Issue 40: An Open Letter to John McCain

Dear Senator McCain,
Twelve years ago you honored our little Rockland radio station by standing before the United States Senate and using our example as an argument for the importance of local radio. Speaking in support of more opportunity for low power fm stations, you said:
“There are some wonderful LPFM stations that are up and running. A recent article published in The Nation called these stations, ‘beacons of grassroots democracy.’’ The article discussed WRFR in Rockland, Maine: ‘Shunning the canned programming approach of Rockland’s two Clear Channel stations, WRFR offers an array of local talent, tastes and interests, and was recently named Maine station of the year by a state music association. Although country music, a Maine favorite, is heavily represented, hardly any WRFR deejay restricts himself to a single era, genre or Top-40 play list.’ Started by a local city council member who was concerned about the lack of local media outlets in his town, today, WFRF has over half the city listening. This is what scares broadcasters about LPFM: competition.”
Thank you. We were encouraged by your words, and because of your work in Congress, our friends down in Belfast, Maine now have a station of their own. Here at WRFR we’re doing less country music now that Larry Beckwith has passed, and we have more talk shows, but otherwise things are cooking along pretty much the same, and gaining. We are open to everyone in our community, and we treat each other with respect. This is our recipe for success. WRFR is all volunteers.
Your example of civility and respect for people with whom you may differ is an important contribution to our country at a time when these values are under great threat. This is exactly what we are trying to encourage at WRFR. We honor your record of listening to others who have different perspectives and views, considering carefully, and then following your own judgment rather than following the crowd, or the party.
We share a faith in democracy, equality and freedom. These values are always at risk, and today we face special difficulties. The power of the national mass media is greater than ever, and is concentrated in fewer hands. Politics has become a mass-disseminated spectacle, the “news” a major source of ad revenue. The spectacle feeds on rancor and insult, and promotes a mindless tribal partisanship that sells soda-pop and Mercedes, but is a disease in our society.
Meanwhile, our traditions of family, village and neighborhood, and of civil discourse, are in decline. WRFR is here on the ground in Rockland, Maine, doing our best to strengthen those foundations, so essential to the survival of our democracy.
We are all mortal, but our faith in things greater than ourselves gives us hope beyond death. We are now facing a challenge as great as ever we have faced. Some of us may not live to enjoy or suffer the outcome, but we can die in hope that the spirit we leave behind will help our descendants find their way.
With sincere thanks and best wishes,
Joe Steinberger, WRFR volunteer