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Commentary & Opinion
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.

A Million - No TWO Million Thanks...

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.

When we finished the drive I was filled with incredible gratitude for everything that all of you did to help. We all were. It is no secret that there were plenty of people who thought we couldn’t do it and, out of love, said so. They thought it was too heavy a lift and suggested that we borrow the money. I said that I knew that you would come through and you did. If we had borrowed the money, we would have been paying back a lot of interest for a long time. Not only did you do it, but you did it in the same time it has taken us to garner half that amount in previous fund drives. It is my hope that we’ll never have to do that again.

Joe Donahue was magnificent. He is a very smart man. He and Colleen O’Connell arranged all the partnerships that allowed your pledge to do double duty, helping the homeless, providing diapers for babies in need, and providing healthful community meals for the food insecure.

The fund drives themselves are always fun. It’s a time to get together and share our lives and stories and likes and dislikes. It’s a time for humor, too. Ray Graf is simply the funniest man I know. His talent is limitless. He is so smart. I just love working with the guy. He is dedicated to making a fund drive run smoothly. Every morning when I come in very early he is always there. When we start to trade loving insults, David Guistina always says, “Boys, boys, save it for the show!”

Of course there are always traditions. As we were ending the drive, someone called and said, “I want to hear the story!” The story, of course, is how the station got started and rose out of nothing. There we were in 1979. The Albany Medical College (that’s the “AMC” in WAMC) was going broke. They had used the station as a teaching tool for two-way medical conferences. Doctors gathered in emergency rooms with two-way radios and were told how to do various surgeries and procedures. Years later an old man came up to me and said, “You’ve got a pretty good station there but not as good as when they would tell us how to take out a gall bladder.”

Anyway, it started when I first heard the station in 1979. I called to ask if I could do a weekly politics show and found out the station had hit the skids. So we had that first historic fund drive to “Save Our Station (SOS)” with astounding results. I was on the air all day long and the money came in big time. But then the guy running the station said I wasn’t needed anymore and boy was I depressed. I had found the thing I wanted to do most in the world but I was out.

I was on the train going down to New York to consult with the New York City Police Commissioner, Patrick V. Murphy. I was really depressed. I decided to get a V8 in the bar car and when I came out with my drink, there was an older guy sitting there. He recognized me and I told him my rather sad story. That was Dr. Alan Miller and he said he thought he could help us since he was the Associate Dean of the Albany Medical College, the licensee. There’s a lot more to the story but not enough time to tell it here. If you listen to the next fund drive, you’ll hear the best part of the whole saga. Tune in!

In the meantime, thanks for all you have to done to keep the station on track. We truly love you all. 

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