So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*


Douglas Adams. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Thanks to my time in public radio, I got to meet and interview him in 1982. My time in public radio has offered me many great opportunities to meet, interview and engage with a lot of remarkable people. Authors, artists, politicians, business leaders, trouble-makers and problem solvers.

From a cowboy who was also a pilot in the Berlin airlift who lived in the Big Thicket of Texas to presidents of the United States. Public radio gave me the privilege to meet people, hear and share stories, move hearts and (sometimes) change minds.

As I finish out my last official day with WDUQ FM, I’m thinking about the past 30 years.

I leave enriched by my 16 years at WDUQ, so proud of the work I and my staff, our volunteers and listeners did, together. But, it’s time.

This is not unlike the “walk away” I did as an active musical performer. Those parts of your life are always a part of your life. But life is not static. It moves. It evolves. It changes. Sometimes, when you find it repeating itself, perhaps that’s a good time to seek a new perspective.

In going through old clippings, I came across some things from my first months at WDUQ in Pittsburgh in 1995.

I came in to WDUQ at the same time as the “class of 1994,” when the U.S. House and Senate flipped from total control from Democrats to total control by Republicans.

Important work, treasured colleagues, conflicts and change to adapt to. It was always thus.

I have deep concerns about the NPR, the stations, the industry that I am leaving.

But as I’m still on the WDUQ payroll for a few more hours, I will still say “we.”

It has been remarkable to see us grow from a shy, humble, striving and earnest enterprise into a massively influential media movement. But I fear we have bought into some of our own hype and hype heaped upon us.

We should still be earnest. We should still be striving. We should still be humble. We aspire to do great things – but we should be very wary of the hubris of believing it is about us.

It is about mission. Stewardship. Service. Otherwise, we (NPR) are just a modest sized media company that happens to file a 990.

Over the past decade, there was great fretting about how NPR was not a digital company – that people of our experience and age could only “speak digital with an accent.”

I think the greater concern is having leadership that is not fully immersed in the values and vision of NPR and public media.

We cannot afford to “speak mission with an accent.”

So, I wish all my colleagues in public radio the very best, encourage everyone to think about mission most of all. The devices we use to connect to our listeners and our communities are not as important as the connections themselves. And the connections are between people.

To my “family” at WDUQ, you were and are the best at the mission of public service and broadcasting I could have ever had the privilege to spend a third of my life with. You will always be in my thoughts and in my heart.

* The title of the 4th book in the increasingly inaccurately titled trilogy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. This was also a phrase first attributed to dolphins in the late 1970’s BBC radioplay that started it all. It has to do with grateful porpoises and their departing good wishes as they ducked out before the earth was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. When I met Douglas Adams, he was embarking on a book tour upon the release of the first of the comic novels derived from the radioplays. He was very tall and had a lot of hair back then. I was not tall, but also had hair at the time.

The books have a cheerier ending than the radioplay.

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About sehanley

Musician, journalist, teacher, technologist, consultant & former NPR station manager. A media and entertainment professional, journalist, entrepreneur, technology advocate, educator, student, mentor, manager, and media, musical and theatrical performer. Voice talent and coach for music and spoken word. I also act and sing (mostly jazz, but a lot of experience with choral, classical and musical theater, too). Brass instruments, too, but my AF ofM card lapsed years ago. Heard on the national jazz service, PubJazz, and in the Pittsburgh market on WZUM/Pittsburgh Jazz Channel. I also teach college level courses in media and journalism. I managed the leading NPR/public radio station in Pittsburgh, PA for 16 years, a few years later was GM of the NPR station WBHM in Birmingham, AL. I served for six very busy years on the NPR Board of Directors and have done much volunteer service for national and local organizations in the communities I have been privileged to live and work in. Former NPR Board Member, former President of the Pittsburgh Radio Organization, sometime musician, relentless technology advocate. Opinions expressed are not the viewpoints of any employer or affiliation past or present.
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18 Responses to So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*

  1. Scott,

    After reading this, it seems similar to the WGVU days when we all were leaving, knowing that the station was going to fall down shortly. I left the industry in 2005 as a consultant. I think that there are exciting things going on in the Interactive universe, and that the concept of “Mass” media has changed. “Mass” means 5% not 20% these days.

