Northern Community Radio Volunteer Resource Book Last Update: May 2013 Introduction 3-4

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Northern Community Internet (

Please promote Northern Community Internet dot org (NCI) as part of your radio or online programming. You will often find NCI promotional information on the clipboard. And, if you are looking for a comprehensive calendar of community events, check out Northern Community Internet dot org’s calendar.

The purpose of Northern Community Internet dot org is to strengthen local communities by building their capacity to use electronic communication, including the Internet, and by creating a regional network of active local Internet sites for communities in the “lakes and forest bioregion” of northern and central Minnesota. We hope Northern Community Internet dot org will be an online equivalent to the radio stations—helping build community on the Internet.
Northern Community Radio operates 18 local community websites, each with its own domain, operating within the Northern Community Internet dot org network. Six of these are “area” sites which incorporate content from nearby communities. The six area communities are:
Bemidji (including separate pages for Walker and Blackduck)

Brainerd (includes Aitkin and Cayuna Range)

Cass Lake/ Leech Lake

Grand Rapids (includes Edge of the Wilderness, Greenway, Deer River)

Iron Range (includes Hibbing, Chisholm, Virginia, Eveleth, Ely)

Park Rapids

Each local site includes sections for people to share a variety of content: local classified ads, local web site list and search, local news, local blogs, community calendars, photo/video feeds and community journalism. Other sections are a community Twitter feed; a community marketplace/coupon page; and an “Our Stories” section that includes places for family news, obituaries, wedding and other community celebrations and community stories. The Bemidji, Cass Lake/Leech Lake and Grand Rapids sites also contain sections for local community forums developed in partnership with e-Democracy.
The goal is to make it easy for people to use the web sites to share the content they create with their local community. Northern Community Internet launched in January, 2009. It is still growing in usage and relevancy, and has yet to reach its potential.


On-air fundraisers are obviously important as a means for Northern Community Radio to finance its operation, but for other reasons as well. On-air membership drives are Northern Community Radio’s largest single source of revenue and are the primary way we find new members. They give us an opportunity to tell listeners about who we are and what the organization stands for.

You will generally not be expected to participate in on-air fundraising until you have at least one year’s experience on the air. However, if you agree to participate in on-air fundraising, you will be expected to pitch in wholeheartedly, to know what’s going on (continuity, fundraising theme), and to work in cooperation with a staff partner. You must also be a member if you are going to ask others to join the organization!

At Northern Community Radio we think in terms of a fundraising show. The idea is to make the fundraiser a tune-in to the extent that this is possible. Fundraisers are planned months in advance. In addition to information, they contain elements of zaniness, plot, surprise and suspense.

When fundraising, it is tempting to put one’s own ego on the line. Don’t. Unlike some stations, programming decisions here are not made based on the amount of money earned during your show. Your voice on the air as a volunteer is important to the organization’s fundraising success. If you do your best, that’s good enough.

The decision that turns a listener into a giver is based on a number of factors, most of which do not take place during the fundraiser itself. Many things have to be in place before a person decides to make a pledge, including the following:

First and foremost (and most importantly) the person has to listen to our programming. Remember, programming drives listening drives fundraising. The choice to listen is affected by every program element, from what programs are aired on the station and when, to how they are presented, to our positioning statements and the attitudes of our on-air drives.

Second, the listener must rely on the service. The station must speak consistently to the interests and attitudes of the listener. We must validate the person’s values and resonate with their cultural references. Over time, the station becomes integral to the listener’s life. The more years spent listening, and the more time spent listening each week, the more likely the person will give.

Third, the person must hold some personal beliefs that contribute to a sense that the station is personally important, such as a sense of community. He or she would miss the station if it were gone.

Also, a listener who believes listeners pay the bills and that government grants are minimal is more likely to contribute.

Finally, the listener must have enough money to pledge (this is the least important element of the decision. Many people make pledges regardless of their financial circumstances).

