A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

If you work in media and live in Memphis, last week was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad week. On Tuesday, we learned the Commercial Appeal let go 17 more employees, perhaps in a cleanse before they sell to Milwaukee’s Journal Media next year. Included in this purge were longtime reporter Lela Garlington and more recent hires Timberly Moore and William DeShazer. Award winning photographer Karen Focht was also cut.

Thursday brought the latest revamp of the printed-paper complete with a “We’ve Changed” headline. Yes, you changed but it’s a case of too little and too late.

On Friday, Entercom abruptly changed formats on 94.1 from Classic Hits to Country and in the process let go on air talents Willie B and long time Memphis favorite Steve Conley. Just over two years ago, this same station removed another fan favorite, Karen Perrin, saying the station was taking a new direction. As a “power listener” of the station, the only change I noticed was a tag line, “Your Life, Your Music.”

Both broadcast radio and print media have had a hard time adjusting to the new digital world. Print hasn’t figured out how to compete online and still make any money. Radio has a similar issue in that almost any music can be heard online without advertisement at little or no cost. Getting that coveted 18-34 demographic is harder and harder to do when that age group has grown up streaming music.

Unfortunately, some really great journalists and broadcast talents are suffering because the corporations running their businesses haven’t caught up with the changing landscapes.

Instead, the paper will continue to cut good people only to find that investigative journalism suffers and Entercom’s 94.1 will become the fourth country music station in a market that can really only handle one. Don’t forget, Memphis is the capital of the Delta, where Elvis and rhythm and blues rule. Leave country to middle and east Tennessee.

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How do you feel safe?

safeinmemphisThis week, I was asked to speak with David Waters, an award winning journalist and my friend for nearly 20 years. He writes the Faith in Memphis blog for the Commercial Appeal and has recently started a Safe in Memphis group following the death of Heather Palambo-Jones, a kindergarten teacher who worked with David’s wife at the Frayser Achievement District.

He focuses on what makes one feel safe in our hometown and he attempts to challenge the traditional thoughts about safety in Memphis as well as giving readers tools to feel safe.

Here is the article he wrote after we spoke:

Safe In Memphis: An App For That?

If you can’t read that link, click here.

Let me know what you think and what apps you use to feel safe.

No prayers for business and media

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Tonight, my church was a host site for a National Day of Prayer service. I was asked to participate by leading the congregation in prayer for business and media.

If you’ve never been to a service like this, the format has someone lead prayers for five areas, education, business and media, military and government, families and the church. After the initial prayer is said, anyone from the congregation is welcome to pray aloud as they felt led.

Each area had many people chime in their prayers except business and media. And I’m pretty sure it’s not because my prayer was so good that I covered it all.

Why?

Without a thriving business community our families are without the means to support themselves. Taxes cannot be paid to provide a quality education for our children, or support the government and military. Without a free and impartial media we cannot know the truth about our elected officials and military. Or know when a business has cheated it’s customers or employees.

I’m honored to be able to pray for businesses and for my many friends in the media. They face a tough economy and changing landscape to disseminate the new and yet they keep going.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Feasting and Hunger

$1 = 3 meals

by Alys Drake

This week will be a week of celebration. Holy Week for Christian families and Passover for Jewish families.

At my home, we will celebrate Easter this Sunday with a lot of food. Ham, beans, barbecue ribs, slaw, potato salads, regular salads, rich desserts, and wine will all grace our overflowing table.

We do not know hunger in this house. And it’s a safe bet that if you are reading this post, you don’t know hunger either. However, in the Mid-South, nearly 23% of children are food insecure. Seniors are the fastest growing food insecure group; 19,000 seniors are currently served by various agencies in the Memphis area and The Mid-South Food Bank anticipates that number to grow to over 30,000 in the next few years.

My husband and I are reading the Bible in chronological order with our Sunday school class at Christ United Methodist Church. Just this past week we were in Deuteronomy. These particular passages are frankly a little tedious to read. Moses is preparing the Israelites for their new lives in the Promised Land by reminding them of God’s commands and it gets a little repetitive.

But one passage stood out to me. It was Deuteronomy 24:19-21. In this passage, the Israelites are commanded not to harvest everything in their fields. They are to leave a few sheaves, olives, and grapes behind for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. These are the people who lived in poverty. Today, we have no such safety net for the poor.

On March 29, the #MemFood13 Good Friday Food Drive will take place. You can help provide a safety net those in need by taking your nonperishable food donations to Easy Way, 814 Mt. Moriah, First State Bank at 5384 Poplar Ave; Ste 200 (Inside the Hobson Building across from Mercedes Benz of Memphis) and 3607 South Houston Levee Road in Collierville.

An even easier way to help is to make an online donation. Every dollar donated buys three meals for Mid-South families.

Happy Easter and Chag Pesach Sameach!

