With a changing media landscape in Birmingham and across the country, does anyone still listen to the radio? When it comes to Birmingham’s NPR News station, WBHM 90.3 FM, there are many people listening. As a listener-supported service of UAB, the station knows this and works to provide content that its audience wants.
When the way we receive content started to change a few years ago, WBHM seized the opportunity to ask listeners what the station could do to be a productive part of the conversation about issues that are important to the people of Birmingham. As nonstop advocates for our community, Christian & Small is proud to support the station as an underwriter because as a firm we understand and value the importance of WBHM’s role in the conversation about the issues facing our city and state.
One great example of where our firm’s community involvement interests and WBHM’s programming intersect is “The Southern Education Desk,” which explores the challenges and opportunities confronting education in the 21stCentury South. Dan Carsen is an award-winning journalist who brings listeners into the conversation about education issues, from K-12 classrooms all the way through adult learning. Dan’s journalism has included stories about important topics such as an in-depth analysis of the results of the South’s low National Assessment of Education Program (NAEP) rankings and J.F. Ingram State Technical College’s programs for the inmates of Julia Tutwiler Prison.
As a member of the station’s Friends Advisory Board, I’ve enjoyed seeing the transformation at WBHM and having the opportunity to help guide it. Since 2012, the station has really listened to what the community wants with its “Listen and Be Heard” campaign. On air, they ask listeners what they think about current programming, new programming, etc. WBHM also wanted to try to find out what issues are important to the community and then present those issues to listeners from a fresh viewpoint.
One initiative that is helping them do this is a periodic station-hosted forum called “Issues and Ales.” At these popular events, the public is invited to participate in a discussion with noted experts on topics such as the changing media landscape, food issues, the green movement, prison overcrowding and more. These forums have helped WBHM find out what the community is thinking, what’s important, and how the station might be able to generate a productive conversation.
These kinds of events often result in compelling local programming, however as an NPR affiliate station WBHM also offers celebrated national shows such as “All Things Considered,” “Fresh Air,” “Marketplace” and “Car Talk” by purchasing this programming. Along with providing salaries for talent and staff, WBHM relies on funding support from listeners in order to operate. Its Fall Pledge Drive, which takes place this year from Oct. 15 – 25, is the primary way the station raises these funds, and listeners can call in or pledge online at any time.
Sustaining memberships are a newer way to give. These memberships allow people to make a pledge that’s spread out over 12 months. This is a monthly credit card charge that is convenient and can be continued automatically until the supporter chooses to stop the donation.Because there are so many ears in North Central Alabama listening, WBHM has an important mission in reaching a lot of people who care about what’s going on in our community and in the world – and therefore is constantly striving to provide the highest quality content possible. The station’s Fall Pledge Drive and the gifts it receives allow WBHM to continue to be “Your NPR News Station.”