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Posts Tagged ‘radio’

Radio Lifeline for Syria


Photo: Amandas Ong
An Alwan radio producer in the station’s recording studio. The broadcast lifeline to Syria is located in an apartment complex in Turkey.

Where people struggle to carry on their lives in the midst of war, radio can provide comfort and hope. This is a story about Syrians in exile who broadcast news and normalcy to people back home.

Amandas Ong writes at Slate, “I push my way out of the metro station in southwestern Istanbul where Sami — not his real name — and I have agreed to meet. …

” ‘It’s not far from here,’ he says, directing me down an overhead bridge through a number of serpentine streets. …

“The hive of activity inside forms the Istanbul operations of Radio Alwan, (Alwan means ‘colors’ in Arabic) an independent Syrian news station broadcasting into that devastated country every day. Alwan provides much-needed news updates to information-starved Syrians and also runs popular entertainment programs and controversial discussions. …

“Three bedrooms have been converted into a meeting room, a recording studio, and an office. … Most of the staff had no prior training in radio journalism before joining Alwan. Sami describes himself as having ‘come from a regular, boring HR job in Dubai.’ …

“ ‘The point of Alwan,’ he had told me in a prior conversation over FaceTime, ‘is not just to report the news. Radio is also a form of activism, and through our programs, we try to do our part by encouraging people to engage with civic organizations within Syria, and to inform them on what’s really happening both around the country and outside of it.’ …

“A law student named Ahmad al-Qadour started Radio Alwan in 2014 in the northern Syrian city of Idlib. … They decided to relocate Alwan’s central office to Istanbul after a series of threats from Islamic radical groups such as the al-Nusra Front, which had been part of the Syrian wing of al-Qaida before splitting from the group in 2016. …

“A typical day at Alwan begins at 6 a.m. in the Istanbul office, where the team of about 15 staff members assembles for a variety of Syrian and international news segments, followed by talk shows and short radio skits, some educational, others comedic. …

“Sami is especially proud of Oh, Grandma, a program presented by a woman from Idlib who is identified by her initial, N. She has a day job as a teacher, but in her role at Alwan, she visits the houses of women in the city and interviews them about their lives, their daily struggles, and discusses salient issues with them, such as the legal age for marriage for Syrian women. …

“Maram, a 24-year-old in a slouchy sweater and jeans, comes to talk to me. She graduated from a media school in Damascus and decided to come to Turkey to seek better job opportunities, before stumbling upon an open position at Alwan. …

“I ask her what she likes most about Alwan, and she doesn’t hesitate: ‘I learn a lot every single day, but most of all, it’s taught me so much about how to deal with uncertainty.’ …

“Sami [has] a philosophical approach to the objective of radio itself.

“ ‘We have a program called Acute Angle,’ he says, ‘that encourages people to accept the idea that there is no such thing as true fact. In each segment, we talk about different personalities like Michael Jackson, Ataturk, and even Walt Disney, and how these people have been represented both positively and negatively. I want our listeners to know that there are no taboos, and also no perspective on any one issue or narrative that should be taken for granted.’ …

“[It’s staff member] Dima who has perhaps the most poetic vision of her work at Alwan. ‘What I’ve learned is that the people who listen to us aren’t just suffering day in and out. They want to live, love, dance, laugh. Sometimes we draw courage from them, other times they are comforted by us, hundreds of miles away,’ she says. ‘That’s the beauty of radio: It has soul.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Jason Margolis
Solar Holler founder Dan Conant, foreground, observes a solar roof installation in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

As warehouse and distribution jobs proliferate and meet a need for lower-skilled employment, I’m beginning to accept that companies like Amazon that destroy traditional industries have some redeeming social virtues. After all, times change.

Perhaps no American workers feel the changing times more deeply than do those in the coal industry. But displaced workers who are open to new opportunities seem to be emerging from the disruption OK.

Jason Margolis provided a coal-country report for Public Radio International’s excellent 50 States series.

“Tanner Lee Swiger graduated from high school in Wayne County, West Virginia this spring,” writes Margolis. “His father and grandfather both worked in West Virginia’s coal industry. But not Swiger, or any of his high school classmates.

“Nobody from his graduating class is working in coal, says Swiger. ‘[They’re] working in fast food or not working at all.’

“Not Swiger. He has a job installing rooftop solar panels. He says his family is delighted with it. …

“Swiger is working as an apprentice with Solar Holler, which was founded four years ago by 32-year-old Dan Conant. Conant doesn’t see solar energy and coal at odds with each other.

