Monday, January 29, 2018

On the Radio

For this entry I bring you an entrepreneurial antidote with a feel-good vibe.

I’m a fan of all things old school and among them is good old radio, whether it’s pulling up my MLB radio app to catch my beloved Seattle Mariners fail to win (or sometimes even try, it seems) or tuning in an old transistor to some music while burning dinner on the grill.

One thing I like about radio, beyond my own entertainment, is that you can really learn a lot about a place when you turn it on and tune into a regional frequency. Each radio station has its own audience, whether big or small. Even so, radio often caters to the masses, so it is not always the case that each audience has a radio station.

For the melting pot of listeners in my neighborhood of South Minneapolis, that is less so the case thanks to a brand new Low-Power FM (LPFM) radio station, KRSM Southside Media Project (KRSM), which launched in November 2017 and appears to be a community-based entrepreneurial success story in the making.

Through a 100-watt signal broadcast just five miles in each direction from a radio tower at a local community center (plus online streaming), KRSM aims to elevate the voices, narratives, and cultures of underrepresented community members as over half of the shows are run by women, and more than 70% of the shows are hosted by American Indian people and others of color. The weekly schedule includes shows about entrepreneurship (!), music, mental health, community organizing, history, and more, with programming in as many as six different languages.

Below the radio waves, KRSM is turning neighborhood residents into media entrepreneurs. Approximately 80% of the hosts have had no previous experience working in radio and, to make it all work behind the scenes, the station provides an on-ramp to programming, content-creation and administration jobs in the media industry by offering free training opportunities and access to sparkling new professional-grade studio equipment. According to KRSM, “the project will teach transferable work skills, foster pride in self and community, encourage cross-cultural dialogue, share health and safety information in multiple languages, and create an outlet for local artists to share their gifts with a large, diverse audience.” 

To come to life, the station required the hard work of devoted entrepreneurs. First, it began as the brainchild of community leaders who began to meet more than eight years ago and saw a need and acted upon it. It then became reality via recruiting efforts, generous volunteers, and partnerships with local non-profits and the FCC’s LPFM initiative.

So the feel-good message here is that entrepreneurship and bright ideas cannot only transform a business community, but a neighborhood as well.

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