Saturday, March 10, 2012

personal responsiblity on the air..my take

For about 10 years I was a part-time staff announcer on a small Christian radio station in Phoenix. I started as a volunteer, answering phones and pulling records for a Saturday morning music request program. After a while there I decided I would like to try my hand being on air so I contacted the general manager and started training with him and the station engineer. I worked mainly weekends and overnight and some evenings occasionally. I would run programs, do weather and news breaks, and even had some shifts when I could choose my own music and create commentary to tie it all together.

Since ours was a small listener-supported station we had no commercials, but did have a loyal following, many of whom would call, any time of day. Some would like to chat, or had a record request, or sometimes need advice for a personal crisis(especially on the overnight shifts). When the phone rang, it was my responsibility to answer it, be polite and helpful, being aware that I was representing the station (and God, since we were a Christian station). I took that very seriously, even when I was trying to do several things at once - run programs, pick music, record stuff for later broadcast -and check the news wire.

I was often the only person at the station during my shifts, so I operated the control board, took transmitter readings (making sure we were FCC-compliant), and kept records of what we played, all the while making the necessary on air announcements. One time we even had the power go out while I was doing a station ID break. The engineer happened to be there at the time, so I wasn't alone, but we still had to coordinate calling the airport to alert them our tower lights were out, get the backup generator running, and still answer the phones - people wanted to know why we weren't on the air.

All this came back to mind in the wake of Rush Limbaugh's vulgar and outrageous verbal attack on Sandra Fluke -a woman smeared with sexist slurs, whose only "crime" was a desire to testify before Congress about a matter important to her. It wasn't just the words he used, nor that he has a history of such remarks. The worst thing is that he apparently doesn't care what comes out of his mouth when he opens the mike, takes no responsibility for it, and obviously has no one that he feels he must answer to.

In my radio work I was very careful what I said on the air. Not only were our supporters listening, but our general manager was as well. If any one of us had uttered anything close to what Rush said (not that we ever would) we would have been promptly fired, no questions asked. Apparently Rush has no one in that position. Plus we were focused on giving encouragement to our listeners, not rile them up to "go on the attack"

The only thing worse than Rush's comments is the silence that followed them, from those who share his conservative beliefs. It really shouldn't matter what your politics is, common decency demands that you treat others as you would want to be treated, and speak up in protest when others cross the line. There are those on the left that I avoid or sample lightly because of their tendency to be vulgar or derogatory. And "false equivalency" comments are just a way to dodge speaking up.

I have never cared for Bill Maher for instance. "Politically incorrect" is a term I loath, because in my mind it is just a rationale to be rude. If we want to be taken seriously when we criticize bad behavior, we must criticize without taking political views into mind. When we were kids and got into trouble it was no use bringing up others bad deeds. All our parents were focused was correcting us, because we were under their roof.

Words matter and we should care about what we say, how we say it, and to whom (and about whom) we say them. Not just for legal reasons or FCC rules,etc, but just because cultivating civility is the right thing to do and helps build better communities, locally, nationally, and globally.

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