To air is human

Community radio is a powerful tool that bolsters free speech and the arts while providing unfiltered, highly personal local news and perspectives. Asheville Free Media's Kickstarter campaign is currently under way (see box, “Kick-starting Community Radio”). Here’s why you should consider giving it your support.

In 2009, I joined a group of passionate colleagues to help launch the Friends of Community Radio, with the goal of supporting progressive, grass-roots community radio in Western North Carolina. I was nominated to the board of directors, and we soon realized that together, we had the desire and skills needed to start a new local radio station.

Asheville FM went online that September, and we've continued to curate locally produced sound every day since then. Our current lineup of show hosts includes some familiar Asheville voices as well as a constant stream of people new to the area or to radio.

The combination of our diligent volunteer work and community support is resulting in steady growth in both membership and listenership. I love showing folks — no matter their race, creed or how they wear their jeans — how to exercise their right of free speech. I recently trained two of my piano students on the station’s equipment.

I wasn’t surprised by the way local listeners have taken to Asheville FM. In fact, my involvement with community radio traces back to the fall of 2000. At first, I was too scared to speak into the mic at my college radio station, WXJM, so I offered to clean, paint and write CD reviews. Eventually, I branched out into event planning, helping with news programming and hosting a drive-time music show. These experiences taught me that successful community radio requires the expertise and dedication of many hands. But with the right team spirit and support, it can help unite diverse voices that aren't usually presented with either the opportunity or the desire to actually hear one another.

When I moved to Richmond in 2004, I put the skills I’d learned to use as a volunteer at WRIR. And when I landed in Asheville in 2006, I naturally figured that getting involved in local radio would be an easy way to plug in. Asheville is a progressive city with a big heart and plenty of Southern hospitality, and I met some great people during my year-and-a-half volunteering at WPVM.

Here at Asheville FM, our mission is "to serve as a free-form, community-based, unrestricted media outlet for music, commentary, news and current events of interest to citizens of Western North Carolina while providing experiential education opportunities through volunteerism." In keeping with that mission, we deliver everything from rock to locally produced news, from jazz to comedy, from hip-hop to metal, from poetry to live music simulcasted from local venues.

But even though we’re already reaching audiences in New York, California and even Eastern Europe, many WNC residents still lack Internet access, and we want to better serve them too! That’s what’s driving our push to expand to the terrestrial airwaves, supported by the current Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter is a great way to work together as a group, networking and supporting shared causes. Because it’s an all-or-nothing deal, however, we must reach or exceed the stated goal or the pledges won’t be charged and we’ll end up with nothing. So please join us in taking community radio in Asheville and WNC to the next level!

— Asheville resident Kim Roney is the board president of the Friends of Community Radio, which produces Asheville

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