For the past 40 years, Allegheny Mountain Radio – originally WVMR – has served as a source of news, entertainment and history for Pocahontas County. In that time, it has expanded to include FM stations as well as stations and staff in Highland and Bath counties in Virginia.
First and foremost, the radio station has always been community-based and it recently joined a nationwide initiative to get the community more involved with creating content.
“It’s the Community Cares Initiative,” station program director Heather Niday said. “This is something started by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.”
The initiative is in its second year and is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
“Basically, it gives stations some tools to make better communications, better connections, with their audiences and their communities,” Niday said.
Station manager Scott Smith received an email about the program last year and after discussing the details with Niday, the two decided they wanted AMR to participate.
The project begins with research, and that began during Pioneer Days. AMR created a simple, five question survey, asking the community what it would like to hear on the radio and in podcasts which would be broadcast on the radio and online.
“We’re going to keep going to festivals and other events to get these surveys out, probably through September, to gather more information,” Niday said. “We’re also hoping to recruit citizen journalists and people who would like to create podcasts. Could be a variety of topics. We just want some people who want to learn how to do it and learn how to report, and learn how to tell their stories.”
At this time, the station is open to all suggestions and ideas for podcast subjects. It’s more important to find people interested in creating than finding a specific subject to cover.
“I think we’re hoping to be informed by what we hear from the listeners survey,” Smith said. “‘Perhaps, I’d like to hear a podcast on the formation of such and such in Pocahontas County,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to any of those things.”
“We are looking for whatever people are interested in and that’s what we’re hoping to find with this survey,” Niday added. “Rather than us trying to figure out what you want to hear, you tell us what you want to hear.”
Smith said he hopes the community takes advantage of the opportunity to create content because it is uncommon for radio stations to be open to such things.
“I think the whole project is just a broader way for us to allow the community to take advantage of us,” he said. “I say it quite a bit – this is a resource that is not available in most of America where you could walk into a radio station and go, ‘I’d like to be a DJ’ and they go, ‘Let us show you how to do it.’
“This is another way to let people become more involved with us to help curate what we have on the air, for us to help curate the next generation or a new generation of radio users and podcast creators,” he continued.
Broadcasting on the radio will always be the number one priority at AMR, but projects like this help the station to expand its reach and creates another opportunity for stories to be heard.
“Radio is always going to be our core mission because it’s what we do the best, but that’s not to say you can’t add some flavors and some different things that go along with it,” Smith said. “This is not so much a shift as it is an expansion.”
As part of the project, AMR received a stipend to purchase equipment for podcasters to use in creating their content. The station also plans to host a training seminar for those interested in participating but are unsure of their skill level.
“We would offer all the training – from recording, to coming up with ideas, to producing it,” Niday said. “The whole thing. We’d want to teach everybody the whole darn thing.”
While most podcasts tend to be at least an hour long, Niday said that is not a requirement for this project.
“Not everybody has the time or even the inclination to come up and do a two-hour radio show every week,” she said. “If they don’t want to do that, maybe producing a five minute or a ten minute, or a fifteen minute podcast doesn’t seem like such a daunting thing. So we’re hoping to recruit some more people.”
Those interested in participating in the Community Cares Initiative or want to learn more about the podcast project, contact Heather Niday at heather@amr mail.org or call 304-799-6004.