Alan Chartock: Message from The President

WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock shares his thoughts in this monthly column.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany.  He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. For almost twelve years the program highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project on WAMC and offers commentary on other WAMC programs such as Midday Magazine.

We Are In This Together

Aug 29, 2018

I know that I am not alone when it comes to supporting this station. Far from it -- I keep running into good people who ask what they can do to help WAMC above and beyond contributing to the fund drives or the locked box. The answer is that there are many things that you can do.

If you really want to know what keeping WAMC alive is all about, you have to look no farther than at the WAMC news division. It is no secret that we invest what you give us into the people who gather the news. It really is some operation.

Things That Cannot Be Denied

Jun 30, 2018

There is no better reason to support WAMC than the turmoil that surrounds this country as you read this. No matter what you may think of the current president, there are some things that cannot be denied. The first is that he has declared war on the free press in this country. The New York Times is the “failing New York Times” and the press in general is the “enemy of the people.” It’s right out of Henrik Ibsen. As Casey Stengel, the great Yankee and Mets manager put it, “You could look it up.” The second is that early in his campaign, Trump made it clear that at least one anti-Trump demonstrator at one of his early rallies should be led out and beaten up and that he, Trump, would pay for the beater-upper’s defense. This is exactly the kind of thing that we saw during the rise of Nazi Germany. Then, when people do whatever they can to put a stop to this type of bullying and Trump sanctioned violence, Trump and his minions argue that they are the offended. Think of a second grader turning to his teacher and whining, “Teacher, Tommy hit me.” 

Thank You!

Jun 14, 2018

Thanks to you, the June Fund Drive has come and gone. The Locked Box once again proved that at a time of real turmoil and chaos in this country, a lot of people were able to put their money and their good wishes into a place that would ensure the news and the best in culture and community would face as little interruption as possible. 

The People That Make Us Go

Apr 30, 2018

WAMC is such a joy to work at. It really is a team. Many people who listen have no real idea of what it’s like to be part of this operation or about some of the behind-the-scenes players. Let me start with the two mainstays of the place, Stacey Perry Rosenberry and Holly Urban. By no means should my writing about these two remarkable women be taken to minimize the incredible work of all the others who work at the station, some of whom, like the editor of this newsletter, Ashleigh Kinsey, I have already written about.

House Calls

Apr 2, 2018

This is a column about moderating Medical Monday on Vox Pop.

The problem is that the people who call in rightly believe they should have more time than I might allow. That’s because the phone lines are all always filled up and you want to give everyone a chance. For example, after a caller makes his or her point and we move on, they may call and tell me that they had more to say. Occasionally they will suggest that their particular political agenda may have influenced the decision to limit their time. Sometimes some of these good folks think that fluoridation is a communist plot or that various diseases are caused by some government action or that the chem trails you see in the sky are really people trying to poison the population. But these accusations are few and far between.

Sometimes programming decisions are mutually exclusive. Take the opera, for instance. 

We know that there are relatively few people who listen to the opera. The big “but” is that those who do listen are passionate about the art form. WAMC has been playing the opera for years. Our philosophy has always been that a great public station will feature programming that may not be readily available and that certainly is the case every Saturday afternoon on WAMC. Imagine you were drawing the audience for opera. The so-called “N” (number) circle would be pretty small compared to the circle representing the audience who listens to news and public affairs on the station. So the question is, should opera take up time during which the majority of listeners would rather be listening to something else? 

Well, the fund drive raised two million dollars. That’s incredible. Two million dollars! We had to buy that tower on top of Mount Greylock once we knew it would be available. If someone else had gotten the tower and we were required to move OUR ANTENNA– even just a few feet – it could have been disastrous. We would have been obligated to reapply to the Federal Communications Commission for our license and we might well have lost our grandfather status on the tower which permits us to reach so many of our listeners.