While fundraisers can TRIGGER a pledge, it is the programming—over time—that CAUSES a pledge. A pledge is more a measure of people’s use, reliance, and appraisal of our entire program service than your ability to rake in money at fundraising time.

It is helpful to remember the following when fundraising:

Stay calm, coherent, rational.

We hold fundraisers to try to reach new members. Spend very little time asking for renewals.

Avoid creating a chaotic soundscape in the ears of listeners. One person should speak at a time. Give your partner space when you’re on the air.

Remember to include both an emotional and a rational appeal.

Call premiums “thank you gifts” or “cheap but fabulous trinkets”—anything but premiums.

Call marathons “membership drives” or “pledge drives.”

Choose only a couple of “thank you gifts” to offer per shift, so as not to create confusion. This also helps avoid the “home shopping network” sound. The big premium is the station. Everything else is only a cheap-but-fabulous prize.

Ditto if you’re giving away CDs. Just pick one. Make it easy for the phone answerers.

If the premium is in the station, use a post-it note to put the pledger’s name on the premium and physically put it on the member services manager’s desk.

Remember that rewards aren’t always immediate. The work you do on the air now may bear fruit later. An absence of calls doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. Some times of day are just better for getting pledges than others. Sometimes you are doing such a good job that people just want to listen rather than go to the phone!

Enjoy the spontaneity of live radio—this is the real thing. You learn a lot during fundraisers and can have a lot of fun.

Remember that your program is the main pitch. Do your best to make great programs for people to enjoy. You DO have to ask for pledges though. Just playing music definitely isn’t going to work.

Talk to listeners as individuals rather than picturing a faceless mass. Say to yourself, “We are sharing this (intimate) moment together.”

Avoid frustration. If something goes wrong, back out of it, regroup, take a break, don’t apologize.

Be positive.

Avoid pleading, whining, begging, threatening.

Avoid projecting disappointment or feelings of rejection.

Avoid saying “The phones aren’t ringing” even if they aren’t. People call when it’s convenient.

Avoid blaming listeners or yourself for anything. Psychic energy will often be at a premium, expectations are high, staff members are often tired and/or wired. Fundraising run amok inflicts collateral damage. Remember that one third of the people listening to any particular pitch have already given.

Make listeners think everything is hunky-dory and that we’re having a wonderful time whenever they tune in—even if it isn’t and we aren’t.

Smile. Even when you’ve said the phone numbers for the thousandth time.

Be upbeat, entertaining, listenable. Resentment of fund drives makes KAXE and KBXE less important in listeners’ lives, and resentment is definitely not linked to giving.

Keep pitches 3 minutes or less. This does not include other, entertaining things that may happen on-mic that can be considered part of the program.

Talk things over with your partner in advance before bringing them up on the air to avoid putting anyone on the spot.

A pledge pitch generally consists of 4 basic parts:

YO! Get the listener’s attention, orient him or her, recap what’s happening

THINK! Give listeners information to help them decide to pledge

FEEL! Give the information a twist that allows listeners to buy in on a feeling level—make it go to the heart—show that it affects them personally

ACT! Go to the phone. Do it now. Dial 326-1234 or 1-800-662-5799 (or 333-9005 in Bemidji).

In general, it is easier to present the close (YO/ACT) than to make the case (THINK/FEEL). Be sure to include “why” people should pledge in every break. Use listener-centered messages rather than station-centric messages. Focus on how our organization and its programming make a difference in people’s lives and in our community rather than on what we need.


Volunteer and staff on-air performance may be evaluated. Evaluations are done by or under supervision of the program director. Evaluations are given in the spirit of supporting good programming practices, improving performance, clarifying expectations, and assuring success, and should be seen as an opportunity for growth and feedback.

Evaluation is usually informal. It may simply consist of a talk with the program director or music director..

