April 13, 2011

The reasons why

Marfa Public Radio has earned its due

One of Texas' tiniest radio stations has made a powerful plea for public money.
Until Marfa Public Radio came along, Far West Texas could hear almost nothing but static.
Now, KRTS/93.5 FM has earned its spurs as the only station to sound the warning and then stay with the story Saturday when wildfires burned their way through Fort Davis and the Big Bend.
The coverage on "Marfa Radio" started at midafternoon Saturday, when host and programming director Rachel Osier Lindley was on her way to her second job at a grocery and saw a house west of town going up in flames.
She called station General Manager Tom Michael, screaming that U.S. 90 was blocked and that she couldn't get to her own house. They reported the fire and posted a photo on Facebook with a comment about how the fire was moving "aggressively north."
That was 1:50 p.m. By 5, firefighters were broadcasting warnings telling people in Fort Davis, 20 miles away, to abandon the town.
Later, the station's transmitter lost power, but workers and volunteers kept the station's webcast online while searching for a way to connect the mountaintop tower to a generator.
Until help and a needed part arrived from Austin, KRTS posted updates by Web, Facebook and Twitter as the fire burned 50 homes in Fort Davis, a frontier town of about 1,000 people.
"The only real way to spread information was to get it on the station," said Michael, a Chicago native who helped an arts institute start the station in 2007.
"We're the only broadcaster out here. Some of our volunteers lost their homes. We have just tried to give information and help share information."
He didn't bring this up, but the station's friends have: KRTS runs on a $250,000 budget. This was the week for a $60,000 spring pledge drive.
Half of Marfa Radio's budget comes from its scattered but loyal listeners.
The other half -- $125,000 -- comes from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The station tower was even built with a federal grant.
"If the federal dollars went away, then I think we would go away," Michael said.
They've earned our money.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Twitter @budkennedy



Old NFO said...

They are worth contributing to, unlike the majority...

Mule Breath said...

I disagree. The majority deserve funding. Only the few are partisan. Most have the true good of their listeners in their hearts.

But defunding any defunds all. It ain't worth it.