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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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October 26, 2007 2:39 PM

Wildfire reporters

Posted by Ryan Blethen

NPR had an inspiring story this morning about an affiliate station in San Diego and how it has been reporting on the wildfires. KPBS in San Diego is no Clear Channel in Minot, N.D.

A brief history: Minot has become the poster city for how media consolidation has left many communities helpless during an emergency. In 2002 a train derailed releasing a poisonous cloud that drifted to Minot. The city's fire department could not get through to Minot's radio stations. All six local radio stations were owned by Clear Channel. Nobody was at the stations because the canned broadcasts did not require bodies in the studio. One person died, and nearly a thousand were injured.

The coverage by one local radio station has been the opposite of Minot. The NPR story points out that KPBS is pretty much the only station left doing local news in San Diego. Sounds familiar. When KPBS lost their signal for a day they asked, and were allowed, to transmit through a commercial radio station. A commendable act for the corporate station. Too bad it did not have its own team of journalists to inform listeners of what was happening. KPBS is back on the air and doing amazing things. Reporting you can only get from a station that has a focus on journalism and its community.

It is worth checking out to see all the ways they are helping San Diego's displaced and frightened populace. The staff has produced a map using Google's My Map to show what is happening in the region. The station is also using a social networking site to send updates through text messages.

KPBS is a prime example of why independence is important for radio, and for listeners. It also exemplifies why the Internet is a vital component for radio.

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