“WYSO Audio Archives Project"
The following history was written by Andy Valeri, a long time WYSO volunteer and community media professional, as part of his masters degree research at the University of Dayton. At the time of its writing WYSO was owned by Antioch University and the archives project had just begun.
The following report features an overview of WYSO’s newly digitized audio library of programming, culled from the long-neglected collection of tapes and materials from the station’s history. It is the result of dozens of hours of listening to the material and of extensive conversations with some of the key individuals who were directly involved with WYSO, both as producers and as archivists, during the period of 1960 to 1978 from which the portion of material contained within the admittedly limited scope of this research emanates.
The report aims to address the following questions regarding the material:
What is the material within the archives?
Who produced it and why? What were the motivations for its creation?
How was the production of the material accomplished, and what role did station management and Antioch College play in supporting the creation of the large body of programming that was produced during the highly active and transformative period of the 1960’s and 1970’s?
What is the historical significance of the material? What value does it potentially hold for WYSO and Antioch University, as well as to the public at large, in making it as widely available and accessible as possible?
A list of programs reviewed from the archives, including extensive notes regarding their content as well as technical and production quality, are included at the end. These notes were assembled through my listening and research of the material, along with some additional augmentation from the research efforts of Deanna Ulvestad. I hope the information provided here proves to be a helpful and informative resource in support of the ongoing efforts to promote the existence of the archives, and to secure the further assistance necessary in order to continue the process of conversion and preservation of this invaluable repository of history.
WHAT DO THE ARCHIVES CONSIST OF?
It will probably come as no surprise to learn that there is a treasure trove of fascinating and historically important material comprising the multitude of tapes contained within the library of material currently in WYSO’s possession. The programming comes in a surprisingly wide range of content forms, from musical recordings and various arts and experimental audio collage programs, to local news documentaries and social issues discussions.
There are quite a number of straight up recordings documenting public lectures by various noted writers, poets, academics, political figures and the like, many of which were recorded on the campus of Antioch College or around the Miami Valley region. For example, there is a speech by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Dayton providing a fascinating glimpse at the recognition of the increasing influence that youth culture was having upon the trajectory of American society at the time. Johnson addresses this new generation as a “rich and inexhaustible and unpredictable resource,” and the challenge that democracy poses for this generation in an age of prosperity as opposed to adversity.
The Vietnam Colloquium held at Antioch in April of 1965 provides a detailed look into the depth of discussion already taking place in regards to the newly expanding war in Indochina. The event was of major national significance, reflective of the importance and influence that the institution of Antioch College held amongst the community of academics and national policymakers at the time. It was a multi-day event featuring a host of notable speakers, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, the future national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, and the legendary muckraking journalist I. F. Stone, both of whom appear through an early use of teleconferencing technology. Participants in the event were there representing a number of different perspectives, from those of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam (the Viet Cong), to that of the United States Defense Department, whose representative was none other than Daniel Ellsberg. Perhaps one of the collection’s most interesting possessions is the presentation by Ellsberg representing the government’s position for expanding the war in Vietnam. The irony of this is not lost upon those who know the history of Ellsberg’s later groundbreaking work in helping to bring the war to an end through the publication of the Pentagon Papers. This act made him, in the words of Henry Kissinger, “the most dangerous man in America,” a phrase which became the title for an Academy Award-nominated documentary on Ellsberg.
Documentary filmmaker and former WYSO producer Julia Reichert, an Academy nominee herself, met Ellsberg while attending the awards ceremonies in 2010, remarking to him that she remembered his appearance at Antioch at the time. Ellsberg remembered the Antioch event and had some personal observations regarding it. Fellow documentarian Steve Bognar pointed out that had this archival program been publicly available at the time the Ellsberg documentary was being produced, it would have made an invaluable addition to the material which could have been included in it. If anything, there could still be potentially useful interest on the part of the producers to include the material as a special additional feature on a future DVD release of the work. It seems quite likely that this particular piece would not be the only material contained within WYSO’s voluminous audio archives that could prove quite useful to documentarians for similar uses in other projects of this type. The insightful, provocative and often humorous lecture by lawyer William Kunstler comes readily to mind in this regard, considering the new documentary on his life produced by his daughters and released in 2010.
