, are up to no good. The sound is of scotch washing over ice. Others drift in. The clinking of ice cubes reaches a crescendo. Steve Dering and Darrell "The Chief" LaFournier are added to the board by acclamation. Sidney Reed and Dave Fleischer grab a chair and join in the discussion. Rodeo and concert-fundraising ideas are bandied about. Next up is "business" concerning the license application, possible antenna sites, and (drum roll) operating budgets. The following is taken directly from actual minutes of that meeting turned up by Sandra Morrison from deep within the archives of the Park City Museum. In response to how operating costs would be handled, "the possibility of underwriting programs with business contributions was suggested. Jay (me) voiced the opinion that it was a negative approach with unseen dangers, while Tom and Steve felt that this was a paranoid view and that underwriting would be a good fundraising tool." The "right-wingers" won, of course, and the station went on to thrive economically, if not artistically. The Trotskyite in me was crushed. The scotch, however, saw me through and I continued with KPCW through its sign-on and early growing pains. Within a short time, rugby matches would be broadcast live from atop the "Mucker bus" down at City Park. I lived in a western ski town with its own radio station that broadcast local rugby matches live. It couldn’t get any better. Looking back, my involvement with the creation of KPCW is one of the highlights of my life in Utah. Blair’s vision, tireless campaigning, ability to attract a quality supporting cast and being able to "sell" the concept of community radio to the town, made it all happen. That said, it never became the station I envisioned. Diversity in programming succumbed to listener surveys which begat an ever lowering of the target common denominator. Changes in underwriting guidelines expanded the stations coffers to the point where "non-commercial" became a highly relative term. I don’t really buy in to the conspiracy scenario that has Dean Singleton and his MediaNews Group (which owns The Park Record) defending their market share by attacking KPCW. I saw the Tribune piece as news — man bites dog, as it were. The fact that it stimulated open discussion was a good thing. Let the chips fall. In the meantime, I enjoy listening to KPCW while driving from Heber to Park City and back. My friends on their staff, particularly Leslie Thatcher and Randy Barton, do indeed provide a sense of community. I also treasure my more recent associations with the entire staff at The Park Record. The collective creative energies of Nan Chalat-Noaker, Kat James, and Courtney Herzinger humble my sensibilities and that’s rare.

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