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An Open Letter to the Media

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by Alys Drake

When there is a tragedy, you have the terrible responsibility to inform the public. Please don’t interview witnesses who are children. I don’t care if their parents give permission. The parents are probably too traumatized to make a rational decision as well. What good comes from it? These babies are already damaged and you want to put their reactions on the air? For what?

Not for me. I immediately turn off any program that shows it. Which has meant I haven’t watched much of the coverage for this latest mass shooting.

I think it’s lazy reporting at best and intrusive and a violation at it’s worst. Instead, find adults who can tell you what it was like for the children but don’t interview the children themselves.

Find stories of compassion and heroics and focus on them. Please don’t make us relive the horror over and over. We have a responsibility to our children to help them make sense of the senseless. As the media, you have the responsibility to report the news with accuracy and compassion.

God bless and guide the parents of the dead. God bless and guide the law enforcement community who must identify the dead. And God bless and guide the media charged to inform the public.

On Radio, People and Community

When I was young, I would love to listen to the radio. I was star struck by the disk jockeys and can remember the thrill of finding a distant signal from St. Louis or Chicago on the AM dial. This was before FM radio, before MTV, before YouTube, satellite radio or iTunes.

Today, my children could not care less about radio nor can they understand the thrill of tuning in a distant radio signal. After all, they can find any music they want online. If they want to know what’s happening in Chicago, they can Google it.

Radio continues to struggle. I know it and I hate it. Those who are still on-air on local radio live a precarious life. Corporations, of course, want a profit run radio. I don’t deny them that. They rely on shares, ratings, books, whatever it’s called, to prove to advertisers that their station is the most popular in one demographic or the other. I understand the need for measurement.

However, these corporations are forgetting something very important. They are forgetting about the one thing that will save local radio from the onslaught of internet radio and satellite radio: engagement with the community. In Memphis, there is a great radio station that appeared to have the corporate backing to be engaged with the community. All of the on-air talent is encouraged to use social media to connect with listeners and they do it well. They have an active Twitter account and Facebook fan page with great engagement in both platforms.

This station embraces being local and supports local events. Their talent is seen at all types of events, even events that the station is not a direct sponsor. It’s been great to see them embrace the community and leverage social media in that engagement, as I believe that this increases loyalty to the station.

But last week, they made a big mistake.

They fired, without warning, an eighteen-year veteran of local radio and one half of their popular morning show. It was shocking. Why? All she could say was the station was going in a different direction and it didn’t include her.

The next morning’s show was painful to listen to without her. Her on-air partner could say nothing about her absence but anyone who listened could hear the pain in his voice. After all, he had been fired from another station owned by this same group as part of a three-person morning team some years before. She was one of those left behind that time.

You would like to think the corporate guys would have learned the first time, but no.

So today, I am upset and disappointed. Not only because of who was fired, but the way it was done.

There is still no official statement from the station. All traces of her are gone from the website. They removed negative comments to their Facebook fan page and barred those who posted in protest from future comments. Not smart. You already have an upset fan base and you make them even more upset by banning them from the community and telling them nothing?

Community. That is what will draw listeners to local radio. Community is not shares. Community is not ratings or books. Community is made up of people and people listen to the radio. People like knowing she has two kids in local schools and he has one in college. People grieve when his mother dies. People celebrate when another personality announces a marriage or a baby. This is not how you treat your community.

I still love radio. I love the people on radio and I will continue to support them, even when those in charge of the future of the station can’t see what’s right in front of their faces.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Turn Hunger Into Hope

No one should go hungry.

This Easter weekend means many things to my family. We will go to church Sunday morning and then come home to prepare for our family Easter dinner. The fact that it is also Sunday at the Masters makes the day even more special for us.

I’ve been cleaning the house, fussing at my children about them leaving their stuff all over the place and instructing my husband on the things he needs to do to prepare.

One thing we will not have to worry about is food. I picked up a ham and some casseroles, my in-laws are bringing barbeque with all the trimmings and my husband’s brother will bring dessert. I will even make pimento cheese sandwiches in honor of The Masters.

Not everyone is as fortunate as we are. Or you.

Many struggle to put even a simple meal of peanut butter sandwiches on the table for their families and that’s just not right. We who have plenty and should be able to help those who do not.

The Mid-South Food Bank stands in the gap for those facing hunger but today, their cupboards are bare.

My dear friend, Amy Howell, heard about this need, as as she is apt to do, she swung into action. Within 12 hours, her passionate leadership inspired people like Claire Hick to step in and get a TV news story and a newspaper article. Hundreds of tweets have been tweeted with the hashtag #memfood and the Howell Team put together an eblast alerting our professional contacts was sent, even on a day off.

More is coming, but more is needed. Join us and bring a donation by the Howell Marketing offices. Food donations are welcome but monetary donations will go further. Every dollar you give to the Food Bank will allow them to buy $4 worth of nutritious food. And for the rest of April, your donations go even farther, thanks to the Feinstein Challenge.

If your Easter or Passover weekend has been filled with abundance, take a minute and go to the Mid-South Food Bank website and make a donation.

No one should go hungry.