As the program inventory lists show, of both those that I have personally researched as well as all of those which have so far been preserved in the digital archives (to say nothing of the 3,000 some tapes still remaining to converted), this is, in the words of Nan Rubin, “a very significant collection” of work whose “value to the social history of the country is unbelievably important.”
What makes it such a collection? Perhaps it is the extensive collection of poetry readings by the likes of such preeminent figures as Archibald MacLeish, or that of the more radical kind by those of the Watts Writers Workshop and their post-MLK black liberation movement beat poetry. Here we experience some of the earliest precursors to what would become known today as rap and hip-hop. Amongst the collection is an exclusive interview with the legendary Studs Terkel, an interview Terkel himself describes as a “pretty hot show.” His discourse on the nature of jobs and work in our society is just as resonant today as it was when it was first recorded. Perhaps WYSO’s collection is significant because it possesses some rare and insightful interviews with Baldemar Velasquez, one of Ohio’s leading immigrant farm labor organizers, whose movement operated independently of that of the more famous, yet arguably less-effective Cesar Chavez. There is an interview with Clyde Bellcourt, a civil rights organizer of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and participant in the 1969-71 takeover of Alcatraz prison by Native Americans to bring attention to the plight of their increasingly disenfranchised communities.
Maybe the significance of the collection can be found in such programs as the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners lecture by labor organizer Saul Alinsky, or because of the recording of a Black Panther party seminar. Or maybe it’s the inclusion of Abbie Hoffman riffing off in his inimitable style with the student body of Antioch, all in a discussion laden with language which could never pass FCC muster for airtime today. There are the groundbreaking freeform jazz performances by the great Cecil Taylor, and the socially conscious concerts of Pete Seeger. And then there are those of an even more radical and politically charged nature by Phil Ochs, whose press conference and performance in Springfield, Ohio in 1972 provides perspectives on the civic environment at the time which, if you simply replaced the names, could serve as a template for the conditions surrounding the American presidential election of 2004.
There is the national executive director of the ACLU discussing opposition to the war in Vietnam, revealing the rather unsurprising fact that Yellow Springs has the greatest density per capita of ACLU membership than any community in Ohio. Another lecture features ACLU lawyer Alan Brown talking about the use of civil disobedience in society and the problems faced by protestors in the politically conservative culture of Cincinnati. There are student-produced programs on the tragedy of Kent State, approached from those same student’s perspectives. There are more such programs on the war in Vietnam, on local racial tensions, women’s rights, the rights of prisoners, and a whole host of social and civic interests and concerns, all of which make for an extensive repository of the kind of essential history which Rubin refers to. They provide an auditory canvass of political, sociological and cultural insights into this profoundly transformative period of history, often from the perspectives of those actively participating in creating those transformations. Nan Rubin, herself a former student manager at the station, calls the archive one of an “archetypal experience of the value of the 1960’s and 70’s… An amazing soundshot of a decade of foment on college campuses.” And Antioch College was at the forefront of the progressive student activism which was helping to lead this socio-political transformation in the country.
Antioch was an institution with an active legacy of progressive values, with a national reputation and connection to a diverse artistic, academic and policy making community. It was a place where many people wanted to come and could thanks to its geography. In an era when ground travel was still as prevalent as air travel is today, Yellow Springs served as a midway haven for travel between the major urban centers of Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, etc… The college’s well-connected faculty were instrumental in drawing people to the college, such as was exemplified by music professor John Ronsheim’s role in bringing some of the world’s most renowned jazz artists to Antioch to teach and perform.
From Alexander Kerensky to Cecil Taylor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Antioch was a location where some of the world’s most important figures of all fields and disciplines would come to display, discuss, and debate the issues and insights of the day. Antioch had always been a regionally-based locus of activity for social change and civic debate and these archives prove it, as WYSO was there to help chronicle much of this activity during these dramatic times.
