It’s 9 p.m. here on the West Coast. I’m just back from an educational forum featuring Michelle Rhee, who used to run the Washington D.C. schools. A lot of the talk was about students, and some of what I heard from other attendees was about “reaching” them.
Over the next couple of hours, until I’m too tired and the typos start becoming more than I can catch, I’m going to answer email from listeners to the radio show and I’m going to listen to voicemails they’ve left.
We get lots of emails and voicemails each episode. As our listenership increases (as it does daily), so does the communication from listeners. Right now we have more than 7400 saved voicemails (we only started saving them last year) and tens of thousands of saved emails. We search those — mine them, really — as we plan upcoming episodes.
I can answer a couple dozen emails an hour if I’m fast and don’t have to do any research. It’s impossible to respond personally to each one, but we try. It’s important that we talk with them and let them tell us what we need to know to be better at giving them what they want and need.
Those callers and emailers are just a small part of the hundreds of thousands of people who listen each week across the United States and around the world. Many of them are children and students. Families listen together on the way to and from church. Children listen in their classrooms as part of their classwork. English-learners of all ages around the world listen in droves — listening to English speech about English speech does double duty. We’re reaching them. We’re educating them. And we’re educating the adults who listen at work, in the car, while washing dishes, etc.
My radio partners Martha Barnette and Stefanie Levine and I set out an educational mission for A Way with Words when we took it over in 2007. In part, we wanted it to be about education, specifically lifelong learning. We also wanted it to be about changing the way people talk about language. There’s more to language than just being pissed off at things you don’t like in the speech of others. Lots more.
We try to do it on and off the air every week. That one hour of radio you hear (54 minutes, really) is backed by many hours of back-office work, station service, listener help, and more. The one hour is the end result of planning, producing, writing, editing, practice, bookkeeping, phone calls, emails, and more.
I explain all this so you’ll understand why, when we reach out into the community and ask for donations, we think it’s for a good cause.
Right now we’re looking at a 50% increase in the cost of distributing our program via the Public Radio Satellite System. It’s the main way public radio shows are distributed and to be there, in that system, is a must. It’s a hard, unavoidable cost.
So we need your help. Until 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, December 15th, a foundation is offering matching funds for every dollar we’re able to get from you. Will you donate $100 today to help make the radio show possible? If you can’t do $100, please do what you can, but do it before the deadline.