    Good luck with your next endeavor. I suspect you will attack it with the same passion you have always had. I am glad I was around to learn that from you back in the day.

    P

  2. Betsy Harman says:

    Best wishes in your new job! I know you’ll do great and will enjoy the new challenges.

  3. Ron says:

    Remember, the answer to life, the universe and everything is “42.” It’s not so much to do with the answer as with the question.

    Your (now) former business has a lot of struggles ahead and I know that you won’t be able to keep from watching. Just lurk in on PubTech and give us your take on things once in a while.

    Best wishes, chum. You and ‘DUQ will be missed as we remember them.

    Peace.

  4. Scott,

    It’s been a genuine pleasure to work with you as a colleague in public radio (especially in PRIMA). I’ve learned so much from you. I know you’ll succeed fabulously in your new position, but public media will miss your wisdom and savvy.

    Don’t forget to bring your towel.*

    (*for the non-geeks, another Hitch-Hiker’s reference).

  5. Paul Stankavich says:

    Best wishes Scott and hope you stay in touch. We at KPLU will do our best to carry forward the mission of bringing great jazz and blues to our audiences. You helped lead the way.

    Paul

  6. You have been a strong champion for jazz. You’re also one of the sharpest people in public radio. Quite a loss for the industry. I wish you the best.

    Carl

  7. Dave Sullivan says:

    Good luck to you Scott; you will be missed!

  8. Roger Duvall says:

    Best Wishes to you Scott and many, many wonderful adventures. You and your contributions to public broadcasting will be missed but hopefully not too far away.

  9. Jim Russell says:

    Very nicely said, Scott. Especially “I think the greater concern is having leadership that is not fully immersed in the values and vision of NPR and public media.” Why don’t we have the courage to hire such leadership and instead are always dazzled by the foolsgold from the outside?”

  10. Maria Thomas says:

    Congratulations, Scott, on 30 years and thank you for your service. I always appreciated your informed contributions and support when I was leading NPR Digital. Much luck to you in your new gig. Best, Maria

  11. Jamila Bey says:

    Scott, the Public Radio system is lesser without you in it. Thanks for all of your hard work. Best! And good luck at the new place. Jamila

  12. steve Rathe says:

    Hey Scott,
    Thank you for your energy,stewardship, initiative and leadership in both pub radio and jazz. The system and the service would not be the same without you and the work you have done. Very best wishes on the next stage of your career…and if it brings you to Gotham, I hope we can get you in for a visit to Murraystreet and a set at the House of Swing. Fond regards and appreciation.
    SR

  13. John Hingsbergen says:

    Scott,

    All the best to you in the new position. It’s been said before but I
    will repeat it, public broadcasting is losing a valuable resource.

    Aside from this brief reference, I will refrain from further comment
    about some universities choosing to give up on operations that were
    once a major part of their community outreach and service.

  14. Patty says:

    Best wishes, Scott.

  15. Regina Dean says:

    Scott,
    It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed……….I had forgotten that you joined WDUQ the same year I left Arkansas for WUOT in Knoxville. And I, too, have wonderful memories of some of those “early” days with PRIMATES! Your farewell remarks are “right on”! As the Rev. Dale Outz would have said:
    AMEN, brother!! Take care. We’ll miss you.

  16. Julia Schrenkler says:

    Scott, I’m late to this but that doesn’t reflect a diminished happiness for you in your new work. My best to you in this fresh chapter!

    -Julia

  17. Dave Sterner says:

    Congratulations on your new career. I found this article just as I was trying to contact you about a cd that I'd sent you for possible airplay consideration. Also wondered if you would still be involved with jazzworks? Best of luck to you. Dave Sternerdavesterner@sbcglobal.net

  18. Pingback: The Gift of the Krumkake « Scott Hanley's news, tech, culture

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