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Community Broadcaster: Be Thankful for Community Radio

May the holidays prompt appreciation for hyperlocal media

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at

It is the Thanksgiving holiday week, including Giving Tuesday, the biggest day for nonprofits in the United States. It is also the season we take time with our families, in however we define them, and give thanks for all we have received during the year.

Surely, 2019 has been a year of much commotion. National scandals, local elections and the personal triumphs and tribulations in our daily lives are part of our memories. Yet the end of November is that time when each of us looks beyond the troubling times to embrace the things that make our lives rich and fulfilling.

For me, loved ones, friends and family are endlessly appreciated each day. I’m thankful many of those individuals have come through various physical and emotional difficulties this year, and come out even better, all told.

[Read: Community Broadcaster: “Google, Play Me Community Radio”]

I am also thankful for community radio and my local nonprofit organizations.

Why should we be grateful for nonprofit organizations in our communities? I’m partial to Vu Le’s reflections on the importance of local nonprofits. “I often say that [a] nonprofit is like air, whereas other sectors are like food,” he writes. “People can see food, can taste it, so they value it and take pictures of it and put it on Instagram. The work that you do is often invisible, so most people do not see it, even as they benefit from it.”

Indeed, we sometimes overlook the many local nonprofits that beautify and fortify our cities and towns. Yet they’re still there, doing good works we appreciate. They educate our children, help hungry people, find homes for dogs and cats needing new families, clean up our parks, and countless other good works we sometimes never notice. They make us proud to live where we do, and ask little in return.

Like all nonprofits, noncommercial radio stations serve a vital educational and civic purpose. While our endeavors are more outward facing and thus more observable, radio too is almost invisible. Nevertheless, we serve our communities proudly and with empathy.

Radio is so much a part of our lives that we almost take it for granted. It is the soundtrack for our roadtrips. It is part of our happy childhood memories of being driven to our first day of school. Radio is there for those mornings and evenings we will never forget, even when we wish we could. Look no farther than the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s public collection of recordings for a glance at the country’s time capsule. But the funny part? Radio is something we may just not notice, and yet it is there.

Community radio stations are something to be thankful for because they focus on radio as a medium with meaning. With missions devoted to championing music discovery, offering a gathering place for locals to share a space together, or serving as a broadcast platform for arts, culture and news, stations are devoted to public service first. In the advent of news deserts, community radio fills a vacuum in many communities. And, while you think about the many wonderful nonprofit organizations in your city, consider that community radio is the only nonprofit dedicated to broadcasting their efforts, in essence amplifying valued missions far beyond the walls of those beloved institutions.

Where else but on community radio and college radio is the experimental, iconoclastic spirit still alive and well in broadcast media? Who other than community radio station DJs are keeping alight the flame of freeform, courageous radio? This call-back to our imaginations and most rebellious selves may be one of the best reasons to be thankful for community radio.

While we take the time to appreciate our blessings, let us all give praise to the many community radio and college radio DJs, volunteers, staff members, donors and founders. Our nation owes them all a tip of the hat. A donation would be nice as well.