Sunday, September 24, 2006

GreenStone Media

The always cranky Gina Bellafante turned in a piece for The New York Times last week. We can respect cranky, we can even enjoy it. We just can't get behind Bellafante's attempt to be one in a long line of distorters at the paper of little record. Here's the thing that probably got Bellafante a lot of "attaboys" this week from her higher ups:

Ms. Steinem always disdained intellectualism, saying of academic feminists, in a 1995 interview with Mother Jones, that "nobody cares about them" and that their work was "gobbledygook."

Oh that non-thinking Gloria Steinem!

At least that's what the paper of little record, and their handmaiden Bellafante, would have you believe. The paper has a long history of this crap. They set Steinem up against The Ego Of Us All. That was partly due to the fact that Steinem upset the apple cart:

*Ms. wasn't used in the paper, the paper didn't want to use it. They resisted it and resisted it.
*Steinem was a 'betrayer' (leaving the objective pose of journalism)
*The wives! What about the wives! (Most of those 'trend' stories exist to assure the wives of certain persons of the paper that their only goal really should be pleasing their husbands.)

And we could go on. But going on would mean talking truth about The Ego Of Us All and since no one wants to do that, why should we? But for a number of reasons, the paper could get behind The Ego Of Us. (And, one we'll share, The Ego Of Us All was not plain, she was ugly. It was easy to make her the face of feminism. Kept the kept wives in place.)

So the myth the paper's sold for years is that The Ego Of Us All was an 'academic' (it takes a lot of work to copy and paste -- helps to read French) and Gloria Steinem was just a no brainer. Now Steinem went to Smith, she was a professional journalist. But the minute she had her awakening (and wouldn't play the 'objective' pose), she suddenly became a non-thinker.

We could go on and on but that's a longer story. The point is the paper's always placed The Ego Of Us All as the "thinker" and Steinem as the non-thinker. They've had a War-On for Steinem for years. So Little Gina Happy At Last got there by toeing the party line.

Did Steinem slam academics? No, she did not. Carol Gilligan (of A Different Voice fame) is an academic and Steinem's always been very supportive of her work. Gilligan's not the only one. What Steinem was referring to (in the 1995 interview) was the language of some post-modern, academic feminism which, as many besides Steinem have pointed out, exists not to share but to shut down. It's its own language and intended as such. That's part of "professionalism" -- many disciplines attempt to professionalize. But since feminism is about equality, a coded language that many will never grasp really seems anti-feminism. Steinem was not referring to academics who were feminist or academics working in the womens' studies field. She was referring to a sub-field. Gina needs her bread and butter so she plays dumb.

Which brings us to the real point of this article: GreenStone Media. GreenStone Media is a new project and Gloria Steinem is one of the women behind it. It's producing radio shows. They aren't for women only, and have even featured men calling in. But they are attempting to get women's voices out there. Not "the woman's voice." There is no one voice. And that's one of the goals of GreenStone Media.

Currently, they have three programs. (A fourth, Rolonda, will start up soon.) We'll get our negative criticism out of the way first: Fix the website.

That is not a joke. The website needs to be fixed and that needs to be the top priority. Not booking guests, not selling ads. Until the website's fixed it really serves no purpose at all.

How does it need to be fixed? In two ways.

1) You can't listen live. It's not an ISP or a connection. Everyone working on this article attempted to listen live last week. None of us could. You get error messages. You can hear a past program. You can't listen live. This is a huge problem. It's especially a huge problem if you attempt to take call ins and your audience can't listen to you.

2) Whatever that technical problem is and however long it takes to fix, right now there needs to be a list of stations that air any of the programs. People are used to TV Guide telling them what their choices are. When new radio programs, especially aimed at an audience that isn't listening to radio currently, come on, there is no equivalent to TV Guide. If you're getting the word out, that includes getting it out on where the programming can be heard. Some stations that carry the programming may broadcast online and, if so, people could listen live via that.

If those two things seem minor, they're not. They are very important. Listeners need to know where they might be able to hear the shows and listeners should be able to hear them at the GreenStone Media website. Air America Radio has had several transitions. This is not a slam at them or their current business model, but it is true that when they started up, they broke records for Real Player. They broke records for online listenership. A model could have been built around that, a successful one, that would have ensured a stability to the company. They elected to go with a different model and best of luck to them. But GreenStone Media should not underestimate the power of online listeners. Should they reach a segment of their target listeners, even if it is just online, the advertising money should come in.

We actually have one other negative criticism, but let's note the positive first.

