Good Luck to Tony Riddle!
by Jonathan Lawson
Reclaim the Media (WA)
Tony Riddle, until recently Executive Director of the national Alliance for Community Media, has left that position and will be joining the staff of Pacifica station WBAI-FM in New York as Executive Director. RTM considers Tony an especially valued colleague (along with others who have recently changed jobs within the media democracy movement, including former Media Alliance ED Jeff Perlstein and former Future of Music Coalition ED Jenny Toomey).
During his work at the ACM, Tony did a great job of highlighting the media policy issues affecting public access, educational and government cable channels, and making sure that the media democracy movement understood how sustaining grassroots community media is a crucial issue alongside media ownership, net neutrality, etc. RTM hopes that new ACM leadership will pursue these connections as Tony did. This morning, RTM distributed this appreciation of Tony’s work:
On behalf of Reclaim the Media, we want to convey a few words of thanks to Tony Riddle for the fantastic work he has done in the most recent stage of his continuing career as a community media activist, helming the Alliance for Community Media.
The ACM, representing the interests of community media producers and managers in public access, educational and government channels across the country, is facing a particularly uncertain economic and political climate. Even as a nationwide movement to democratize media policy has grown substantially over the last few years, sustaining and expanding PEG has often been seen as a separate or second-tier issue in comparison to media ownership, community radio or broadband regulation.
Tony, of course, doesn’t see things that way – and he refused to let either the Alliance or the larger media democracy advocacy community see it that way either. Building upon his experiences at Manhattan Neighborhood Network and the Media Justice Fund, Tony made himself a fierce advocate for community media concerns and a prominent figure within movement strategy conversations.
He has provided an incredible example of principled social justice/media activism which ACM members across the country should follow. For those of us in the media justice and media reform communities, his leadership served as yet another indicator of the powerful connections between grassroots media and grassroots activism for social change.
We wish Tony well in his latest adventure at WBAI!
Reclaim the Media, Seattle
Wish You Were Here
by Erin Wilson
Grand Rapids Community Media Center
“The stars are not wanted now;
put out every one,
Pack up the moon and
dismantle the sun.”
February has a weight to it. For everyone in the community of public access, it’s the month when CMC lost its founding director, Dirk Koning. On a cold and confusing morning in 2005, we learned a truth we could not wrap ourselves around: Dirk is dead.
Dirk remains a legend in community media. He grew GRTV into a national model for public access, then expanded CMC to include every existing media (and some that didn’t yet exist.)
Dirk’s parting vision was perhaps his most inspired: the acquisition of Wealthy Theatre, where I have the privilege of serving as director. Technologically speaking, the idea seemed unorthodox – the venue is nearly 100 years old. But it was brilliant.
We’re just now catching up with his vision for the landmark theatre, and much of the credit goes to Dirk’s predecessor and current CMC Executive Director, Laurie Cirivello. Her first two years as E.D. have seen Wealthy Theatre become one of the most technologically advanced theatres in North America, and a common stage for all the services the CMC has to offer: radio, television, internet and education.
I think about Dirk a lot during a given day at the theatre. I sometimes utter out loud, “Man, I wish you were here.” When I’m anxious about a major event, like the upcoming Jammies (2/12), I imagine him smiling and telling me to draw a breath, we’ll rise to the occasion like we always do. When we recently hosted an original musical (“Old-Time Radio”) and broadcast it live on radio, television and the internet… I imagined Dirk was pleased about that.
Back when we were considering the acquisition of Wealthy Theatre, Dirk included everyone in the exploratory process. In one of our final staff meeting about the potential acquisition, three years ago, I had the good fortune of sitting next to him, in the theatre’s Community Meeting Room. I was a long-haired manager at GRTV but he wanted to hear all voices, whether supportive or critical. I didn’t say much at that meeting, I was simply taken aback by the calmness with which he approached the hugeness of it, the ease with which he conveyed a potential that was most plain to him.
Dirk hired me in 2001 and somehow the road has led me here. We recently finished a new room that serves as a lasting tribute to Dirk: a 60-seat Micro-Cinema named The Koning. It is a beautiful and appropriate memorial to a man who knew how to listen, and had natural instincts that put our organization several moves down the board. I miss his clarity, his vision, his ability to convey “what could be.” And I will always be grateful to the map he provided for us, as we are all dedicated to the ideals he laid down for us. He was truly, as Ghandi said, “the change he wanted to see.”
I think we’re catching up. Man, I wish you were here.
Yours Very Truly,