Tag Archives: KABF

JT Introduces the Documentary

KABF Documentary is a Winner

Little Rock      JT Tarpley approached us out of the blue three years ago with a wild and crazy idea.  He wanted to make a documentary about KABF, our 100,000-watt noncommercial radio station broadcasting throughout central Arkansas.  This was during the time of troubles in the wake of the mind-blowing election of Donald Trump to the presidency turning so many people’s world upside down.  Tarpley’s notion was that he would tell the story of the resistance, if you will, through the lens of a foundational community institution, KABF.

How in the world would he manage that?  We didn’t know, but of course we said, yes, what did we have to lose?  It was a documentary after all.  Many are called, and few are completed, so what’s to worry.  The ACORN documentary, “The Organizer” drug on for eight years.  JT swore his would be different.  He was going to do it on a shoestring, and he was going to do it quickly.  Famous last words.

We heard from him last year.  Would a couple of us be willing to take a look at what he had been doing the last two years?  Ok, sure.  He then told me it was 180 minutes long.  Holy-moly!  We’ll watch some of it, but….  So, Toney Orr, KABF’s board chairmen, and John Cain, the program director, and me sat down with him and watched a bit on a busy day.  Our advice?  What did we know?  He had some interesting stuff, but it was just too long.  JT said he wanted to keep it all.  Ok, good luck.

KABF hosts catching the documentary

A week ago, he reached out.  The documentary now had a name: “88.3 FM – The Voice of the People.”  It was down to 100 minutes, and darned close to finished.  He wanted to know when I was next in Little Rock to see if we could do a “sneak preview” screening for KABF hosts and friends.  What the heck, sure, that was going to be a hella-day anyway with stops in Greenville and Drew, Mississippi, but I could be there by 630 PM in Vino’s back room.

We had a good, solid crowd of thirty or more, mostly KABF hosts.  And, lo and behold, I’ll be honest, to my surprise, it was a great documentary on the station!  Good camera work.  Parts of it were actually funny, which captures the true heart of KABF.  The diversity of the programming – and its hosts – old and young, black, white and Latino, came through clearly.  Ok, it was still too long.  Some pieces were ten minutes that should have been two, like the King march.  Too many speeches without enough connection to the main themes in the women’s march and the school closings, but, hey, that’s just a matter of tightening everything down.

Props to JT Tarpley for a crazy idea and for making it happen.  I’m biased, but my verdict as a now experienced documentary veteran, is that once this is at a festival near you, or anywhere you can get your hands on it, grab a copy or a chair and enjoy.  Then, throw a couple of dollars towards Tarpley so he can get it finished and always remember to show some love to KABF and become a member and jump for your wallet during pledge drives.

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Volunteer Host “Army” Gathers at KABF

35th anniversary cake

Little Rock       As the hosts of KABF’s radio shows gathered at the New Millennium Church in western Little Rock near the University of Little Rock campus, long time DJs went back and forth trying to remember when we had convened our last all hands meeting of the hosts.  I would venture three or four years, and others would swear it might have been five.  No one was certain, but it had definitely been a while.  Memory plays tricks, calendars speak facts, unless it’s coming from Justice Kavanagh or something.  In truth, it was January, 2016, a bit more than three years ago at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Darragh Room.  There were individual genre meetings with groups of hosts before then, but the all-host meeting before that was March 2013, six months or so after I began managing the station.

When I asked the thirty-five hosts in the room how many had been to a all-DJs meeting before, perhaps a half-dozen raised their hands, which said two things:  first, that many of the long time hosts, of which there are plenty, did not bother to come, and, secondly, that it was time to orient the new hosts, so it was good that we had convened everyone.  We began the meeting with a round of introductions which were heartening.  We had hosts from Sacred Gospel, from SpeakUp, from Union Station, from World Music and Banonauts with its African emphasis, from the rock and new music shows like Shoog Radio and Nevermind the Morning Show, from Gray Matter and the Workplace and Community Voice.  What a diverse and exciting team!

hosts for various shows getting to know each other after the meeting from Sacred Gospel to Banonauts

The meat and potatoes of the meeting was the station’s ongoing drive to be sustainable.  Hosts shared tips on how to improve their performance on pledge drives which are a steady source of a noncommercial station’s revenue, but never enough.  There was discussion about how to build underwriting partnerships, and why they were important.  The special item on the menu though, and not surprisingly, was membership.  Whether the shows pledged well or not, I wanted to deliver a message that everyone could recruit members to the station who would pay their dues and donations monthly.  I announced a twenty-member quota and heads nodded, which isn’t the same as agreement, but we’ll work to make it so.  Even at $5 a month with twenty members paying monthly the resources created would be huge for the station, and everyone has twenty friends, relatives, and neighbors, and that’s not even counting their listeners who should be their bread and butter.  The trick is always the same:  you have to ask!

The other main item was actually an even more bitter pill.  Finally, a long-delayed conversion to new programming and broadcasting software is going to happen.  Our other stations did the changeover lickety-split, but change is hard when day to day you are used to the same ol’, same ol’.  My announcement that I would pull the plug on the old software at the end of the year, come hell or high water, went over with a bit of a thud and only two or three raised their hands to admit they had already gone to the new programming.

The proof will be in the pudding whether the hosts want more of these meetings or fewer.  As the station manager, I loved the opportunity to meet everyone in one place and have a shot at trying to get the volunteer army to march together towards the same battle station, rather than continuing to fire blindly or in a circle.

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