Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shocked, angry and sad

When I heard the news last Friday that WMUB was merging with Cincinnati Public Radio, I felt like I'd just heard a death sentence pronounced over a loved family member. I was shocked, disbelieving, in denial, angry, and indescribably sad. WMUB has been my friend, companion, source of inspiration and information, dependably available whose now packing up and moving on. A sense bereavement has come over me for the loss that is coming.

The first thing someone at Miami will say upon reading my letter is that she is in no position to understand what the university is up against in these challenging financial times. Yes, I'm not privy to all of the information in the school's budget, especially what programs will have life if WMUB is dies.

What really aroused my ire, however, was a comment by President Hodge that that the school was making the decision to concentrate on its core mission – educating its students. When did providing high quality news reporting, including BBC news broadcasts, become irrelevant to education? What could be more relevant to education in today's world than informing its citizens?

A few months ago, a student called into the WMUB Forum program complaining about the all news format, saying he especially disliked Diane Rehm and that he didn't need to hear another woman on the air with a lisp. I was both infuriated and saddened by the student. Comments like his are what cause those of us with a few more miles on our tires to arrive at conclusions about our education system and how it is failing our young people; also how unprepared the younger generation is to do or appreciate anything that is purposeful instead of mind-numbing. The student obviously hadn't taken the time to truly acquaint himself with the show or its host, who doesn't have a lisp, by the way. Education is supposed to be mind-opening and mind-expanding, not supportive of mere uninformed opinion. If Miami has many like this young man running around on its campuses, it needs to require students to listen to WMUB rather than to pull the plug on it.

How can Miami not see the most educational radio station in Ohio, perhaps even in the U.S., as part of its core mission? Is not providing information and education to the community as well as students related to its mission? What more important mission can there be than educating everyone it can reach with high quality news to make better informed citizens?

I've been curious over many years about why Miami hasn't made better use of the station to inform listeners about Miami and its educational opportunities. As a Miami alum, I don't know any more about the school after 25 years of listening to WMUB than I knew about it when I was graduated in 1966. Surely the school hasn't been frozen in a time capsule. Here it has had a golden platform for 59 years and it hasn't used it to full advantage. A while ago, I suggested that there be a monthly, or perhaps even weekly, program that could spotlight a different department or program each time. There could be a program about new findings in geology, the latest engineering research at Miami, a recommended reading list for English majors and why the selections are included, how the arts have evolved as part of the curriculum, how students are launching their careers -- the list could be extensive. Having professors, instructors and administrators from the departments as guest contributors could serve at least a dual mission of acquainting the public more fully with Miami while providing educational and entertaining information derived from Miami's resources. This missed opportunity is to be regretted.

It was said there was no money for internships at the station. To me that says that the students in the communications curriculum were not considered important enough to provide an avenue for utilizing the quality resource within walking distance to round out their educations with practical experience. And what about the experience engineering students could have gained with exposure to the broadcasting equipment and its operation. Again, a missed opportunities.

One suspects, is reasonably sure, that there are other programs and activities at Miami which are subsidized. WMUB has been such a feather in the university's cap with its awards, first class staff, leadership, and quality programming. Something of this caliber need not be ashamed or apologetic about the need for subsidy. What WMUB provides to the university and its reputation more than balances the required subsidy. From this listener's point of view, under the present leadership, everything that could be done to elevate the quality of the staff, the quality of the programming, and the advancements in technology have been vigorously pursued. Now this is the thanks for those efforts -- pulling the plug.

I so much want to submit a compelling argument because my feelings on the subject are so strong and I'm having to rein in my emotions to allow for any coherence in writing about it. I'm just at loss to see how Miami can devalue WMUB when its listeners gain so much from it and place such value on it. Yes, I hear it's a small market. With the web streaming, there's no reason for the market to be confined to this corner of the world. In my travels, I've not found another station that can approach it in quality. And its local programming is first rate.

February will be a sad, sad month in Miami's history. You built something up, not only to be proud of but to utilize, and now plan to throw it out. I wish I could attend the public forum, but it seems like an after-the-fact crumb to throw to listeners -- a cave to shout in -- since the decision to hand off the station has been presented as a done deal. I also wish I had deep pockets and could make a difference financially, but alas, I'm not in that category. But I am in the category of WMUB listeners and supporters who is not going to let go without making some noise.

If there is any chance the decision can be reversed, I'll pin some hope on that for now.

--Gail, MU grad, Dayton


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