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Fund Drive Time Again

This, as always, is where the rubber hits the road. Monday, February 1st is where and when we gather as a group to see whether we still have the will to keep WAMC going; so far, so good. We need a million dollars three times a year to make it happen. That’s a lot of money and the fact that we can do it makes us the talk of the nation. Some of our colleagues just don’t believe it. That’s because this is more than a radio station. It is a group of people who are intellectually curious and committed to ethical behavior. When someone calls me up and tries to typecast us, either on the right or the left, the first thing I ask is whether they’d like to do a commentary, laying out a position on a contemporary problem.

You should see the crew who works here. Everyone is committed to their jobs. Many of the folks who toil here could earn more money elsewhere but they stay because this place is one of the last surviving media institutions with listeners who are truly committed to it on a number of emotional and substantive levels.

Some of our love for the place is conceptual but a lot is practical. The other morning I left home in Great Barrington at 3 AM for Albany, as I do every day. A few snowflakes were falling but about fifteen minutes out, the snow turned into a storm the likes of which I had never seen. The snow was so severe that I couldn’t see an inch in front of me. So I was going over the mountain roads that connect Great Barrington to the Berkshire Spur and Albany. I was scared -- this was the worst single snowstorm I have ever been in. The road twists and turns all over the place but I crept along at about a mile an hour and the comforting voices of the BBC kept me going. It took me almost two hours to get to work but my friend, WAMC, was with me all the way.

Once during a fund drive, someone called in a donation. She had just arrived for a new job. She didn’t have a friend. The volunteer handed me a slip with the new member’s message. While I can’t remember the exact words, it said something like, “I was a bit depressed. I landed in my unfurnished apartment. I missed my parents and my friends and I plugged in my radio. I heard WAMC and I knew I had a friend.” That was a number of years ago but I never forgot it. I just felt the love coming from that piece of paper.

Every drive has moments like that. We all remember the time someone called in and pledged twenty five cents with the notation, “This is what I think WAMC is worth.” Then the strangest thing happened. I read what he said and then everyone started adding twenty five cents to their pledge. It continued for the rest of the drive. Some thought it was hilarious. I got wet around the eyes. What a group we are.

Then there was the time during the Iraq invasion that a man went into one of the malls and purchased a tee shirt from a store in the mall. It had the message, “Peace on Earth, Good-will to Men” on it and he was promptly arrested by mall authorities for political protesting which was strictly forbidden under mall rules. The poor guy was led away in handcuffs. Well, as soon as we heard the news we talked about it a lot during the fund drive. It was one of those moments you never forget. The phones rang and rang.

So, here we go again; once more unto the breach. We’re all in this together. We can’t do it without you. We’re counting on you.

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. The program, for almost 12 years, 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 and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.