Formal, written evaluations can also be given upon request, but these take a lot of staff time and are done infrequently. You can evaluate your own performance by listening to an air check and comparing it to the program description.

Northern Community Radio History

Northern Community Radio was incorporated in February 1971 by Rich and Suzi McClear, David Molvik, and Dale Constantine, who constituted its first Board of Directors (the original name of the corporation was Minnesota Public Radio, a name which Rich gave up at Bill Kling’s request before KAXE went on the air). After a long period of fundraising and building, which included people and organizations from all parts of the community, the station signed on the air on April 23, 1976, with a week of all-local content.

KAXE had to be constructed and equipped without benefit of Corporation for Public Broadcasting start-up support, because a rural public radio station of this type had not been tried anywhere in the United States before. The federal government did not believe a station located in a rural environment could succeed. KAXE’s genesis has been described as something akin to a barn-raising. The mostly second-hand equipment was of marginal quality, and KAXE’s first transmitter was described as “held together with bubble gum and bailing twine.” However, although profit margins for rural, public radio are narrow, KAXE has survived in its environment to become a model for other rural stations nationally.

It took a long time for Northern Community Radio to achieve a measure of financial and organizational stability. Like all organizations, it matured in fits and starts, sometimes moving ahead, sometimes falling behind, and more than once suffering near-disasters. External expectations (what the station seems to be to listeners—non-authoritarian and counter-cultural, with a laid back, volunteer-driven air sound) and internal reality (what the station really is—authority concentrated under a general manager, with a mission-driven, “listeners first” programming philosophy constrained by the FCC and financial exigencies and with a paid staff) have almost always been different.

In 2012 Northern Community Radio opened a second station, KBXE. KBXE’s studio is in Bemidji, and its transmitter/tower are in Shevlin. Altogether KAXE and KBXE’s signals cover much of northern Minnesota.

Appendix A: Definitions and Acronyms
Aircheck: A recording of a radio program is called an aircheck. An aircheck is a record of an entire show and is useful for monitoring segues and technical execution, music and program flow. It is less useful than a skim for monitoring break structure because the time elapsed between breaks hinders recognition of repetition and patterns.
Ampers: Ampers is the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations. It is a voluntary affiliation of radio stations in Minnesota that are not part of MPR. Ampers operates a statewide joint underwriting project, whereby underwriting can be sold on any or all of the stations and profit is shared among the stations based on a distribution formula. Ampers also lobbies the state legislature for funding for public broadcasting and coordinates the MN Arts and Cultural Heritage Funding appropriated to the Ampers stations via the MN legislature.
Clipboard Promo: Clipboard promos are announcements about events sponsored or co-sponsored by Northern Community Radio. Often promo announcements have direct impact on organizational finances. Occasionally other information is added to the promo schedule. Promo announcements are read often, 2 or 3 times per air shift. No announcement may be put on the clipboard without permission from staff.

CPB: Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB, which was created in 1967 through an act of Congress, distributes federal money appropriated by the US legislature to public radio stations in the form of a grant: the CSG or Community Service Grant, 29% of which must be spent on national program production and acquisition. Eligibility for federal grants is determined by the number of full-time staff, budget size of the station, transmitter power, how many hours per day the station is on the air, and program content.

EAS: EAS is the Emergency Alert System. EAS replaced the old EBS system in 1998. Volunteers are required to know how to use the EAS system, primarily as a public safety issue but also in the event of an actual FCC inspection. Complete instructions for operating the EAS are contained in the Operating Manual in the air studio. These should be read ahead of time and referenced in the event of an emergency or FCC inspection.

Fader: A slider to control volume on a mixing console.

FCC: Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is the legal and regulatory government agency that interprets and enforces broadcast law in the United States. The FCC conducts regular inspections of radio stations. During an FCC inspection you will be expected to know how to operate the transmitter, keep proper logs, know the location of the public inspection file, and conduct EAS tests. If an FCC inspection occurs when you are on the air, notify the general manager, engineer or other staff immediately.