“ ‘The way I think about it, as a West Virginian, is that West Virginia has always been an energy state, and this is just the next step. It’s the next iteration,’ says Conant. …

“He left his job at the US Department of Energy to start Solar Holler, to try to help slow his state’s economic slide. By many metrics, West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country. …

“ ‘We need to find new things,’ says Conant. ‘It’s not going to be the coal industry of the past.’ …

“Solar may be an energy of tomorrow, but … coal mining jobs in West Virginia typically pay more than twice the starting wages for solar. But those jobs are increasingly hard to find, and Solar Holler, and other solar installers, need workers now. …

“Solar Holler is partnering with a non-profit called the Coalfield Development Corporation. They own the building. Beyond solar jobs, Coalfield Development is teaching former coal workers skills like woodworking and farming.

‘Apprentices with Coalfield Development work 33 hours, spend six hours a week at a community college, and three hours engaged in ‘life-skills mentorship.’ Nearly 90 people have entered the program. ”

More at “50 States: America’s place in a shrinking world,” here, where you can listen to the story or read it.

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Photo: Current, News for People in Public Media
Truck driver Finn Murphy, author of The Long Haul.

It shouldn’t be a source of wonder that anyone who drives a lot in the US should listen to National Public Radio, given that the stories are longer than other radio stations’ stories and are repeated less monotonously. So nothing but unconscious bias can account for my surprise about truckers who tune in.

Alan Yu, a producer at WHYY, reported at Current, “In July last year, long-haul truck driver Stephanie Klang got a rare speeding ticket because she was too engrossed listening to public radio.

“ ‘It’s okay, I only get a speeding ticket about once every 10 years,’ she said. ‘… It was worth it for the story.’

“She told the state patrolman that yes, she knows listening to the radio is not a valid excuse, then proceeded to tell him all about the radio show that took her mind off her speed — an episode of BackStory about the history of taxes in the U.S. after the country had just broken away from England.

“Klang has been a truck driver for 37 years, going through all 48 contiguous states, and she listens to public radio all the time. She said she used to have a small booklet listing all the public radio stations in the country, which she got as a gift for pledging support.

“ ‘I used that book until it absolutely fell apart, and I wish I’d ordered two of them now,’ she said. …

“She’s not the only truck driver who listens to NPR — far from it, according to Finn Murphy, who has been a long-haul trucker for more than 30 years.

“ ‘Every single driver I’ve ever talked to listens to NPR,’ said Murphy.

“He recently published The Long Haul, a book about his experiences. ‘If I can, I’ll schedule my driving to catch Fresh Air with Terry Gross,’ Murphy wrote. …

I’ve got a little crush on Terry, actually. It’s probably because I’ve spent more time with her than anyone else in my life.’ …

“Murphy writes that even if truckers ‘may not like the slant, if there is one,’ they still listen to public radio. …

“Fred Manale, a 55-year-old trucker from Louisiana, said he listens to public radio, though he finds it ‘disturbing.’ For example, he said NPR should not be blaming President Trump for having a connection to Russia. …

“Ray Hollister discovered public radio when he was a long-haul truck driver for a year in 2002. Now the general manager of an IT company, Hollister said the network needs to ‘speak more to the flyover states. … Do stories that affect more people than just the coast.’

“ ‘Truck drivers come from across America,’ he said. ‘They’re a pretty decent cross section of America. I knew a ton of white, black, Asian, Hispanic truck drivers, and the only thing we had in common was that we were all truck drivers.’ ”

More here.

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Allison Keyes at American Public Media Marketplace reported recently on an unusual kind of cruise line — one that is looking for passengers who want a little altruism along with their fun.

“Carnival Corporation’s new brand, Fathom Travel,” she writes, “is seeking to tap into a growing market with its social impact cruises to the Dominican Republic and cultural immersion cruises to Cuba. …

“Its Social Impact cruises are now regularly bringing visitors who want to help out on humanitarian projects to the Dominican Republic.

“In the village of El Cupey, in the mountains above Puerto Plata, Maria Vargas sits on her porch with her family and a neighbor. The 43-year-old and the others are learning to speak English from passengers on Fathom’s cruise. Through an interpreter, Vargas explains that the weekly classes are giving them a chance to improve their lives, and the opportunity to get out of poverty.

“ ‘I want (my) family … to get a new opportunity for a job with this,’ Vargas explained. ‘It has been a big benefit.’

“Along with the English classes, Fathom’s social impact cruises allow passengers to do everything from laying cement floors in homes and planting trees to combat deforestation, to building ceramic water filters in a nation where more than 3 million people don’t have access to safe, piped water.”

Says Josh Elliott, international program director at Wine to Water, which “has built and distributed 316 water filters with the help of Fathom passengers since the cruises began, ‘Fathom came to us with the idea and has really provided us with not only filters from volunteers working alongside us in the Dominican Republic, but it’s also given us an amazing platform … We’re inspiring people to give back when they go home and get off the ship.’ …

“But for Fathom to be successful,” cautions Keyes, “it must attract more passengers like Florida native Ken Maida, who said this is different from the 20 previous cruises he’s taken.