This is evident from not just the list of material currently available to be preserved through the digital archiving project. Even more revealing is the extensive catalog of productions of which Gary Covino meticulously inventoried back during his tenure at WYSO in the mid 1970’s. This amazing list of productions which WYSO either produced, or else acquired for broadcast from other sister stations as part of the growing national consortium of non-commercial public radio networks, tells a story of a radio station operating at full-throttle in the forefront of the social and political change sweeping the nation, often from some very local perspectives. Unfortunately, much of this material has gone missing from the library and is no longer available, though additional research, as well as a public call out to former producers and related organizations, may solicit some additional contributions for preservation in the archival library.
Amongst the thousands of hours of programs chronicled in Covino’s lists are pieces on Cleveland politics in the 70’s under the mayoral guidance of a then-young Dennis Kucinich, documentaries on human rights violations in Guatemala, on-site interviews at Klan rallies in Columbus, Ohio, histories of women’s labor movements, investigations into corporate power in America and its effect on everyday Americans, and much, much more. If there was ever an operative example of Gandhi’s axiom to “think globally, act locally,” it was WYSO and its multitudes of producers working during that period of time. Who were these producers, and how did WYSO come to be such a fertile platform for the explosion of production which ensued during that era of time? Let’s take a look.
A NEW ERA OF PRODUCTION EMERGES AT WYSO
In the mid 1960’s, WYSO was a 750 watt station broadcasting for only 6 hours during the day, mainly of classical music with a couple of hours of programming provided by the “Collegiate National Network.” The Collegiate Network programming format was a precursor to the types of national public radio networks that would arise in the coming decades, though its content was rather unpopular with the students at the time, many of whom considered it rather stodgy and unlistenable. WYSO’s own production capabilities were mainly directed towards recording many of the events and speeches on campus and in the surrounding area, from which emanates an interesting and sizeable portion of the current archive’s documented materials.
When Jim Klein arrived at Antioch as a student in 1967, he became one of only a couple of students who worked at the station. He handled many of the daily engineering duties, and was often the person enlisted to do the recording documentation for the aforementioned campus events. The only student-produced programming being done at that time was usually late at night and broadcast via WYSO’s AM signal. This was a very small signal transmitted “over the pipes,” with an audio footprint barely perceptible outside of the campus region of Antioch. It was here where Jim and various friends would produce a host of different parody programs and the like, which were fun and creative outlets for the media-inclined amongst the student body, but with little public applicability outside of that.
All that changed however, and rather rapidly, with the arrival of John McChesney, a young, lefty-ish Antioch professor who went on to a lengthy career in production at National Public Radio, including as Senior Editor of programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. He and his fellow professor Jo Ann Wallace, supported by about 20 or so students, approached then station-manager Dick Barton about producing a daily news program on WYSO. Barton was the only paid employee of the station at the time, which was actually funded not as a university budget item, but out of Community Government funds. The program would be produced by enlisting the production support of students, and would be geared to both local and national news. Barton changed the course of WYSO and Antioch history by acquiescing to the request, and giving McChesney and company the go ahead to proceed with the production.
Almost immediately The People’s News generated a prairie fire of interest amongst a broad range of people, including the politically involved, artist and music types, and many just interested in the process of news gathering and media production. It was a half-hour news program, which at first comprised a lot of “rip and read” material taken from news services and newspaper reports, but eventually grew into its own full-fledged news gathering operation. Part of the news content was acquired from the Liberation News Service (LNS), which was run by Ray Mungo out of New York City, and was a backbone of information which kept many college stations going during that time. The LNS provided a packet of news stories and dispatches from all around the world, several times a week to local radio stations and print publications.
The immediate success of the news program led to an explosion of interest amongst the student body for increased participation with the station. During this time Jim Klein, as a student co-manager of station operations, went from working with a small handful of people to training upwards of 60 to 70 new students each quarter in audio news production, as well as in how to record and broadcast their programs. In an era when information and communication was a much more centralized process, with only a handful of news networks and television channels dominating the information environment, radio offered a new form of accessible mass media, in which the students could have a real voice in the community. It provided a platform for students to engage directly with the dramatic goings on of the times.
