Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

Loving my radio

ROYAL ORR

The radio is the natural companion of the long-distance driver. I wouldn't want to even begin to estimate how many hours of radio I've listened to commuting to Montreal. Let's just say a lot.

I listen to everything from classical music on CBC Radio Two to American country and western stations floating in from the Smoky Mountains late at night. More and more, I find myself tuning to VPR, Vermont Public Radio.

Depending on which side of the hill you live on here in Stanstead County, you can pick up VPR's signal best at 107.9 FM out of Burlington or on their low-power repeater at 88.5 FM from St. Johnsbury. VPR's kind of like the CBC, but my regionalism is showing when I admit that sometimes I find that what's happening in Vermont is more interesting to me than the latest fad from Toronto or Vancouver.

And VPR's weather is more accurate than what I get out of Montreal. Its "Eye on the Sky" weather forecast comes from the meteorologists at the charming old Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury. They include the Eastern Townships in most of their forecasting and regularly report on current conditions from a correspondent in North Hatley (I'd like to know who that is).

VPR is part of the National Public Radio system, with access to all its great programming - "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered," the sublimely talented interviewer Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." It has quirky and entertaining programs like "Car Talk," an amusing automobile repair phone-in from Boston on Saturday morning, and "Piano Jazz," a strangely moving hour hosted by jazz legend Marion McPartland who interviews and plays duets with great jazz musicians on Friday evenings at 7 p.m.

Yes, it's American, but it's admirably so - polished, progressive, pluralist, critical, celebratory. Okay, occasionally it's a bit lame - there's a lot of truth in the "Saturday Night Live" satirical take-offs of NPR radio hosts. But mostly, it's great listening.

VPR often sounds like CBC Radio One. But the biggest on-air difference between American and Canadian public radio, I think, are the Americans' pledge drives. Every few months (it feels like every few days), VPR has a membership and pledge drive. That's because, unlike the CBC, VPR has to raise most of its operating budget directly from its listeners.

I finally joined VPR this year, after ignoring its pleas for a long time. Not a huge contribution, but the folks at the station sent me a nice email thank-you note. It's true, it does feel good to make a direct contribution to a media outlet that you enjoy. To say, "Thank you! Keep it up! I appreciate the difference you make in my life."

Which brings me right home to The Journal. I'm grateful for what this little newspaper does. It makes my life here in Stanstead County better. It's a good mid-week read. It informs me about my neighbors. It gives me a chuckle and it teaches me about the birds, if not the bees.

I think it's time for a membership drive on behalf of The Journal. It's a great paper. It's a bargain. And it needs your support.

Now I'm not pointing fingers, but I see the individual subscriptions passed around from one household to the next. I know that some people are on tight budgets and they don't think that they can afford home delivery. I know that others think it's okay just to read the electronic version without making any direct contribution to the cost of gathering all that great information and making it available to the world.

But The Journal's on a tight budget, too. Its survival and its ad revenue are directly tied to people showing that they value the paper by becoming subscribers.

Ross Murray didn't put me up to this. I'm not ringing alarm bells based on insider knowledge. Nor do I stand to profit personally from any increase in readership or subscriptions, except to say that if we ever lose The Journal, we'll miss it terribly.

So buy a subscription to your local paper. Do it now.


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