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.

Remembering Judy Grunberg

Sep 3, 2019

Judy Grunberg is gone, slipped away into the cluster of stars of which she was one. For me, this is a tragedy of the first order. She was one of those rare individuals who makes such a difference that you just don’t know how you can go on without her. 

The Main Ingredient

Jun 26, 2019

Donald Trump remains the focus of the news. People are being Trumped out. They’ve had enough. On the Roundtable’s daily panel discussion we hear from countless frustrated people who want him gone. They surely know that the chances of impeachment and conviction are nil but the level of frustration is so high that they just want something done now. I get that. Even if Nancy Pelosi is correct and that failed impeachment proceedings will allow Trump to get reelected, they just don’t seem to care. We see people like the wonderful Congressman Paul Tonko bowing to the popular will and announcing that he, too, favors moving forward with an impeachment investigation. You had better believe that WAMC has been chronicling this in depth. 

Here We Go!

May 31, 2019

On June 3rd we go once more unto the breach. That’s the beginning of our summer fund drive when, once more, we begin what we have always referred to as “The Great Schlep Forward.” Since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the amount of time it takes to make a million dollars has been sliced by a great deal. Sometimes we do it in a day. I have assumed that from Day One of Trump, WAMC has been the main, if not only, place on the radio dial to hear about the latest tragedy and trauma confronting our country. Our Roundtable Panel has gained a huge following, becoming the go-to place for so many people each morning as we discuss the news of the day. We know that tens of thousands of people are listening. As I meet people in the street or read their mail, they tell me that they are addicted to WAMC and the Panel.

Who's The Boss? NPR Or Member Stations?

Apr 25, 2019

There is some real tension between National Public Radio and its member stations. WAMC pays a great deal of money, collected from you, our members, for NPR programming and services – around $800,000 a year. In other words, by the time it’s all done, the proceeds of nearly one whole fund drive are used to pay NPR for what amounts to two programs -- Morning Edition and All Things Considered

Now More Than Ever

Mar 29, 2019

Now more than ever, we need WAMC. We all know it. Of course, there are a few trolls who find that WAMC’s speaking truth to power is not to their liking. All I can say is “too bad” or “join the lumpenproletariat” (“lump it or leave it.”) We are doing our best under very trying circumstances. We know that Donald Trump is conducting a war against his perceived enemies, including the press. The First Amendment to the Constitution is a backstop against fascism and totalitarianism. I understand that the press can be self-serving and sometimes wrong but when you stop freedom of expression, you stop a civil society and you deal a body blow to democracy. This is the time to stand as tall as we can.

And That's The News

Mar 1, 2019

The news is coming so fast that most of us can hardly keep up.

Of course, WAMC played the remarkable House Oversight Committee (Michael Cohen) hearings in their entirety. I listened as much as I could and I came away pretty shell shocked. There is nothing like hearing this stuff for ourselves, unfiltered.

In 1979 I took over the leadership of WAMC. We’ve had a lot of great fund dives. Each was known for something special that happened in that drive. One time a nasty guy called up and pledged twenty five cents with the notation “This is what you station is worth.” It was really great. The wonderful audience added a quarter to every pledge that was made throughout the drive. One can only wonder what the creep was thinking. That’s what you call comeuppance.

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. This year I will look back on last year’s remarkable predictions to see how we did. Here goes:  

Andrew Cuomo seems to have turned over a new leaf. The common wisdom is that the man had a penchant for keeping his enemies in the doghouse, well, forever. That was not his late father’s way. I know that because I was Mario’s weekly interlocutor for a lot of years. Oh, you could tick off Mario but sooner or later, he would let you out of the doghouse. There was the time, for instance, when he said after a testy interchange, “Is that what you think?” I said, “Yes sir,” to which he replied, “Who cares?”

Make Something Happen

Sep 26, 2018

In a few short days comes the fund drive. This is the place where we all live but I’m not afraid. I love our listeners. You know why? Because they are, above all, just plain smart and they are also scared. We have a President of the United States who has surrounded himself with numerous felons. One after another, they are dropping like flies, confessing their sins, on their way to jail. These people are his closest associates. As I write this, there is a major debate over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the country’s highest court. While I suspect that the feckless Republican senators don’t care a whit about Trump, they do care about the crucial Supreme Court appointment that will put their political philosophy firmly in the driver’s seat, perhaps for generations to come. That’s why their PACS and money go to their candidates. Yet, something remarkable is happening. Little bits of money from hundreds of thousands of people are going to candidates and that is making a real difference. Just look at Ted Cruz in deep Red state Texas.

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.”