David Shuster On 'Little Progressive Radio Station That Could'

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Nobody tells me anything! I remember hearing that progressive activists Alex Lawson (executive director of Social Security Works, spearheading the drive to protect it) and Cliff Schecter (bloggger and progressive PR consultant) bought an AM radio station in DC, which they christened We Act Radio, but I had no idea this was where David Shuster landed after his colorful exit from MSNBC. (He's also on CurrentTV, and I didn't know that, either.) Good to have him back!

It's important, though, for progressives to keep pushing away to build progressive radio. Yeah, Air America didn't last, but a lot of their alumni (Sam Seder and Nicole Sandler, just to name a few) are still hanging in there. And as my dear departed friend Joe Bageant said in his book "Deer Hunting With Jesus," talk radio is the only access most poor people get to information about their government. They listen at work, where they spend the most time awake, and after a while, it seeps in and warps their brains. That's why it's so important for us to offer some alternative to the wingnut brainwashing:

Officially launched January 1, 2012, We Act is a 5,000 watt (“of full truth-telling power,” says Kymone) AM station that covers DC, northern Virginia, and southern Maryland, which, per FCC rules, drops to 500 watts after sunset. In the modern media landscape, however, those “terrestrial limitations” mean less than they used to. Listeners can tune in live online, or on a mobile device using the “Tune-in” app for mobile, or a host of other methods. “There are two separate individuals from New Zealand who listen to this station via some website that hosts radio shows.” Alex says.

We Act relies heavily on syndicated content from progressive radio stars like Thom Hartmann, Bill Press, Stephanie Miller, and Ed Schultz, who, Lawson points out, had no broadcast presence in Washington, DC before We Act, despite the fact that Hartmann and Press both broadcast from DC.

But what makes them special is their local connection, and their homegrown talent. “Our slogan is ‘Do Something,’” Alex says. “Our mission is to raise people’s voices, make them heard.”

The station produces about 30 hours of local programming, and in its short life, has become a fixture in the community.

“The reason we moved to Anacostia is that we wanted to be a community-based radio station,” General Manager Ron Pinchback says. “Everyone involved in this is putting in blood, sweat, tears, and money into it because we all believe in what we’re doing here, raising people’s voices.”

Among the bleeders and sweaters is David Shuster, whom Pinchback describes as a “consummate professional. From jump street, his commitment was unparalleled.”

Shuster’s involvement with We Act Radio superficially mirrors that of Keith Olbermann‘s with Current TV; both were hired to give a jolt to progressive upstart media outlets, and both were instrumental in their employers’ early successes. The comparison diverges significantly from there, however, as Shuster is not breaking We Act’s bank, and as Ron says, “There’s no ego involved.”


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