Feed: A feed is an event where information is received at the station off the satellite. On the receiving end, we call it “taking a feed.” Taking a feed means recording it. Feeds are recorded onto a computer hard drive. A satellite transmission can also be directed to the on-air console for immediate broadcast (like All Things Considered) or both recorded and broadcast (like World Café). Feeds are controlled by computer. The staff takes care of feeds. Feeds are archived in the ENCO computer library.

Legal ID: On the hour, each hour, or as close to the hour as possible (hopefully within about 5 minutes either side), the FCC requires all broadcasters to identify themselves in a very specific way. The call letters of the station must be read, followed by the city of license (as in “KAXE, Grand Rapids” or “KBXE, Bagley”, the most minimal legal IDs possible). Between the call letters and city of license only 2 things may be inserted—the name of the licensee (Northern Community Radio) and/or the frequency (91.7-FM). PLEASE READ OFFICIAL LEGAL IDS VERBATIM FROM THE ID STATEMENT ENSHRINED IN PLASTIC IN EACH OF THE AIR STUDIOS. These contain the legal information in the correct order plus additional information in the station’s interest.

NFCB: National Federation of Community Broadcasters. The NFCB is an organization that represents community broadcasters and their concerns in negotiations at the national and federal level and serves as a technical station resource. The NFCB also organizes an annual conference for member stations.

NPR: National Public Radio is a private, nonprofit membership organization and production house for radio stations in the public broadcasting system. Its first program was broadcast in 1971. NPR also manages the satellite distribution network on behalf of public radio in the US. NPR distributes the “newsmagazines” All Things Considered and Morning Edition (and their weekend counterparts), news talk programs, and cultural programs (including World Cafe). NPR also provides member stations with professional development and representation in Washington DC and on a number of issues. There are currently about 268 NPR affiliate organizations operating 797 member stations and associate stations. Northern Community Radio is a full member of National Public Radio and pays membership dues to NPR in addition to paying for specific programs and the satellite downlink. NPR member stations elect members to NPR’s Board of Directors.

Operating Log: The Operating Log is a legal document and record of the operation of KAXE’s transmitter, EAS tests sent and received, tower lights checked, duty operator names and shifts. Logs must be signed and always written in blue or black ink. Logs are reviewed at least weekly by the chief operator of the station or his or her designate. Logging errors will be brought to the attention of the duty operator.

Operations: “Operations” describes a set of job duties in a radio station involving feeds and recordings. It is a technical job requiring accuracy and timing. The PD and engineer are in charge of operations at Northern Community Radio.

Playlist: The playlist is a record of what you play on the air. It is a reference for your and the staff’s use. It also serves as a reference for listeners who may call days or months later for information about a tune they heard “around 10:15 last Thursday…” At one time playlists were paper records. They are now electronic and accomplished through software called Playlist Center. During reporting periods for recording industry audits, playlists must be sent in so that each tune can be tied to a specific number of online listeners and reported.

Positioning Statement: A positioning statement is a brief message that lets listeners know what Northern Community Radio is all about—what the organization stands for. The organization’s current positioning statement is “Authentic, Local Radio.” Other positioning statements tell listeners that Northern Community Radio is a nonprofit organization that builds community. Positioning statements are repetitious, but in their repetition they accomplish the goal of creating a specific and intentional community perception of the organization.

Pot: A knob to control volume on an old-fashioned mixing console, analogous to a fader but round; a dial.

Program Log: The Program Log is also known as the “rundown” and is a roadmap or outline for the breaks and announcements you make during an air shift. Special attention should be paid to logging legal IDs at the beginning of every hour. Underwriting announcements, weather, and other program requirements are also on the Program Log. Logs must be signed, always in blue or black ink.