Due to the confluence of political and social circumstance prevailing at the time, it was a really important period for the growth of college stations, particularly WYSO. There was tremendous racial strife racking American society, and the political turmoil over Vietnam and the American bombing of Cambodia, with the resulting violence on American campuses such as that which took place at Jackson State and Kent State, resulted in many such campuses being shut down. Radio became the lifeline of communication between the various student bodies around the country. Once again, it was Antioch’s location right in the heart of it all, particularly with its proximity to Kent State, which helped make it an important nexus for national information and communication, this time between the student and civic organizing going on during this period. The use of telephone landlines would be the mechanism for reporting, discussion and debate regarding the ongoing events, in which “student run radio” (which is what WYSO was defined as before the term “community radio” came into definition later in the 70’s) was the primary national platform for widespread political organizing going on at the time.
It was during this new era of student production that Jim Klein got involved himself in doing documentary productions of his own, albeit somewhat inadvertently. Jim was on an assignment one night to document an appearance by noted civil rights activist Father James Groppi at Wittenberg University in Springfield. Groppi, however, chose not to speak at the university-sponsored event out of solidarity with the ongoing efforts by minority students to establish a black cultural center on the campus. Rather than pack up his gear and go home, Jim started to talk with the various attendees and participants about the issue, resulting in the creation of his first-ever documentary piece. What is notable about this incident is that Jim had no previous interest in pursuing documentary as a media form, but this inadvertent and unplanned introduction to the process resulted in what is now a 40-year career of acclaimed work in the field, including multiple Academy Award-nominations.
It seems that the history of WYSO is replete with such examples of notable careers first being launched through the introduction to the process of media making, which WYSO once actively offered to the students of Antioch and to members of the community of which it served. Jo Ann Wallace, Tim Crouse (who later established community radio stations in Texas), Angie Brown, Nan Rubin, Jay Tuck (a student manager of WYSO who went on to work in German television), John McChesney, Carol Pearson, Mark Mericle (who went on to KPFA), Gary Covino, Julia Reichert, all serve as just some of the other such examples of former Antioch and WYSO alumni moving on to notable careers in media production.
Julia’s is a particularly engaging story, as she became the producer of the first feminist radio show in the country entitled The Single Girl, in which she would play recordings of popular music at the time, analyzing it for its sexist lyrical content. It was a program which invited listener feedback, in which it received its share of (and by no means all of it positive). Her fearlessness in publicly addressing the topical issues of the day (along with helping to make them the topical issues of the day), as well as her ability to pursue the truth of the story, is quite evident even at an early age in her piece on the Nixon impeachment rallies she did for WYSO News. Of course we know what kind of remarkable career Julia has gone on to have since her days of producing at WYSO.
Klein’s involvement with the station continued with various documentary productions as well, including his multi-part series entitled The Student Left: A Personal View, in which he and went to the homes of students and talked to their parents about how they felt about their child being a “leftist” in American society. It was indicative of the kind of socially challenging and personally revealing programming that was taking place at WYSO during that time. Klein even once called his father live on the air, with whom he was not experiencing an overly warm and relationship with at the time, creating a somewhat uncomfortable but engaging radio experience. This was reality broadcasting long before the advent of today’s so-called “reality TV.”
WYSO CHANGES AND EXPANDS
Within a year of the debut of The People’s News, student involvement in the developing of new programming had taken a quantum leap forward. There were dozens of new productions on the air at WYSO, with “sign up slots” for new shows being posted regularly. The type and nature of the programming could be wildly divergent, resulting in ongoing debates as to what the purpose and direction of the station should be. Some wanted to produce more news and informational pieces, and looked to see WYSO as a platform for documenting and discussing the pressing social and political issues of the day. Others saw it as an opportunity to create more experimental programming, with less concern towards garnering audience share and more attention towards expanding the boundaries of the medium itself.
In order to accommodate both visions, there was the establishment of a “WYSO Red” and a “WYSO Blue,” each programmed during different times of the day, and each with its own identity and purpose. “WYSO Red” was established for more of the news and information programming, while “WYSO Blue” was created to showcase the more culturally artistic and experimental programming. Jim Klein’s “Experimental Philosophy 2” show, which he produced along with Tim Mabbe, the first student manager of WYSO and who took over the station upon the departure of Dick Barton, was an example of this kind of programming. It can be classified more as “radio art” than any kind of narrative production, and it may very well be where some of the currently unidentified audio collages within the archives emanate from.
