The Homelessness Marathon is one of the best annual grassroots radio events. The only unfortunate thing about the Marathon is that it continues to be necessary every year. It’s a 14-hour live broadcast from the streets of a different city each year, highlighting the causes, problems and experiences of homelessness. The most important aspect of the Marathon is that it features the unedited voices of people who are or have been homeless, in addition to featuring expert commentary.
This year the Marathon is broadcast from Pass Christian, Mississippi, which was effectively ground zero for Hurricane Katrina. Therefore the broadcast will be highlighting poverty in light of the continued effects of that massive natural disaster.
The Homelessness Marathon begins 7 PM EST this coming Monday, Feb. 23, and continues live until 9 AM the following morning. It can be heard on over 100 noncommercial stations around the US and online at their website. The first four hours will also be on Free Speech TV, which is available on Dish Network and numerous public access TV stations.
Unfortunately not a single station in the Chicago area is broadcasting the Marathon. I hope that I might be able to change that next year by arranging participation here at WNUR, where the mediageek radioshow originates. The station’s annual Phoneathon pledge drive was already scheduled for this week before I came on board as adviser, making it near impossible to try and have the station air it.
I participated in the broadcast of the 3rd Annual Homelessness Marathon in January, 2000, when it broadcast from the very cold winter streets of Champaign, IL, hosted by community radio WEFT. I worked pretty closely with Marathon director Jeremy Alderson for several weeks preparing, and he flat out amazed me with his commitment, passion and ability to spend 14 hours broadcasting outside in below-freezing weather with no more protection than most homeless people have. Despite being a small city, Champaign has a visible homeless population, and many folks came forward to take advantage of the open mic set up on the street to share their views and experiences of homelessness. Working on that broadcast is one of my radio experiences I’m most proud of.
A Homelessness Marathon is also being broadcast in Canada the same evening, coming from the streets of Montreal and hosted by Community Radio CKUT. It’s being broadcast on over 40 stations across Canada.
I’ll be literally phoning it in to my old haunt WEFT, 90.1 FM in Champaign-Urbana, IL, at 5:30 PM to do a special edition of the mediageek radioshow for their pledge drive. Long time readers/listeners may recall that WEFT is where the radioshow got its start and where it originated until April of this year.
WEFT station manager Mick Woolf will be in the studio there while we discuss the Tribune bankruptcy, the Obama plan for media and internet and, of course, the still relevant vitality of community radio.
If you’re in the Champaign area tune in, and please consider a donation to WEFT. If you’re elsewhere you can still tune in online.
On this week’s radioshow I’ll be speaking with Tim Karr, Campaign Director at Free Press and a contributor to the Huffington Post. We discuss the Tuesday vote at the FCC approving the use of white spaces for wireless broadband, along with a brief look at what an Obama White House means for media reform.
The show airs live tonight, Thursdays, 9 – 10 PM Central time on WNUR 89.3 FM Evanston-Chicago, IL and online at WNUR.org. You can catch it on Friday at 5:30 PM on Community Radio WEFT 90.1 FM in Champaign-Urbana, IL, which also has a live stream.
If you can’t catch the live streams, the show will be available at the radioshow website this weekend, and airs on thirteen other community stations next week.
While there is a lot of good non-commercial radio in Chicago, one thing the city lacks is a true community station, programmed entirely by community volunteers and funded by community donations. Of course, it’s great that college stations like Northwestern’s WNUR and University of Chicago’s WHPK actively open their studios to community programmers. However, even great college radio is not quite the same as community radio.
That’s why an intrepid group of media pioneers are trying to get a true community station on the air in Chicago, with the Chicago Independent Radio Project. The effort required is more mammoth than other smaller cities because Chicago has no vacant frequencies for a full-power or low-power station anywhere near the city. So besides the significant task of fundraising and organizing necessary to get a station on the air, CHIRP has to take on the FCC and Congress to have rational LPFM channel spacing, allowing some new community stations to join Chicago’s and other cities’ airwaves.
On tonight’s radioshow Shawn Campbell, president of CHIRP, will join me to talk about the effort, its reason for being, its mission, and the challenges that lie ahead. Tune in live tonight on the radio or online at 9 PM CDT on WNUR 89.3 FM, Evanston, IL, or at 5:30 PM CDT tomorrow, Friday, at 5:30 PM on community radio WEFT 90.1 in Champaign, IL (also online). The show will be posted to the radioshow page by the weekend, and airs on a dozen other community stations, also listed on the radioshow page.