NonCOMM recap: A conversation on community-building

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photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A major part of being a public radio station is connecting with the public. This morning at NonCOMM, Mike Henry from Paragon Media Strategies hosted the panel “Walking The Walk and Talking The Talk – Acting and Branding Local,” which featured conversations between Matt Reilly from KUTX Austin , Benji McPhail from The Colorado Sound, and Jordan Lee from Radio Milwaukee. These three industry pros sat down to discuss the various challenges, and also major advantages, to running successful noncommercial stations grounded in locality.

Since each panelist represented stations varying widely in age, location, and background, each provided fresh and helpful perspectives from different stages in the industry. Riley from KUTX served as the radio vet, and gave insights into working with an established, well-recognized organization; McPhail of The Colorado Sound discussed the struggles and strategies for building up a completely brand new organization, and Lee from Radio Milwaukee gave a behind-the-scenes look into a fairly new, but quickly rising station.

Though the panelists varied across the board in a number of ways, one element remained constant: the importance of community. Radio Milwaukee’s Jordan Lee especially emphasized this fact, as he described the unbreakable link between music and community, and how important it is in bringing people from all backgrounds together and create actual lasting social impact amongst its fans. Lee gave background into Milwaukee’s very segregated population, and how Radio Milwaukee’s active and intentional inclusion of a wide catalogue of diverse artists and genres has had the effect of enacting a real social impact on the community.

KUTX Austin’s Matt Riley and The Colorado Sound’s Benji McPhail also spoke on the importance of including and strengthening all parts of the community, where they spoke of actively listening to the fans, and creating events based off those needs — such as KUTX’s recent outreach to family-friendly music outings, and The Colorado Sound’s open, town-hall style meetings where listeners are able to voice their opinion and suggestions.

No matter the level of the organization, it was refreshing to hear how vital the community is to building up and maintaining these stations, and how music can be an actual, real fighting force in enacting diversity and social change.

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