PRX: PRX is the Public Radio Exchange. It is an online clearinghouse for programs and other audio content. Stations and independent producers can upload programs to PRX, and stations and individuals can download programs for their use. Northern Community Radio pays an annual fee to upload and download programs via PRX. Ampers uses PRX for program sharing related to MN Arts and Cultural Heritage Funding.

PSA: Public Service Announcements are submitted by bona fide 501(c)(3) nonprofit or government organizations for airing and arrive at Northern Community Radio either as announcements or press releases. Normally, PSAs must be rewritten and put on a 3 X 5 card for easy reading and handling. Processing time for PSAs is about a week. The PSA card contains a kill date (date to stop reading it) and often also has NFA (not for air) information for persons inquiring further. PSAs are free, not paid, and are read as time allows. All PSAs must be submitted to staff prior to airing (the FCC requires that on-air content be controlled by Northern Community Radio as licensee). PSA information can also be obtained from the Northern Community Internet online calendar.

SCR: SCR stands for subcarrier. FM stations like ours have two subcarrier channels that can broadcast outside the usual broadcast radio spectrum. One of KAXE’s subcarriers is used to broadcast Radio Talking Book, a service for sight-impaired people. Subscribers to Radio Talking Book must use special radio receivers that can pick up the 67 kHz subcarrier frequency. Transmission on a subcarrier channel can degrade a primary broadcast signal somewhat, so to make up for this, primary signal modulation can legally be increased 5% above 100% for each subcarrier used for signal transmission. There are organizations that will pay substantial sums to use subcarriers for things like pagers and Muzac.

Skim: A skim is an aircheck that records only when the mic is turned on. The Enco system automatically records a skim of every program and keeps these for a couple of years. Skims are extremely useful to critique break structure and announcing techniques and find where technical errors occurred.

Stand By”: A verbal warning used to indicate that the mic will be turned on and visitors in the studio are to be quiet.

STL: The STL is the studio-to-transmitter link. Our STLs are low-powered microwave transmitters that carry our signals to their respective towers. At the tower, the signal is picked up, sent into the main transmitter and is subsequently broadcast. The STL antenna is located on the 90’ tower outside the building at KAXE’s studios. KBXE’s STL is on the Federal Building in Bemidji.

Traffic: “Traffic” is a set of job duties involving scheduling of announcements and flow of communications at a radio station. The traffic person makes sure announcements are scheduled properly and content is accurate.

Underwriting Card: Listeners are entitled to know who is paying to underwrite the programs they hear on public radio. Businesses that underwrite are entitled to air a brief message about the nature of their business. Underwriting cards are filed in a file box in the air studio. They have to be read as closely as possible to the time stated on the program log, then the appropriate box checked and actual time of reading filled in (if appropriate—look for brackets if time logging is necessary: [ ] ). Don’t change the wording on UW cards. Don’t ad lib UW cards or add information. If there is a problem with cards or wording, notify the development director. Do not write messages on logs or cards.

VU Meter: A “V-U” meter is a window with needles or lights to monitor loudness of audio through a sound console. Peaks should register 0 decibels. Over-modulation results from too-loud sound, under-modulation from too-soft sound. Our modulation processors will enhance under-modulated audio and damp over-modulated audio to a point, but some distortion or hiss might result. The best sound results if you monitor the VU meters closely.

Appendix B: On-Air Evaluation Form:
I. Technical

A. Logs:

Was program log followed?

Program log filled in correctly?

Operating log filled in correctly?

B. Levels:

Consistent between music and mic?

Not too hot or too low?

