Public Service Announcements (PSAs), the snippets of information that radio stations broadcast between news reports, advertisements, and music, are being given special attention at WFUV, 90.7, Fordham’s 50,000-watt, non-commercial radio station.
Strike a Chord, a PSA campaign that started in 2010, focuses every quarter on issues such as affordable housing, job training, music education, senior services, and parks.
After-school programs, which were in danger of being curtailed because of threatened cuts to New York City’s budget, are the focus of the station’s most recent campaign.
George Bodarky, WFUV’s news director and host of the program Cityscape, said the goal was to cut through the white noise that many PSAs inevitably become.
“People hear them, but they’re not that effective because you hear one PSA once, and it [ends up]in the mix of these other issues,” he said. “We’re trying to put a spotlight on them so that people hear it over the course of time, and say ‘Oh yeah, this is an issue I want to get involved with to make a difference.”
In addition to running short PSAs read by the station’s hosts for the duration of a month, an hour of programming is being devoted specifically to PSA topics on Cityscape and on another show, Fordham Conversations.
Topics for coverage are suggested by the station’s community advisory board, and can be time-sensitive, such as one on electoral engagement that was featured around the 2012 presidential election. Bodarky’s only rule of thumb is that they not become cliché.
“Every year around Thanksgiving, someone comes up to me and says ‘Why not do something about hunger?’ But everyone does something about hunger now. Hunger’s an issue all the time. At Thanksgiving, that message will get lost,” he said.
“Let’s do hunger in the summer when no one’s thinking about it. Then you’ll serve a greater purpose. We don’t want to do ‘the issue of the month.’”
One of the PSA segments on after-school programs was produced by Morlene Chin, a senior communication and media studies major at Fordham College Rose Hill.
Chin, who has been a producer for Cityscape since her freshman year, did a four-and-a-half-minute segment about the CAT (Creative Art Team) Youth Theater in Manhattan. She sat in on a three-hour class and interviewed high school students who were learning improvisation techniques.
“It was an interesting program because instead of homework help—which is more of a typical after-school program—this one covered the arts,” she said.
“For Cityscape, we like off-the-beaten-path segments, especially focusing on the arts. The CAT Youth Theater is colorful, and it just provided really good audio.”
Chin, who said she would like to eventually get a fulltime job as a radio producer, was glad for the opportunity to do a report for the Strike a Chord campaign.
“It’s so important for us, as a public radio station, to reach out to the community, and we’re New York City-based, so we try to be as local as possible and help organizations get their name out there,” she said.
“I’m glad I’m a part of that.”