About The Tower

Dec 28, 2017
1990 aerial photo of the Mt. Greylock tower
Art Donahue

Dear WAMC Family,

I can’t tell you how grateful we are to be able to ensure our future by buying the tower we have been on all these years. I’m talking about the broadcast tower on Mt. Greylock that allows us to send our signal throughout our seven-state listening area.

Every year, I offer my fearless predictions for the coming months. The rules, as always, are simple. Sometimes I really don’t want something to happen so I predict an event in the hope of putting the triple whammy on it in order to prevent it from occurring. Sometimes I do want it to happen so I predict it will, and sometimes I really believe that it will happen. It is always your job to try to figure out which is which.

Thank You!

Oct 26, 2017

Dear WAMC friends,

YOU did it. I am truly humbled and amazed and delighted about the success of the Locked Box and the subsequent eighteen-hour fund drive. Shortly after it ended, the newspapers called me up and asked me why things went so fast. I opined that our success could be attributed to the fact that Donald Trump was so abhorred and feared by much of our audience that they needed the radio station like never before. They were happy to put their money behind what they saw as a fearless institution.

Many Sides

Oct 2, 2017

I have some very strong beliefs in life. I believe that health care is a right for every American. I just can't fathom why some people think that if you are poor, you and your kids don't have any such right. In fact, universal health care is just one example of something I believe in. 

Behind The Scenes

Aug 30, 2017

It takes a lot of people to make WAMC the superb, fun place to come to work that it. Many of you know Joe Donahue, Sarah LaDuke, Ray Graf, Brian Shields, David Guistina, Wanda Fisher, and Selma Kaplan, among the many other on-air people. But there are a lot of unsung stars who really do make the place hum.

Keepin' On Keepin' On

Jul 27, 2017

In just a few days, my body will be 76 years old. That’s incredible. I don’t feel 76. People tell me I don’t look 76 but maybe they’re just flattering me. I suspect what’s keeping me going is a combination of three things: watching what I eat, exercising every day and most of all, loving my job. 

So the WAMC fund drive is over.

This time it took just nineteen hours to get it done and to put it to bed. The Berkshires sure did their part. There were moments when I was reading all the names of contributors on the air and I just couldn't keep up. It started a few weeks before the fund drive with our invitation to shorten the drive by putting money in the Locked Box. It was amazing how fast that money came in.

The fund drive is where we live. Hey, if everyone puts in just a little money we will have what we need to go forward. Everyday I go out on the streets and so many of you shake my hand and tell me what the station means to them. Maybe because I am getting a little older people thank me for my part in putting WAMC together. As I tell them, I am telling you -- it isn't me. They think I'm being modest but I am not. I assure them that this has happened because people believe in what we are doing and are not afraid to put something in the pot.

Farewell, Rosemary

Apr 28, 2017

Professor Rosemary Armao recently dropped a bomb on all of us at WAMC when she announced that she was retiring from the University at Albany where she had a full-time, tenured position as Associate Professor (harder to find than a gold mine.) She will soon be working with investigative journalists all over the world, teaching them the tools of their trade. To put it mildly, doing this puts her in real physical danger. It also means, of course, that she will no longer be a nearly daily presence on The Roundtable and a participant on The Media Project. 

Programming Notes: April 2017

Mar 31, 2017

Coming up this month on the Saturday Metropolitan Opera Matinee Broadcasts:

Stayin' Alive

Mar 31, 2017

When the right wing organization Breitbart decided to publish a piece calling for the defunding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) I thought, “Well, that’s that.” 

What If?

Mar 1, 2017

A while back, I told you that the Trump White House was on track to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the organization that provides some federal funds for public broadcasters like WAMC) and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. We know that the Breitbart organization, formerly run by senior White House Advisor Steve Bannon, had called for the privatization of the CPB. When I mentioned that on WAMC, the money came rolling in and we made history. I suggested that each time we have a fund drive we tack on an extra $133,000 that would add up to the $400,000 CPB contributes to our $7,000,000 budget. You were smart enough to make sure we got it.

On February 6th, perhaps the most important fund drive in WAMC's history will take place. It comes as Donald J. Trump takes his place as the 45th President of the United States. 