Mo Gaffney. We knew we'd enjoy this show. Gaffney's always funny. There were two surprises. The first was how funny Shana Wride is. The two work very well together on air and Gaffney has shown a wonderful ability to field calls, to make callers (especially nervous sounding ones) feel at home, and to demonstrate (after the caller's gone) that someone was listening. Radio can't make Mo Gaffney, she's already a name. But listening to her, you quickly grasp this is someone who should have been doing radio for years. There are people who can do entertaining radio and there are people who can do that and more. Gaffney qualifies under "do that and more." In talking up the project, Steinem's noted an early female broadcaster who was able to reach listeners. That involves the listener being heard and Gaffney, again, is listening.

The program is called Women Aloud and it's already a success story. (Airs, live, 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm EST, Monday through Friday.)

Maureen Langan, Cory Kahaney, and Nelsie Spencer are The Three Ritas. Why are they The Three Ritas? We honestly don't know if it's a salute to Rita Rudner or because Jakob Dylan already sang about the "Three Marlenas." What we do know is that they have a wicked sense of humor. Jim was complaining in the car until Corey Kahaney piped up about her husband. She is now Jim's favorite Rita. Listen and you'll find your own. (Airs 6:00 am to 9:00 am, Monday through Friday.)

Both programs noted spinach throughout last week, as they should. We did wonder, however, what else would be done? At other times, The Three Ritas seem to enjoy puncturing 'trend stories' (good for them). This isn't "entertainment radio" and it's not "news radio." That may disappoint some (we'd love to have been listening this summer when we needed an escape from the wall-to-wall, 24-7, one story of independent media that lasted five to six weeks). Iraq's our most pressing issue and, frankly, we were disappointed it wasn't on the radar.

But there seems to be a notion (in the press) that it's all silly (meaning superficial, most of the slams haven't even given the above two shows credit for the strong humor). That's really not true. Just in the two shows, you have five women offering different perspectives. Only a fool would understimate the power of that.

The show that seems to be geared towards more of a news feel is The Lisa Birnbach Show (airs, Monday through Friday, from nine am to noon). Only six of us listened to this show and we only listened once. Birnbach was discussing a subject in a way that felt was post-it. It wasn't a bumper sticker. It was a post-it. We're not in the mood for a superficial look at the news (this wasn't Birnbach attempting to be humorous, she seemed quite serious) and Jim was yelling to shut it off due to the reductionist factor of the commentary. Throughout the week, we considered listening again. We'd say, "It's not fair, we need to try it again." You know what, it's not fair. Neither is simplistic commentary. We have no plans to listen again.

However, you may enjoy it. We may at some point down the road. But right now, we've sworn off that show. (For the record, the topic wasn't Iraq. But having heard the treatment of another issue, that may be a good thing.) Not currently airing, but coming soon, is The Rolonda Show hosted by Rolonda Watts. We'll be sampling when it starts airing.

What the programs attempt to do is to reach an audience that's been pushed aside. They're attempting to have a conversation (think Donahue's daytime show and, if you're too young to remember, that was nothing like Jerry Springer). We think there's an audience for that. We think the mix of topics should be upped in terms of news, but even if that doesn't happen, an audience is being ignored currently and these programs should be able to reach them.

The programs, contrary to the slams, aren't unlistenable. They are very entertaining and they're often very informative. You'll laugh out loud with The Three Ritas and Women Aloud. But that's provided you can hear it. (You may also enjoy the third program. If you're a reader who always likes the books we don't, we especially suggest you listen to Birnbach.)

The slam line/thread is that there's no need for this type of programming. The line/thread then goes on to argue that women are all over the place on the radio dial. They must have different radios than we do (and must know many more than the token personalities they toss out). What we know is that Air America Radio started out with women, not a lot, on the air. The weekday daytime lineup included women. That quickly changed. Currently, you can hear a woman on Air America Radio in the morning if you're listening in another time zone because, EST, it's all men.

And that's "left radio." NPR seems scared at the thought of more than one woman host of a show. (They do like the laughable husband-wife duo that TV does.) Not all that long ago, a number of us were offended at a show airing on WBAI, supposedly geared to women, where the guest, with the host's approval, dished to the listeners (gals?) on how to get and keep a man. Listeners were told, forget that you worked all day and you're tired, get into that kitchen cause men sure do love a woman by a stove. The host lapped it up. We can't imagine that happening on GreenStone Media. If one of the Ritas suggested that, we're pretty sure two of them would be all up in her Kool Aid. That a guest offered that nonsense and that a host lapped it up and encouraged it demonstrates just how much GreenStone Media is needed.

What else can we tell you? Megan Mullally was among the guests. They had two more discussing education. The discussion are lively and funny. The Three Ritas and Women Aloud feature women you enjoy spending time with. GreenStone Media, check it out. Steinem's point, always misunderstood by The Times, is that there needs to be more sharing, the programming attempts to break down another wall.
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