“ ‘This one is more for humanity,’ Maida said. ‘This one’s more about volunteerism and giving back to the community, to people who don’t have as much as we do.’ ”

If it sounds a little superficial, it at least helps travelers to see another side of life and think about longer-term service projects.

More here.

 

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There’s always something fun over at PRI’s environmental radio show Living on Earth. Here’s a story that ran in March about the unique bird species isolated in Northeastern Australian rainforests.

Bob Sundstrom wrote up the audio report of BirdNote‘s Mary McCann: “The Eastern Whipbird hangs out in the dense understory. It’s dark, crested … nearly a foot long and emerald-green with white spots. … The large, pigeon-like Wompoo Fruit-Dove … feathered in a stunning combination of green, purple, and yellow, [is] clearly named for its voice.

“Pig-like grunting on the forest floor tells us we’re in the company of the largest bird on the continent – the Southern Cassowary. On average, the female weighs 130 pounds and stands around 5 feet tall, looking like a giant, lush, black hairpiece on thick legs. A helmet called a casque makes it look as much like a dinosaur as any living bird.” Five feet tall? I think I know a one-year-old who would like to try riding it.

The bird sounds on the radio show were provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Hear them all here, where you can also enjoy the equally far-out pictures.

Photo: Jan Anne
Southern Cassowary

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I had to share a delightful report from the radio show Studio 360 in which Khrista Rypl looks at the cultural aspects of African textiles.

She writes, “African textiles are distinctive for their vibrant colors, bold patterns, and batik dyes that give the fabric a unique crackled texture. But I had no idea that some of the trendiest of these prints are actually designed and produced in the Netherlands by a company called Vlisco.

“Inge Oosterhoff wrote a wonderful deep dive into the history behind the Vlisco textile house, and explained how their designs have remained hugely popular in Africa since the late 1800s. But Vlisco doesn’t just make fabric; they’re known for their printed designs. … Some patterns are designed with different countries in mind, while others are distributed widely around the continent. As the patterns catch on among shopkeepers and consumers, many of them get colorful names like ‘Love Bomb,’ ‘Tree of Obama,’ and ‘Mirror in the Sun.’ …

“Many patterns are sold widely in Africa, and different countries and cultures adopt different meanings and associations. [A swallow] print is a perfect example. The fabric was used for airline uniforms in Togo, so there the pattern is commonly referred to as ‘Air Afrique.’ The pattern also symbolizes asking for a favor, like the hand of a woman in marriage. In Ghana, the swallow refers to the transience of wealth, and the pattern is referred to as ‘Rich Today, Poor Tomorrow.’ It has a similar connotation in Benin, where it’s referred to as ‘L’argent vole,’ where it could either be interpreted as ‘Money Flies’ or ‘Stealing Money.’ ”

More designs and more of Studio 360 report, “Textiles Tell a Cultural History,” here.

Photos: Vlisco

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I love listening to Worcester-based WICN (jazz radio). Bonnie Johnson had an especially good show yesterday, opening with Cynthia Scott and 3rd, 4th & 5th graders of PS32 in Brooklyn, NY, singing “Dream for One Bright World.”

“There is a new day dawning
“The time is now
“The world is ready for a change …

“Let’s teach out children to care
“To help one another
“And mend broken hearts
“So many children in the world
“Have never had a chance
“Their time has come …

(More lyrics here.)

You can listen to WICN online at wicn.org. Bonnie Johnson’s program is described at Colors of Jazz. “Bonnie Johnson is host of Colors of Jazz on Sunday afternoon from noon-4 pm. If you asked the Worcester native how she found jazz, she would tell you that jazz found her. As an undergraduate student at Howard University in Washington, DC, Ms. Johnson became a fan of the Quiet Storm featured on the college station WHUR-FM. …

“Ms. Johnson appreciates the diversity and the evolution of music. As a self-taught electric bassist, she has enjoyed many years of playing various types of music with her daughter and close friends in a family band. Growing up, she sang in the St. Cecilia Girl Choir at All Saints Worcester. …

“Ms. Johnson holds B.A. in Liberal Studies and M.S. in Communications and Information Management degrees from Bay Path College. She believes the future of jazz is in our children, stating, ‘Music and the arts is one area that gives young people an outlet and release of creative energy. While there are many children exposed to music through lessons and attending live performances, there are too many more that are not.’ One of Johnson’s primary goals as host at WICN is to reach youth in creative ways through community engagement.”

That’s something to think about on Martin Luther King’s birthday — and maybe to act on, too.

Bonnie Johnson, host of WICN radio’s Colors of Jazz 

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