I can’t believe that it’s already 2017! Frankly 2016 could have been a lot better but I suppose it could have been a lot worse. So I am compelled to give my predictions which are given for three reasons. Some I really DON’T want to happen so I put the double whammy on them by predicting something that I fear. Or, sometimes I predict things that I want to see happen so I predict them to make them happen, a little positive energy. Or, and this is a big or, I predict things that I really think will happen. It’s up to you, dear readers to decide which is which.

Well, the die is cast. The election is over and now we have to live with the results until 2020. My best guess is that those who have differences with the incoming President will have to make adjustments. From where I'm sitting, WAMC is one such adjustment. We have a budget that hovers around $7,000,000. About $419,000 comes from the federal government. Because of you, I am not worried. Our fund drives are marvels. It has always been true that the rougher things are, the more we all end up pulling together. That really is the story of WAMC from Day One.

What A Drive!

Oct 31, 2016

Oh, what a fund drive it was! It was surely some sort of a record breaker. First off, thanks to you we made over $400,000 in our locked before the drive even started. We went on-air Monday morning and ended, a million dollars later, on Thursday around noon. That's a lot of money andmany of you followed us every minute of the drive. It's always interested me how some public stations never tell you how much they've raised. We think that it's incredibly important to keep you in the loop as we go. After all, we are all in this together. 

The fund drive begins on October 17th and it may just be the most momentous of all time. That's because on November 8th, shortly after the fund drive is completed, Americans will be voting for President of the United States and a new Congress. This is arguably the biggest news item of the year and no one has covered this election more assiduously than WAMC. Not only have we interacted with you on Vox Pop every week but our first hour of Roundtable has become our most popular locally produced program. We have spent enormous amounts of time discussing what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have said and done. Probably never in American history has there been such a stark choice between the candidates for the presidency.

What It's All About

Sep 1, 2016

It’s hard to believe that September is already upon us. It has been a sensational summer, not just because of the natural beauty of the great northeast, the glorious weather (mostly) and all of the incredible cultural events that take place throughout the region. I think you’ll agree that this has been THE most extraordinary run-up to any election, possibly ever. I was recently reading the trade newspaper that comes to all of us public broadcasters. We already know that the number of people listening to public radio has increased dramatically with the election in sight and I figure it’s probably in large part due to the, “What will they do next?!?” factor. Well, rest assured, I promise you that whatever they do next, we’ll be talking about it on WAMC. It’s already been quite the roller coaster ride and together, we’ve watched it all unfold, from the earliest primaries to the latest polling data. As a collective family, we might not agree on everything, but looking back on our morning Roundtable discussions, I think civility has been the word of the day. Of course, sometimes passions flare and people get excited but that’s what makes it interesting and real. The amount of feedback we’ve gotten assures us that you are listening and that’s what it’s all about.

A Very Round Table

Aug 1, 2016

We came up with the concept for the morning Roundtable panel from 9 to 10 AM because we thought a provocative discussion about the day’s events would be a great bridge between Morning Edition and the Roundtable proper. It turns out that the program, with its rotating panel of four people, is now one of the leading shows on WAMC. We look through the headlines and talk about whatever may be going on. Maybe it’s something that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton did the day before. It could be a discussion of race relations in the United States. Sometimes the discussions get, shall we say, heated.

“Sumer is Icumen In” goes the song. I sang it in the Hunter College chorus (59-63) (where the girls were) and it made the point that the summer season is very special. The wonderful snowbird friends of WAMC, many of whom have been listening on their WAMC apps, are back. People are swimming. Tanglewood and SPAC will soon be going full steam, all the summer theater anyone could ever want is available throughout our listening area and the birds are making sounds to rival anything that we mortals may have composed.

I heard my friend Arlo Guthrie say something the other day. He was looking for donations to keep the Guthrie “Bring Your Own God” Church going. He said that every time someone put something into the pot, they became a part owner and were responsible for the continuance of the Guthrie Center.

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