Klein’s involvement in such a production is indicative of how the students saw the division between the two formats; not as one representing an inconsistency or a threat to one’s own preferences as to what the needs and purposes of the station were, but simply as a way to bring some coherent identity to the rapidly developing selection of programming being produced. Many producers were supportive of both formats, with some even produced programming applicable to both, as Jim’s program exemplifies. There was a unity of purpose which existed amongst the large proportion of producers at the time, a sense that they were all engaged in participating in a singular and unified wave of change, even if that single wave was made up of many different colors and flavors. It had much the same sense that one found amongst the burgeoning community of public access television which came on the scene a decade or so later, where people of all different stripes came together for many different reasons, but with a shared sense of purpose and endeavor.
By 1972 the situation at WYSO had dramatically changed from the time when participants such as Jim Klein and Julia Reichert had first arrived four years earlier. The two of them had gone from having no radio or documentary experience, to actually teaching one of Antioch’s student initiated courses in “Media For Political Action.” The final project for the course was to produce an original radio documentary piece to air on WYSO. The class was extremely popular, with Jim and Julia hoping to enlist 15 people into it, and instead having over 40 show up to attend it! They had to use affirmative action selection processes to decide who would be allowed to enroll amidst the tremendous popularity. This was their first experience working together as an educational team, which they later perfected with their key role in helping to develop the Wright State University film program into one of the preeminent programs in the country.
WYSO soon began to expand its operations throughout the greater Dayton region. A satellite Dayton studio was established as a branch of its operations, along with one inside the “Living Arts Center” in downtown Dayton (which may have been part of the Dayton Public Schools system, though I can’t confirm that as of yet). WYSO began broadcasting a number of live events from downtown. These included musical performances from over six different venues from around the region, which would host live concerts on the air. This was also part of an ongoing process of opening the station up to increasing participation by members of the general community, and not just to Antioch students. Some of those getting involved were politically active, and saw the station as an effective tool for that activism. Others were simply interested in the whole production process of radio. Others still were working class types that loved music, particularly bluegrass, and wanted to play the music to a wider, normally inaccessible audience.
By this time the station was in the collective management hands of Jo Ann Wallace and Mark Mericle (who was WYSO’s Dayton station manager), and they were committed to providing a broad scope of programming and making the station a full on “community station.” According to Gary Covino, “the bluegrass people” were very suspicious of these “lefties” that ran the station, and of their overall agenda for what they were trying to do with it. This scenario was indicative of the kinds of divergence of interests which were increasingly (and naturally?) forming over time amongst the volunteer base. This base had begun to coalesce into certain respective “collectives,” which reflected the respective interests and agendas of each of the groups.
Come the mid 1970’s the station was operating in full stride, with many who have been directly connected to the station describing it as its peak period of vibrancy and creative participation. There was a tremendous volume of local productions, many of which were being generated by WYSO’s volunteer base of over 200 active production volunteers, along with programming provided via the station’s connections to NPR and other national distribution consortiums. This growing influence of other community radio stations around the country, in which there was an increasing establishment of networks of distribution between the various stations, prompted more active debate amongst members about the nature of the WYSO and its future course. Should the station be dedicated to a strictly local focus, or should it provide for the inclusion of material produced by other like-minded entities around the country? This is a classic dilemma in community media, one which continues to confront most of these institutions around the nation to this day, particularly in the realms of radio and public access television.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WYSO AUDIO ARCHIVES
There is probably little that can be said that those already familiar with the archiving project don’t already know, regarding the irreplaceable value inherent in the material contained within the archive itself. It provides a tremendously important piece in the overall historical picture of not only life and action in the nation at that time politically, socially, culturally; but also evidence as to the important role that Antioch College played in those events. It provides an invaluable glimpse into Antioch during one of its more dynamic periods of existence, when the college was at its height of engagement, both in enrollment and in activity.
The period documented within the programming so far converted and which is the subject of my own research and review, is reflective of an exciting period for Antioch and its engaged students. The main reason for this, of course, was because of the profound and saturating changes that the country, and the world, was going through at this time. The civil rights struggles, the war in Vietnam, the burgeoning women’s liberation movement and more; Antioch became a hotbed of foment around all these issues. WYSO became a platform for documenting all of this, and not from the outside but often immediately within the midst of the action, as many of its producers were active participants in these very same movements for social change.
