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Firehouse News, Vol. 1, No. 1: Introducing the Firehouse News

by Michael G. Glab

Welcome to the first issue of the Firehouse News. Written, compiled, and edited by volunteers with the cooperation of WFHB staffers and Board of Directors, Firehouse News brings you inside information about Bloomington’s community radio station.

Firehouse News is a key component of a multi-front effort to bring transparency to our station. We’ll tie in with WFHB’s main website, as well as Facebook and Twitter pages, and the Google groups Spot-Online and Spot-Unleashed. Using these tools, we’ll create a comprehensive and thorough look at all aspects of our community-run, community-owned broadcasting and online operation.

Our articles, profiles, and news items will serve not only the hundreds of active WFHB volunteers, but will help introduce Firehouse Broadcasting to tens of thousands more people in our coverage area, including the Indiana University campus. The more people who get to know about WFHB and its people, the more our volunteer army will grow. With that will come fresh new ideas for programming, exciting new on-air and production talent, and a more involved listener base.

In this first issue, we introduce you to some of the key people who bring grassroots radio programming to our corner of South Central Indiana. They’ll tell us about new developments in programming, challenges in airing music, news and spoken word entertainment in a non-profit environment, and long-term station goals and strategies.

Firehouse News will bring you reports from the Music, News, Engineering, and Volunteer departments. We’ll present the General Manager’s report. We’ll have profiles of volunteer staff and paid staff. We’ll present informative features on the many faces of WFHB. This newsletter will be your lifeline to community radio in South Central Indiana.

Now, when you need to find out about the nuts-and-bolts of a non-profit, community radio operation, you can turn to us. We’ll provide links to the WFHB station bylaws, the activities of its Board of Directors, the Firehouse Broadcasting Strategic Plan, and even our station budget.

Regular issues of Firehouse News will arrive in your inbox four times a year with special issues published at various times. For instance, we already are working on a special issue to cover the upcoming Board of Directors election, the Spring Fund Drive, and the Acoustic Roots Festival. Subscribe to Firehouse News. Tell your friends and family about us. Be a part of Bloomington’s community radio family!

Firehouse News, Vol. 1, No. 1: About the News Department

by Michael G. Glab

Alycin Bektesh signed up as a volunteer in the News Department in the winter of 2010. She became Assistant News Director in June 2011 and was named News Director in November of that year. Here is a true WFHB success story. She has described her paid staff position as her “dream job.” She’ll be our source for new developments in the News Department.

News News:

Bektesh in recent months has overseen the move of reporters from their old cramped quarters to a more spacious area where the station’s old vinyl library used to stand. “I’m so excited about our new newsroom,” she says.

The new newsroom can comfortably seat three working reporters and a producer or audio engineer, all in front of their own computer work stations. Bektesh says this helps greatly with the communication flow as deadlines approach. “People had to communicate via emails and walking around the building trying to find each other,” she says. “We could all have been here at the same time and never really be able to interact with each other.”

The move also benefits the Music Department, which now can use the small production studio at any time for unscheduled live performances. Under the old set-up, the News Department reserved that studio for post-production and editing.

Bektesh has welcomes aboard Drew Daudelin to manage much of the work that goes into the Daily Local News. “Drew oversees copy editing and production of the script,” she says. Daudelin pitched the idea of the position to her. He works each weekday afternoon and can work directly with new volunteer news reporters, getting them up to speed, and ensuring their output approaches Associated Press standards.

Speaking of high standards, Bektesh recently submitted more than 20 audio clips to the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists for the organization’s 2014 awards. The ceremony will be in Indianapolis this spring. WFHB’s entries include clips from the Daily Local News, Bring It On!, Interchange, and others.

The News Department now has a staff of three dedicated feature writers. The Daily Local News includes an 8-minute in-depth feature concentrating on a specific issue. Assistant News Director Joe Crawford has produced features on historic preservation and other city and county issues. He and reporters Lauren Glapa and Casey Kuhn each must produce at least one feature per week.

With Zorba Paster On Your Health‘s annual syndication fee rising considerably on an annual basis, the News and Public Affairs Committee opted to cancel WFHB’s weekly presentation of the program. Bektesh has put the call out for a replacement produced locally and concentrating on medical issues specific to South Central Indiana. “My hope and dream is to have a local medical reporting program following the model of EcoReport.”

A programming note: A repeat of the Brown County Hour now can be heard on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. BCH runs the first Sunday morning of each month, with the repeat airing three evenings later.

Firehouse News, Vol. 1, No. 1: About the Music Department

by Michael G. Glab

Jim Manion has been part of the WFHB family since the station was only dreamed about by a few community radio lovers in Bloomington. He was there for the first concert held at The Bluebird to benefit the as-yet unnamed station in July, 1975. He was on staff when the station finally got its FCC okay in 1992. Manion was Program Director until the News Department was established in the early 2000s. At that time, his title changed to Music Director. He’s held that office ever since. He’ll be our source for our regular coverage of Music Department happenings.

