One of the most humbling and heartwarming aspects of my former work in media was the position of public service director. The job required me to canvass the communities in our station’s primary signal reach area and reach out to non-profit organizations, service organizations, and other people who provide help to people in need or who advance community aid and improvement. The bulk of these groups are traditional non-profit organizations, churches, schools, and government agencies that provide direct assistance to the public.
It was my responsibility to find ways that the radio station could involve itself in the promotion of particular non-profit organizations and individuals by on-air outreach and interviews of spokespersons of the organizations and agencies. Much of the station’s involvement also regarded the allocation of free time via public service announcements.
We provided free promotional publicity about fund raising events and a space for organizations to inform our listeners about their missions and why they needed public involvement or funding in their organizations.
The most difficult part of the job was having to select the non-profits and public service events that would actually receive the free airtime and station involvement. Since commercial airtime is a broadcaster’s means for profit, non-commercial time is a very scarce commodity. The need to prioritize which non-profit efforts would get prime airtime and those that would be relegated to overnights was a hard call.
Nearly every one of my workdays included meeting with at least one spokesperson of a worthy organization or agency. I not only met some amazing, selfless people. The job enabled me to piece together the overall needs of my own city and county, but the towns and regions nearby. This overview was not only important to the job, but changed my own personal view of the world.
It was rewarding to see and hear about some of the results of the station’s collaboration with these groups and individuals. The job was a very real opportunity for hands-on learning about some of the nuts and bolts of keeping a community together. Best of all was the actual networking with people whose main purpose in life is to be of service to others.
I came to authentically understand that true success is often measured in ways that do not conform to the usual yardsticks of wealth and prestige. Public service is one way for people who don’t fit in the box, to be an important part of the community.
The question about how we can help serve our communities and our nation comes to mind today as we observe Martin Luther King, Junior Day. Public service was a primary part of his personal mission to humanity.