It is for all of these reasons that an organization such as the National Endowment for the Humanities would be extremely interested in the archiving project. Nan Rubin has remarked that the NEH could prove helpful in seeing WYSO’s efforts towards preserving this library of material continue to move forward into the future, in order to make sure that these fascinating and insightful audio histories are able to be shared with everyone.
It should be made clear, however, that these audio records, though providing important perspectives to certain social and political history in our region and in our nation, do not reflect any kind of comprehensive overview of the full range of programming being produced by WYSO during these periods. Inclusion of material into the WYSO library was often sporadic, and many of the interviews, documentaries and public affairs specials that dominate the currently inventoried archives, were kept by dint of their special and unique qualities. A vast majority of programming produced at the time was live, and recording on air was a rather difficult and cumbersome process, for which few producers bothered with. Thus, the library represents the news and spoken word orientation of WYSO, but not the overall history of the station. For that, we are left only with the various printed materials such as station logs, flyers, program schedules and the like from the stations records, to better piece together what was being done at WYSO at the time and by whom. Those materials, however, can also be made available through the digital archiving process as well, and plans for doing so are likely included in the overall archiving strategy being undertaken by WYSO and Antioch at the current time.
As much as is understood about the value of these works towards understanding the past, perhaps one of the most important contributions they can make is towards how we approach the future. Their re-discovery provides us with an opportunity to see how certain visions towards how we approach our respective roles and responsibilities in society, and what the things are that we value the most in it, are still just as valid and relevant today as they were 40 years ago. We can rediscover how radio can serve as a medium for more creative engagement with the issues and concerns of our day. Today, there is a prevailing dominance in our media system of a certain market mentality towards how public radio “should” sound, in which it has managed to become more “predictable,” more “formatted,” often using its platform to echo the same prevailing orthodoxy of perspective, leaving little room for the public in “public” radio. Experiencing the vibrant, engaging, insightful, provocative sounds of the WYSO of yesterday may provide us with an effective model and helpful roadmap towards guiding a WYSO of tomorrow; a WYSO which can creatively reclaim that energy and that connectivity to the community that it serves.
RESEARCH PROJECT - CONCLUDING NOTES
The preceding research was written for Neenah Ellis, general manager of WYSO 91.3FM, and for the historical archives of the station, which serves as the primary public radio station for the greater Miami Valley region of Ohio. Because the information contained was prepared to address certain specific topics of primary interest to her regarding the history of the WYSO audio archives, a number of details and descriptive references which may have proven helpful to the average reader were not included here. They would have proven needlessly descriptive and overly redundant to Ms. Ellis, considering her own experience in the field of public radio, as well as a distraction from presenting the core information of interest to her and in direct relevance to the archives project.
It may be helpful to point out why there was the emphasis on the specific time period of the 300 or so programs selected by WYSO for the initial conversion process, considering that there are over 3,000 that the station currently has on hand to choose from. Selection of the material was based upon the criteria of a Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grant awarded to WYSO in the summer of 2009 in order to initiate this project. The grant requirements stipulated that one of the primary focuses of this national archiving endeavor was to chronicle programming produced during and about the civil rights movement era of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. WYSO was a prime candidate for this project, considering the many reasons explained in the research presented here, and so they were one of only a couple of dozen or so public stations to receive the grant money for the project (and one of only a small handful of radio stations, most being television facilities).
There have been a number of discussions and ideas generated regarding some of the potential uses for the material, and the objectives which would hope to be achieved by making as much of it as widely available as possible. These ideas would most likely prove quite interesting to the outside reader, though considering Ms. Ellis is already at the forefront of these plans, rehashing them over again within the context of this report would be unnecessary for her purposes. The prime focus of this project was to provide as much research into the actual content of the material so far preserved through the conversion process and, more importantly, to provide some historical context as to its origins and the role that WYSO played in its creation and distribution.
