Commentary by Patrick Stout (Reprinted with Permission of the Author)
Unpaid Workers staff WTND Radio
As low power community radio WTND celebrated its 15th Anniversary Saturday, it became evident that a number of Macomb residents are serving the station as unpaid staff to free up donations to pay for music programming and monthly operational bills.
Some volunteers include music show host Sam Parker, local interview host and community events recorder Mike Selders, and writer and board secretary Elaine Hopkins, Station founders Tom DePauw and Darryl Roberts, both legally blind, have relied on radio for entertainment and information all their lives.
DePauw said the Highlight of their broadcasting careers before moving to Macomb, was when they were hired as music programmers and librarians in Chicago by the legendary Art Roberts. The WLS radio personality had taken over management of another radio station.
“Art was the only one in town who would give us a chance,” said Roberts. Their music programming gave the duo thoughts of on-air work and of eventually building a radio station.
DePauw said their first Macomb efforts involved programming through the amateur radio band and satellite radio. Lisa Allyn heard their broadcasts in another state and decided to move to Macomb and handle computers for them.
The FCC was phasing out the old 10-watt college radio station but realized there was a need for small community broadcast operations. The agency opened up a small window for licensing low power FM stations and DePauw and Roberts were awarded the license for WTND.
“Someone donated a radio transmitter and it took us a couple of days to realize it was on our porch,” DePauw said. Jackie Pollock, the radio station’s events director, said she moved from Seattle to Macomb to work at WTND.
Hopkins said she enjoys the network of news programming aired on the station, including “Democracy Now,” “Counterspin,” and Harry Shearer’s “Le Show.”
DePauw said WTND was the only local station to air live-on-tape coverage of the return of Macomb reservists from overseas in 2005. He said that garnered them national recognition, and that the station was recently interviewed for a Chicago Tribune series on low power community radio stations.
Patrick Stout is a correspondent and twice-weekly columnist for the McDonough County Voice