Saturday August 18, 2012

PITTSFIELD

‘If you are angry due to any reason, write it down on a paper then read it again and again, after a while you will realize the problem and will be in a position to think about its solution." This is what I learned in my college life, when a psychology professor tried to explain to the students that is how we can divert our energy in a positive direction. I forgot the professor’s name but still remember his tips.

On an individual level everyone has a strategy to cope with anger. Some people prefer to shout, some want to cry, some wish to stay alone. Now, it seems that social media are also a part of such strategies. People are updating their status and tweet about their moods and situations that they are facing.

All these are various methods of expressions that allow us to feel better as individuals. If someone failed to express his/her thoughts then he/she may be diverting their thoughts into negative directions, possibly resulting in violence. Like individuals, people in communities also need a platform to discuss the challenges they are facing and to find a resolution for them.

In my Eagle column "Getting a look behind the screen," I wrote that "in the future, it may be possible for average people to have the same role in the media as they are playing in a real democracy."

Since I came to Pittsfield, I have listened to WAMC, Albany FM radio stations and last month got a chance to work over there and understand their system.


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The station is supported by the community rather than government. Every year WAMC launches a fund drive campaign for donations and community members actively participate, effectively giving them ownership rights, which is why the local community has an influence on the editorial policies.

The station broadcasts some programs produced by National Public Radio (NPR) and the BBC. I asked one editor why they are not broadcasting Voice of America programs instead of BBC as they can contribute news across the globe through their bureau offices. He laughed and answered, "We don’t believe in Voice of America, their editorial policy is based on propaganda."

Such disagreement and debate strengthens American society. In the last four months, I found a visible diversity in the local and national American media. As Thomas Jefferson once said "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

I have seven years working experience in radio journalism and I know very well that a community radio station can change the life of ordinary people.

Before 2006 there was no local radio station in the Swat valley of Pakistan. People had not enough opportunity to discuss their issues and express themselves in the national media. There was a gap that was filled by an illegal FM radio station launched by local militants. The community gave huge donations in the belief the money would be used for religious education.

Unfortunately, the people of Swat were not lucky like Albany and its surrounding communities and the illegal station diverted community support in negative directions. The funds they received from the community were utilized in terrorist activities that destroyed life in the valley.

Every individual and community has strength and potential, but it depends how they are managing it. If we utilize our efforts in the right direction, it’s more than enough to bring a positive change in our personal and community life; otherwise our energy can destroy us like a massive weapon.

Adnan Rashid lives in Swat, Pakistan. He is studying journalism at The Berkshire Eagle through the Alfred Friendly and Daniel Pearl fellowship program. To reach Adnan: arashid@berkshireeagle.com, or on Twitter @adnanswat.