One of its aims of this work is to better prepare Ms. Ellis and WYSO for producing presentations of their own on the subject, designed to both further promote the existence of the material and its history, as well as to help garner additional financial and logistical support in continuing the archiving process on a regular basis into the future. The original CPB grant has expired, and unless further interest is generated in contributing to the project, no more archiving of WYSO’s vast repository of historical programming can be accomplished. The goal is to establish a permanent and ongoing process of preservation for the aural history of our region and of our nation, as captured through the work of the many WYSO producers through the generations.
Detailed background information as to some of the people interviewed in the course of this research was omitted as Ms. Ellis, a long time public radio producer and audio documentarian herself, is already personally familiar with many of the individuals referenced within the work. Ellis has an extensive history in public radio and audio documentary, including decades of experience producing for NPR, and is the recipient of three Peabody Awards. She is the founding producer of Hear It Now, which presents the work of radio producers from around the world at public listening events. She has also served for many years as an audio archivist documenting personal histories of survivors of the Nazi genocide at the national Holocaust Museum Memorial in Washington D.C.
There were a host of individuals who served as prime sources of information in the pursuit of this research. Included amongst these was Deanna Ulvestad, head archivist of the Greene County Public Libraries, and the principle figure who has been overseeing the WYSO audio archives project. She is a member of the Society of Ohio Archivists, with decades of professional experience in the field. Her detailed work on this project, both of the content and the processes involved in the actual archival documentation of it, were an invaluable key in helping to unlock the doors to this treasure trove of newly explored material.
Another extremely helpful resource was Jim Klein, an Academy-nominated documentary filmmaker and professor of film at Wright State University. As a student at Antioch College from 1967 to 1971, and serving as only one of two student employees of WYSO at the time, Klein was intimately involved in the recording and production of a good portion of the material that has been documented in the archive. His partner in the Wright State film program, Julia Reichert, is also a documentary filmmaker who has herself received multiple Academy Award nominations (including one in 2010 for her film “The Last Truck,” produced with co-director Steven Bognar about the closing of the General Motors plant in Moraine). Reichert’s student years at Antioch were filled with scores of audio production projects at WYSO, including her series “The Single Girl,” the first feminist radio show in the country. Feminism and radically progressive politics were a major theme of much of her work there (a few elements of which have been preserved within the archives). Reichert’s later film work was reflective of her endeavors at WYSO, which were often focused on finding ways for under-represented communities of people to have their own stories told, since it is only when these perspectives are documented through media can they become history.
Other important sources of information for this research work include Nan Rubin, who has been involved in public media, both from a production standpoint as well as in management, since her days at Antioch in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Her current work as the project director for the Library of Congress’ “Preserving Digital Public Television” initiative made her an especially valuable resource for insight into what a tremendous historical value the archive represents (one can read more on her current project at www.ptvdigitalarchive.org). Rubin, once the student manager at the station, provided useful background information on how WYSO’s library of material (for which Rubin has her own level of personal familiarity with) could prove to be an extremely popular resource for a wide-range of audiences.
Gary Covino also lent his personal insights towards shaping a better understanding of what the material is contained within the WYSO archives and what its potential uses entail. He is a long-time public radio producer, both at NPR and elsewhere, and was the producer of the 1990’s program The Wild Room, which he co-hosted with Ira Glass (now of This American Life,). Covino got his start working in radio as a student intern at WYSO through the mid 1970’s. He was the person responsible for much of the written documentation that still exists pertaining to the programs that were airing on WYSO at the time, as well as those which had previously existed within the stations’ library (since a good number of those listed in Covino’s inventories can unfortunately no longer be found on the premises of WYSO or Antioch College).
The various and often lengthy discussions engaged in with these individuals were often as interesting, if not more so, than even the exploratory process of discovery of the material itself.
They provided invaluable insight and context into not only what the material is and where it emanates from, but also as to what its potentially profound importance is as a part of the historical record of America. It was a privilege to be amongst only a very small handful of individuals to date to be able to rediscover this vast repository of audio history, and to help in the efforts to bring it back into the public domain where it belongs.
Andy Valeri is a long time community media professional. He is an advocate for communication and information rights, and holds an MA in an originally designed graduate program from the University of Dayton in Media, Communication and Human Rights. He has also created and operated his own music production and publishing company, and serves as part time co-pilot of the long running WYSO radio program "Around The Fringe."