Music News:

Under Manion, the WFHB Music Department has become a force in South Central Indiana. “After 20 years, we’re highly recognized by the music industry from major labels down to thousands of indie record companies,” he says. Manion’s mailbox is packed with CDs every day. They’re sent by bands and labels hoping to get their music before WFHB’s sophisticated and discerning listeners. Manion has delegated much of the previewing work to a stable of community Genre Directors. He sorts the piles of CDs each day and funnels them to an appropriate director. The flood is so overwhelming that WFHB cannot even accept certain submissions. “A lot of independent bands and labels think they can send us an email with a link to their album or track. We just don’t have time for that,” he says. Here are the volunteers who listen to each and every new submission the station receives:

  • Cathi Norton (assisted by Bob Kissel) — Blues
  • Markus Lowe — Electronica
  • Brother William Morris – Jazz
  • Adrian Pontecorvo — World
  • Jamie Gans — Bluegrass & Celtic
  • Janet Martin, Rachel Weidner, and Stephanie Foreman — Indie/Alternative
  • Liza Pavelich — Local

Each of the Genre Directors can okay a disc to be played on air. Manion only asks that they tip him off to noteworthy or particularly good records.

WFHB boasts a line-up of around 100 on-air DJs and music show hosts. Their air shifts can be weekly or even monthly. The Bloomington area offers a deep pool of talent for Manion to choose from. “We live in a music-centric town,” he says. “I really trust our DJs and our Genre Directors to make choices.”

Manion says he’s been traveling recently and has had a chance to listen to other community radio stations. They’re good, he admits, but none of them is WFHB. “We don’t feel under any pressure to have our charts conform to what anybody else is doing,” he says.

He adds: “I’m proud of what we do. We’re egalitarian. Everyone has a strong hand in what goes on the air.”

A one-time WFHB DJ named Mark Harrison used to open his show by saying he’d be “bringing you music old and new, strange and familiar.” Manion has appropriated that saying for the entire WFHB Music Department.

Local Live airs Wednesday nights and features, of course, the sounds of the Bloomington area’s many bands. The program first aired in 2007 with Manion as the coordinator and producer. Abe Morris replaced Manion for a spell and now the show is in the capable hands of Nicole O’Neill.

WFHB often showcases touring bands who stop by before playing at one of Bloomington’s live venues. Manion had been coordinating these appearances but turned the reins over to Katie Moulton in February. These special programs are called Firehouse Sessions. Moulton will host the shows from now on, as well. “That’s what we do here,” Manion says,” We find and promote local on-air talent.”

Manion is wrapping up production of Volume Four of WFHB’s Local Live series. The CD will be out in time for the April fund drive and will be a highly sought-after premium for donors.

Firehouse News, Vol. 1, No. 1: Volunteering at WFHB

by Michael G. Glab

Kelly Wherley‘s been a WFHB volunteer for more than a decade. Coming aboard when Chad Carrothers was the News Director, Kelly started out producing Voices in the Street for the Daily Local News, a task he handles to this day. He can be heard anchoring the DLN on Wednesdays and playing music on alternating Fridays (check the Program Guide for Kelly’s show times). These days, Kelly also serves at the station’s Volunteer Coordinator, helping some 200 local folks make WFHB the sound of South Central Indiana.

Becoming a WFHB volunteer couldn’t be easier. “Prospective volunteers must attend New Volunteer Orientation, 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month at the station,” he says. Many volunteers do their bit by manning the front desk or helping out with administrative and office duties. Then there are those who dream of becoming the voice behind the music, heard by Hoosiers across out coverage area. “Anybody who’d like to be a DJ must take two classes: Radio Basics with Richard Fish and Mixology 101 with Music Director Jim Manion,” Kelly says. “If they’re interested in the News Department, they work with Alycin Bektesh on training and getting involved with that.”

Richard Fish’s Radio Basics session is a lot of fun, so much so that people often have attended it again, just to hear Rich’s stories of his many decades in broadcasting. And you’ll even get to see how a radio station’s Emergency Broadcast System works.

Jim Manion walks prospective DJs through lessons on the sound board and good radio delivery and technique. He also explains the various charting responsibilities each on-air music announcer has. Playing music on the air is plenty of hard work, but for those who believe they were born to DJ, well worth it.

Aspiring news hounds can learn basic journalistic practices as well as the mechanics of recording interviews from Alycin Bektesh. The News Department has openings every day, Monday through Friday, for script writers. Reporters often can get a crack at the microphone as fill-ins for regular news readers.

“We have a lot of opportunities for volunteers,” Kelly says. “Folks can email me, General Manager Cleveland Dietz, Alycin, or Jim for more specifics. Plus, we’re always on the lookout for desk jockeys!”

Kelly leads monthly Volunteer Roundtable Meetings with Cleveland and Markus Lowe. They follow New Volunteer Orientations, the first Saturday of each month, beginning at 12:15 p.m. “The roundtables serve as an opportunity for existing volunteers to talk among themselves about issues that we often don’t have time for during the station’s quarterly meetings. Volunteers need to read Spot-Online for details on where the meeting will be held from month to month.”

The WFHB Volunteer Committee, with Kelly as a member, meets every Monday to discuss how to make the volunteer experience easier and more rewarding. The committee currently is revising and updating the station’s volunteer manual so new and prospective volunteers will have a complete understanding of what it means to work at WFHB. “People can get quite a lot out of volunteering, including course credits, professional development, and the kind of satisfaction that comes with being a part of our community and serving it through WFHB,” Kelly says.

WFHB to launch quarterly e-newsletter March 1; sign up here!

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