Friday, March 16, 2012/lk
Radio Tierra has updated equipment but wants to go back in time, to when radio involved more people and less automation.
With a new and permanent home and solid transmission, the community radio station now seeks new blood to restore more of the original mission established when it first went on the air in 2004.
"With stable funding and a simplified, permanent studio, we're well positioned to be that resource we dreamed of in the beginning," said board member John Metta, chief engineer and familiar programming voice.
The question, Metta said, is "How can we get more people to come into Radio Tierra?"
Music and information - much, but not all, in Spanish - plays 24/7 on Radio Tierra ("The Beat of the Gorge") on 95.1 FM. The nonprofit station operates on a 100-watt frequency, on a point-to-point Internet (Gorge.Net) frequency; a vast improvement over its former microwave point-to-point, according to Metta. The transmission tower is located atop Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital.
In 2011 Radio Tierra moved its studio to The Next Door Inc., when the umbrella social service agency opened its new centralized headquarters on Tucker Road just south of Eliot/Brookside.
Radio Tierra broadcasts from a room large enough for a desk, transmission equipment and computer, CD rack and assorted gear, and even for a trio of musicians should someone ever want to play live music on the station.
"It's a pretty nice arrangement; about the only drawback is we don't have our own entrance," Metta said.
Radio Tierra's previous home was from a corner of El Potrillo apparel on the Heights, and briefly before that in Metta's home. Originally, Radio Tierra operated from the home of station founder Dardo Salas, who now lives out of state.
Board member Anne Key and others garnered $20,000 in grant funding two years ago for new equipment, according to Metta.
"So now we have good quality; whereas before … we had really bad quality because of going over a standard Internet connection," Metta said.
"For the first 5-7 years we were just struggling to stay on the air," he said. "Our entire mission was tactical; we couldn't do anything other than tactics.
"The grant helped change that. We've been worried about the radio equipment, but how do we build the organizational structure?"
Part of that answer is Next Door Inc, which donates the space in exchange for program time about NDI's community outreach services, which include parenting classes, The Klahre House, Big Brothers-Big Sisters and more.
Metta said, "With our home at Next Door, we've gone from being in a garage with broken equipment we found in a dumpster, to being in a permanent facility with the support of Next Door with good equipment, and we've gone from tactical to strategic."
That is where the community comes in. Metta acknowledges that he himself is part of "an old-guard board."
"We need some new vision and we really need people who are going to come in and think in a strategic way," he said. "We also need a broader vision, because for a while our whole vision … was to operate with a broad array of programming and services, always grounded in Spanish language but not completely Spanish. We always wanted to support that.
"We've lost a lot of that drive in this struggle period where we've gone from Dardo's to El Potrillo," Metta said. "We need more board members and to reach out to the community, and reach out to business owners and the high school and community as a whole and find other people to join the board and help us become a true community radio station."
Part of that mission is "to bring Hispanic and Anglo worlds together," while also providing programming representing other cultures, including Native Americans.
Metta said the board is asking: How can we open up to community?
"We've been here a while, barely hanging on, and we are now in a position for you, as a community to tell us what you want, and be part of it," he said.
"We're looking at how we are filling the mission we set out to be from the start, which was to be the community's central source of information and radio entertainment."
Metta said that ideally the programming would be dominated by actual DJs sitting at the console, and the board is open to people volunteering to take the training to run the board either manually or via the computer - or to go a more DIY route.
"In a small community it's hard to get that many DJs, and hard to manage as an organization that many DJs," Metta said, "so the idea is people who want a show can have a virtual show, using our library, or they have a library of their own. You can be a DJ from your house," he said.