In HPPR’s early days, hardly anyone had FM radios. They were considered luxury add-ons in vehicles. Most people on the High Plains hadn’t heard of All Things Considered or NPR.
But still they gave, they worked and today, despite the ongoing challenges of sustaining operations, HPPR exists as an essential part of the rural landscape. Technically, we were the FIRST station licensed to a rural community rather than to a tribe or educational institution.
We were told it was impossible, but still, we became the little public station that could. Toward the end of our 16-county era, when we were KANZ and six or so translators atop grain elevators in county seat towns around, I wrote an application nominating Quentin Hope, our founder, for the Edward R Murrow Award. It was a bold thing to do, but as KANZ’s development director, I carried around thoughts, quotes, calls, letters from people who described listening from dawn to dusk, who felt less isolated, who were inspired by stories, news or music that brought the world to the High Plains.
You might laugh at my audacity. Of course, Quentin and our story didn’t win, but perhaps it was only a matter of timing. Why, you ask? Well, just after the awards were announced that year, I received a phone call. A clandestine phone call. The person on the other end of the line whispered, “He nearly won. He really nearly won.”
“What?” I inquired. “He nearly won what? “
The caller identified herself not by name but as a member of the award committee and she explained that the group had been so moved by the nomination that it remained until the final round of consideration. The caller wanted me to know that while the committee alternated awarding individuals and organizations and that while our nomination fell in the year for organizations, the wonder, the impact, and the significance of being the first rural community public radio station was acknowledged, appreciated and almost awarded by a group of knowledgeable and credible broadcast notables.
The advent of HPPR was a wonder and the stories didn’t stop in Pierceville or Colby or Lamar or Guymon or Amarillo. The frequency upon which you listen today is built on this legacy of community ownership and every time you give, you acknowledge the pioneering story of people seeking areas of common interest across diverse communities, counties and regional boundaries; of people dedicated to building the resources to sustain and enhance life without requiring the sacrifice of connections to the events of the state, nation, and the world, of lives in which they can dialogue about ideas and books and public and cultural affairs, lives where they can learn with and from one another.
You are the public in public radio and each of you deserves an award. Your neighbors live in counties that are rural or frontier. They live in thriving cities like Amarillo or Canyon, Texas, or in Hays, Kansas, or Lamar, Colorado. Indeed, the people who form the community of HPPR travel easily and often – all over the world. They serve in public office and nonprofit leadership positions. They read bestsellers – nonfiction, too – and they have degrees and technical and mechanical skills; they speak foreign languages and invent and patent things. They run complex business enterprises and travel around the world teaching others. They Tweet and blog and sing and paint and see the latest movies and stage plays, dress in the latest fashions, and drive and talk climate change, renewable energy, and incarceration rates with the best of them. They pay taxes and volunteer and work hard to make their communities and their states healthy and desirable places to live.
They are you, in other words. We should be acknowledged for having forged an invisible, connecting community, a geography without boundaries thanks to satellite and broadcast technology, for building town squares where, as we say, we are in touch with the world right here at home. I think our version of the world is worthy of an Edward R Murrow award.