Radio Reading for Your Winter Blues - Radio World

Radio Reading for Your Winter Blues

About smartphone shortcuts, activism and radio in the Finger Lakes region
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Got those mid-winter blues? Here’s some engaging reading to precede your long winter naps.

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“How can I magnify a Mac screen?” “Where did my lost image file go?” “How can I avoid shutter lag when taking a picture with my smartphone?” “Can I see the contents of a file without opening it?”

David Pogue tries to help with his book “Pogue’s Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life.” Pogue, a popular technology journalist and veteran entertainer, recently launched Yahoo Tech, a consumer technology site for non-techies. 

Many of these questions will seem simplistic for Radio World readers whose lives revolve around technology, computers and devices. Yet even corporate DOEs and IT managers at times can feel that they’d missed the memo about this little shortcut or that handy trick.

Did you know you can use your keyboard’s space bar to scroll your browser down by one full screen? No need to use a mouse and scroll bar.

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His book retails for $19.99 and is published by Flatiron Books. General topic areas include phones, the computer, the Internet and social networks. You might buy this as a gift for a tech-challenged loved one; still don’t be surprised to find yourself sneaking a peek.

My favorite tip from Pogue is how to bypass annoying, repetitive, long voicemail instructions. (“At the tone, please record your message. When you are finished recording…” Yes, I know what to do! Stop wasting my time to tell me how to leave a message!)

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Women solder a transmitter board in Nepal in a photo from “Low Power to the People.” Volunteer photo/Prometheus Radio Project, reprinted courtesy of The MIT Press.

The creation and subsequent expansion of the low-power FM service were notable wins for activists who’d been dismissed by many radio people as loud, annoying, piratical and quixotic.

Christina Dunbar-Hester, who teaches journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, offers us “Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest and Politics in FM Radio Activism.”

Her aim is to examine the practices of the activist organization Prometheus Radio Project in the early period of the LPFM rollout, roughly 2003 to 2007. “This book traces their activities with an eye to the intersection of technical practice and political engagement,” she writes. “It specifically investigates how the radio activists imputed emancipatory politics to radio technology — notably, an ‘old’ medium — against a shifting technical and political landscape that included increasing attention to Internet-based technologies.”

Very evident throughout is the intense symbolism many participants place on their role in the low-power movement. For them, the challenges of building or launching a low-power station go far beyond raising money or a studio roof. LPFM for them was about democracy, autonomy, social change and community self-determination.

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The book is a work of ethnography, which is a scientific study of human social phenomena and communities often done through fieldwork. This is not intended as a light beach read. The text is academic in style and counter-culture in sympathy. Her style may grate for readers not patient with scholarly musings about such things as “social identity,” “cultural mediation of technology” and “utopian/dystopian rhetorics.”

For example, though I was intrigued by an essay about gender roles in building LPFM stations and a discussion of “the quietly competitive dynamic forged by the men in the group,” I was impatient with some of the conclusions, which could be boiled down to the fact that women and men learn differently. It’s hardly surprising to me that “even among feminist men, their culture of hardware tinkering did not succeed in the abolition of ‘masculine’ identity displays.” But I commend the author for exploring questions about the linkage of masculinity and technology. To paraphrase an organizer cited in the book: Why is it so hard to find non-dude engineers?

Gender is but one angle of the text. You will enjoy this work if you like discussing technology’s role in activist politics or if you are interested in how the Prometheus vision for media differs from that of, say, NPR.

The hardback book retails for $36. It is part of the Inside Technology Series from MIT Press Books.

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Former DJ and group owner Paul C. Hedberg spent 45 years in the biz and now has compiled a memory book, “Time of My Life,” sales of which support the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.

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Hedberg began his life in broadcast at age 17 when he and his father built KMRS(AM) in Morris, Minn., in 1956. After working as a Twin Cities DJ during college, he built an AM/FM combo, KBEW, in the community of Blue Earth. He went on to build a successful broadcasting group as well as a company that made pioneering use of FM subcarriers to send grain market information to rural elevators. In 1978, he was the first broadcaster in the country to transmit data via FM subcarriers, according to an official bio.

He would serve as president of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and be named an Iowa Broadcaster of the Year; he co-founded the Pavek Museum and was on the radio board of the NAB.

Hedberg sold his radio holdings in 1999. As happy as he is in retirement, my sense is that the radio bug never left him. In a cover note to me, Hedberg wrote that reading Radio World often “makes me want to buy a station and get back in the biz.” And on his book’s last page he writes about tears swelling in his eyes sometimes when he thinks about his time in broadcasting. You gotta like a guy like that.

(An interesting juxtaposition: The LPFM rollout I mentioned earlier was one of the factors that Hedberg, a lifelong broadcaster, mentions for selling when he did.)

This is not a slick production, it’s a brief, personal book about a radio life and family. The cost is $19.95 plus tax and shipping; all of the proceeds benefit the museum. Visit www.pavekmuseum.org/HedbergBook.html.

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It periodically mails a brochure featuring nothing but books about music and radio; and Editor David Alff writes there that he welcomes ideas for manuscripts about these topics.

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McFarland & Co. publishes academic and non-fiction books like 2014’s “The Birth of Top 40 Radio.”

Among recent radio books offered by McFarland are “Radio Journalism in America” and “Musicmakers of Network Radio,” both written by Jim Cox; “Broadcasting Baseball” by Eldon H. Ham; “George Burns: An American Life” by Lawrence J. Epstein; and “The Early Shortwave Stations” by Jerome S. Berg, a book I’ve mentioned before.

The most recent mailing from McFarland featured more than 80 radio titles. Many are about golden age radio programs, but the topics also include modern radio, Cold War radio, sound effects, Christian radio, payola and amateur radio.

Visit www.mcfarlandpub.com and search keyword radio.

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And I can’t write a book column without mentioning Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series, including its radio-themed photo books.

Once again, a writer with a connection to Radio World is involved; this time it’s Peter King Steinhaus. He and his brother Rick Sommers Steinhaus have written “Ithaca Radio,” telling stories through vintage photos and anecdotes — about WHCU(AM), WTKO(AM), WVBR(AM/FM) and WICB (AM/FM), and about people with connections to Ithaca radio like Dave Ross, Pam Coulter, Keith Olbermann, Doug “Greaseman” Tracht, Stacey Cahn, Bettina Gregory, Bob Kur and Bill Diehl. Olbermann wrote the introduction.

As always, plenty of superb pix of old studios and gear. The softcover lists for $21.99.

Send me your own book suggestions. Emailradioworld@nbmedia.com.

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