  1. Extraneous noise from equipment and its use:

D. Segues/cues: gaps, dead air, sense of timing

  1. Play list filled in correctly and completely:

  2. Demonstrates understanding of broadcast law regarding indecency, promotion, etc:

II. Performance

A. Voice quality and tone (real people on the air, but not amateurish, not affected):

B. Mic technique:

Positioning of mic, levels, sense of space:

Noise (snarfs, snurfs, pops, annoying habits):

C. Clarity of expression (ums, ahs, sentence structure):

D. Accuracy (time, weather, announcements, pronunciation):

E. Preparation (written copy smoothly read, sense that the program was planned rather than thrown together):

F. Energy, pace, appropriate enthusiasm (neither too laid back nor too frenetic or commercial-sounding):

  1. Audience-centered and -focused:

  2. Rapport/companionability:.

III. Program

A. IDs:

KAXE and KBXE mentioned at least once in every break:

Legal ID contains required information:

Program identity consistent with the organization overall:

B. Promotion:

Of this show:

Of other programs:

Of the stations/organization:

Recruitment (volunteers/members):

C. Transitions:

Into program:

Within program (forward and back-announcing):

Into the next program (should not sound like an ending):

D. Content:

Appropriate to the time/schedule:

Appropriate to the program description/intention:

What worked best?

What didn’t work so well?
IV: Other comments

Appendix C: Program Focus Statements and Core Values

PROGRAM: On the River

Focus Statement:

Entertain listeners with a variety music program that creates a soundtrack for their lives

Core Values:

  • Unified mix of musical styles

  • Balance of elements (e.g.: fast/slow, male/female, old/new, instrumental/vocal, etc)

  • Dynamic flow (sense of movement)

  • A natural and engaging presentation that respects listeners (some differences due to time of day, the way people use radio, etc)

PROGRAM: Centerstage MN

Focus Statement:

Strengthen our sense of place and community by showcasing the lives and talents of Minnesota musicians and supporting the local music scene

Core Values:

  • A variety of musical styles

  • History, context and background

  • Texture (several elements in every show, including live performance)

  • Local music information

PROGRAM: Between You and Me

Focus Statement:

Engage people in sharing the human experience

(Feeling of rootedness, home, eliminate loneliness, talk about stuff that’s important to us, look at what we hold in common, help remove the barriers between people, “The human experience” means reaching a deeper level of human understanding, the “the” is important.)

Core values:

  • Textured (includes emotional range—feelings, humor, serious; audio components—aural, many kinds of sounds; range of participants)

  • Northern Minnesota (sense of place)

  • Intimate (not superficial, personal, eavesdropping)

  • Audience participation

PROGRAM: The Morning Show

Focus Statement: Entertain listeners with information about our regional culture

Core Values:

  • Inclusive (people of all ages, walks of life welcome; we’re all in this together)

  • Regional (applies to most of the communities in our listening area)

  • Informative (topics and issues important to us here)

  • First Person (personal stories, experience, and point of view)

  • Respectful

  • Entertaining

PROGRAM: Culturology

Focus statement: to connect audiences with arts, history and culture in northern MN.

4 Core elements:

  • Engagement (A focus on getting people actually involved in whatever it is, whatever they do, including making stuff and going to stuff)

  • Discovery (The program will help us discover things we didn’t know, including the many people around here doing cool things as artists and artisans, local historians or whatever)

  • Variety (The idea is that the variety of cultural expression is so huge – writing books and scrapbooking, cooking wild rice and playing in a symphony – that kind of variety will be reflected in the program) 

  • Texture (Meaning the microphone leaves the studio, there’s a mix of live performance, interview, etc., that there’s humor and a range of tone, that there are many voices and ages, and that production values are as high as possible – the show itself is an act of culture, and strives to be art)

PROGRAM: Green Cheese

Focus statement: Use call-in trivia to convey a sense of northern MN community

Core elements:

  • Engagement (regular participants will see themselves as a community of callers, [currently aka “Cheesers”])

  • Respect (The program engages callers through the respectful participation of the host [this includes humor but does not include content intended to shock listeners, for example]. The program also considers and respects the non-calling audience. The majority of the audience listens on the radio and does not call in)

  • Inclusion (the program involves all ages and communities)

  • Interaction (Green Cheese is an interactive broadcast where the callers and the places they call from are “characters” in the show)

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