I think that public broadcasting, radio and television is more telephone oriented than any other broadcast media. We have, for years, relied on the telephone to ask for the funds it takes to run our operations. Where would pledge drives be without the phone? Well, we are finding out, thanks to the pandemic. It wasn’t possible to have a room full of volunteers to answer phones, so we found that we can also rely on our website for our fabulous listeners to provide the support needed, and it certainly worked. We conducted two very successful “quiet” drives, relying completely on our website for support. When we started the third one, the response wasn’t quite the same. We were certainly getting support, but not to the extent that the previous “quiet” drives saw. Then our Interim General Manager, Jonathan Palevsky gave out our business phone number. The response was immediate. The drive, which started off “quiet” and ended “no so quiet,” was a huge success.
This just proves that while we all like our technology, there is no substitute for human contact, and the phone is one of the best ways for that to happen. During our normal fundraisers, I have been told that callers enjoy talking to our volunteers about the station, and that friendships have been struck as a result.
We announcers get our share of calls, as well. More often than not, someone calls to ask the name of a piece that is playing. The overwhelming majority of the calls that I have received are very positive in nature. I am always amazed when I get a call from a listener who is asking the name of a piece of music that is so well known, it’s hard to believe anyone doesn’t know it. Proof that every time a piece of music is played, someone is hearing it for the first time.
I gotten my share of “not so positive” calls as well. From time to time, someone will call to tell me that he or she doesn’t like a piece of music I’m playing. I generally just say, “well, thanks for listening,” and leave it at that. Once a listener called and said she hated a certain type of music. For some reason, I couldn’t help myself. I asked her if she wanted me to destroy all the CDs in the library with that type of music. She said, “Of course not.” I then asked her what she wanted me to do. She just said, “I just wanted you to know that I don’t like that music.” She hung up. I have to say, if I called a radio station or TV station every time I heard or saw something I didn’t like, I’d spend a lot of time on the phone. But, once again, I don’t know if the complaint is the real reason for the call, or if it is just the need for some human contact. And, as I said earlier, the vast majority of the calls are very positive, and the callers say some very kind things, and they are truly appreciated. Being a “glass half full” kind of guy, I very the “not so positive” calls in a positive way. At least the caller is listening, and feels strongly enough to reach out.
I have had some very interesting calls that kind of made me scratch my head. I have been asked if I knew the phone number to various organizations, including the FBI, Social Security, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and the Governor’s office. I’ve had callers asking me about certain players on the Orioles and Ravens, I have also been asked about the weather in different parts of the country, as well. I have been asked about traffic conditions on the Beltway, and where is the cheapest gas. It’s kind of flattering that people think we know so much about the world. I wish I really were that smart. I’ve had people call me asking if I had relatives in certain parts of the country. I have to say, “Malinowski” is a relatively common Polish name. And before you ask, I am not related to Bronislaw Malinowski, the famous anthropologist. I was asked that recently in a local store. No relation. Sometimes I mispronounce a name of a person or a place, and when that happens I usually get a call with the correct pronunciation. I appreciate those calls as certain city names are pronounced differently from the way they are spelled. When I was new here, I ws informed that it was Tawny-town, and TALL-but, and in Baltimore it was the Notre DAHM academy, and not Notre Dame. When I was in Texas, I found out that the town of Tivoli is pronounced TIE voh la, and Riviera is Ri-ver-a. Bexar is pronounced Bear, etc. You don’t learn these things if listeners don’t call you to tell you.
Once again, the vast majority of the calls I receive while working are very nice calls, which I do appreciate. Sometimes (and I have been in this business for a long time) you can’t help but wonder if anyone is paying attention. It’s always nice to know you are.