This week I had a very angry man, who I had always considered as one of my favorite customers, approach me at work and give me a dose of his mind for a letter he thought I had written. It turned out he was basing his anger on a couple lines from a Homer News article I didn't even write.
I had been called by a reporter who was looking for information to back up an article about the recent KBBI controversy. I admitted we (at the bookstore) were unhappy about the direction the radio station seemed to be going, and that, for the moment, we had decided not to renew our sponsorship of a program we had been underwriting. From a phone conversation, a couple of my opinions were quoted in the article.
My statements came across sounding like maybe I wasn't a supporter of public radio any more. It was enough to convince the reader that we had "spitefully" pulled our support just because of some conflicts at the radio station. I suggested to him that he of all people should realize that a couple of lines in an article do not a full picture make. He left apparently just as angry and said if he misinterpreted my statements then I should write a letter because others would also be thinking I was just being vindictive toward the public radio station.
More of the picture is that we have been supporters of the local public radio station since it first came on the air. We have always loved hearing our friends and neighbors and customers on the radio. We have frequently played and appreciated their shows.
A few years ago we started underwriting Tom Bodett's show "Loose Leaf" to the tune of about $800 a year. This was way more than we could afford as a bookstore, but since Tom Bodett was, at one time, our best-selling author, and since he got his start on our local public radio station, we decided to make sponsoring him a priority.
Recently we moved the store. As a result, with the moving and remodeling costs and extra overhead, we are still trying to get a handle on our budget. Then we found out from a volunteer that the show we were being asked to sponsor wasn't even being produced this year and that the station was going to air reruns.
So we decided not to renew our sponsorship and to sit this out for a bit. None of us at the store have dropped our memberships. We give donations to any fund-raisers we are asked about, and we sell tickets to most KBBI-sponsored events.
Also keep in mind that we donated to 47 other local nonprofit fund-raising events so far this year. In no way have we taken a stand against local anything.
However, we do miss the locally produced shows. As a business we cannot even play the replacement radio programming in the store because it is mostly talk shows and is not conducive as background music.
I know there are some people who would rather get rid of the local volunteer radio programming. As a long-term volunteer at another organization, I know what a pain we volunteers can be. However, I would much rather listen to local volunteers and their shows than the best professional radio in America.
It would be like replacing the cast of the local Nutcracker Ballet because someone else can do it more professionally. I want to see locals with local spirit on stage, and I want to hear locals with local spirit on public radio.
For anyone else who read that article and got the idea that I was anti-local public radio and had pulled our funding because of that, I apologize deeply. This is Homer, and as with any issue, there are six sides to the truth (more in the winter), and it takes a lot more than a few articles to figure out what is truly happening.
To the person who expressed such anger toward myself and my business, I'm truly sorry to have caused that anger and hope when you calm down you might realize that reasonable people can have different opinions and not necessarily be wrong.