November 19, 2002
Geo Beach: Hello, and welcome to the second edition of AIR’s Member Spotlight webchat.

Geo Beach: Our guest this evening is Sue Schardt. Sue is a unique and inspirational member of the AIR community and we’re delighted she accepted our invitation to stand in the Radio Spotlight.

Sue Schardt: Thanks, Geo. Hi, everybody.

Geo Beach: And I’m your host, Geo Beach.

Geo Beach: Welcome Sue!

Geo Beach: We have some background information about Sue on the AIR website: http://www.airmedia.org/spotlight/bios/sue_schardt.php

Geo Beach: We collectively developed some good chat procedures when we premiered this Spotlight last month with Sandy Tolan. A couple basic protocols will help us, I think…

Geo Beach:

Text Coloring:

Host Geo Beach = Green

Spotlight Member Sue Schardt = Pink

Participating AIR members = Black

This will help us know who’s talking.

Geo Beach:

Please, don’t “SHOUT” questions to Sue at the “podium”.

Instead, please say something like

“Geo, I have a question for Sue about marketing”.

Then, let me bring it to Sue in the best flow of the conversation.

Geo Beach: When you see … (ellipses) please WAIT; don’t post yet.

Let the person finish without interrupting.

Geo Beach: The transcript of the entire webchat will be available on the AIR website after a couple of days, so your questions and ideas will have lasting value to AIR members and others in the public radio community who are not able to join us in realtime.

Geo Beach: Welcome to participants and observers!

Geo Beach: Also, if you have asides to colleagues, you can always use the “F5” Private Message function (which shows as blue text).

Geo Beach: But Amy and Barry and Dmae, why don’t you give a big SHOUT OUT to Sue…

Geo Beach: …and I’ll come up with the first question as she steps into the AIRadio Spotlight!

Sue Schardt: I’m not used to wearing pink.

Geo Beach: Well, we’ve learned folks step away from their monitors…

Geo Beach: … and come back and scroll through our chat.

Geo Beach: Sue, you look lovely tonight in pink.

Sue Schardt: Thanks, Geo.

Amy Mayer: Hi Sue. Thanks again for hosting us Nieman folks in Cambridge. I can’t stay long tonight because I have to be — on the radio. 🙂

Geo Beach: And I’d like to ask the first question of the night if I may.

Sue Schardt: S’ok, Amy. It was good to get together last week, wasn’t it?

Geo Beach: Amy, let me toss this first question, and then you go next if you’ve got an airdate calling you.

Geo Beach: Sue, your father was involved with radio for forty years. Can you tell us a little bit about him, and what it meant to you to grow up in a radio family?

Sue Schardt: My father — Don was his name — started out with his own live noon-time show in Cortland, NY, in the 1940’s. The thing I remember him describing most vividly was “the Question of the Day”…

Sue Schardt: …He’d stand on the street outside the studio and plug into an outlet they had outside, and do live interviews with people about specific and scintillating local topics like “Where is your favorite swimming hole?”…

Sue Schardt: …By the end of his 40 year career, he was working as a manager at WSYR in Syracuse, NY, which was a AM radio and TV licensee…

Sue Schardt: …He was definitely the big cheese of our house. Eight kids, my mom, and our mongrel mutt Patrick Joseph. We were big and Catholic. He was a man of few words…

Sue Schardt: …and would come home from the station every night at 5:15 sharp and stand in the middle of the kitchen with a beer in his hand, rocking on his heels, holding forth about his day…

Sue Schardt: …I learned a lot about the inside politics of the station, and especially about the pain and difficulties he and many of the old-timers faced in the early days of consolidation, when they were all being shoved out the door by people who cared nothing about the medium itself, but saw it as a way to make a lot of money…

Sue Schardt: …It was awful, and still makes my blood boil when I think about it. Clear Channel of course owns WSYR and most of the other radio stations in Syracuse now…

Sue Schardt: …Any case, my father and I had profound disagreements about many things — including whether or not to include the FM band on our car in 1973 — but he was a good man, and I’m grateful to him for my ears…

Sue Schardt: …My mother loved and understood what she always referred to as “the power of radio”. She was very instrumental in pointing me in the right direction at several points along the way in life, and with my work. She and I actually did a program together a few years ago — “Mom in the Margin” — and she’s made guest appearances on my show from time to time. She had great pipes.

Geo Beach: Oh, darn…

Geo Beach: …looks like Amy Mayer had to cut out for her airdate in Fairbanks…

Geo Beach: …Sue, you also tell a funny story about your dad buying a new car. Like a CarTalk segment, it digresses — into Amplitude Modulation versus Frequency Modulation and commercial versus non-commercial radio. Ya wanna share that early episode with us?

Sue Schardt: I was really into music — playing and studying — from about 9 years old all the way on up through graduate school. I listened to and played a lot of jazz and classical music…

Sue Schardt: …When FM radio emerged — I don’t remember how I first learned about it — but I knew that WCNY was broadcasting symphonies and chamber music, which I really dug…

Sue Schardt: …My father used to buy a new car every four years like clockwork. When the time came round to buy our next car, I proposed we get a dual band — AM and FM — but my father refused, saying, essentially, that FM was dead. It was nowhere…

Sue Schardt: …It’s funny to think about that now…

Sue Schardt: …Well — when the next time came ’round for a car, it arrived fully loaded with the AM AND the FM. And I never said “I told you so”.

Geo Beach: I’d like to invite folks to offer questions for Sue…

Matthew Payne: Geo, I have a question for Sue about satellite radio.

Geo Beach: …I see we have CANADA, Pacific NorthWest, Mountain States, NYC, Brooklyn, Cape Cod, and The Hub represented…

Geo Beach: …Matt, please go ahead.

Matthew Payne: How would you equate how radio folks are looking at satellite radio today in terms of how your father looked at FM back when it was a baby?

Sue Schardt: It’s probably pretty typical for “establishment” types to look with skepticism on any newcomers, especially when there is new technology involved…

Sue Schardt: …I think there needs to be a good balance between healthy skepticism, and respect for the risk-taking involved for the new “venturists”. Also staying apprised from a competitive / business standpoint. And a dose of genuine curiosity…

Sue Schardt: …True then, and still true now, I think…

Sue Schardt: …Is what you’re asking, Matt?

Matthew Payne: Well…

Matthew Payne: …that, and also, What is your viewpoint on satellite radio and its possibilities? Do you think that more skepticism is needed at this point, and what is it in satellite that needs to happen for it to really come on the scene?…

Matthew Payne: …And what is the independent’s role? And that’s all.

Sue Schardt: In terms of what “needs to happen” — The most imminent challenge, as we all know, is the financial challenge. Both XM and Sirius still, today, carry enormous debt loads and are not meeting projected revenue targets…

Sue Schardt: …All that said, I do think that the technology is most definitely here. What the content will ultimately be, and who will control that content is far from certain…

Sue Schardt: …And that is a critical question when it comes to long-term success.

Geo Beach: More about aural satellite, anyone?

Geo Beach: We’re here with Sue Schardt in the AIRadio Spotlight. Welcome to AIR participants and to observers the world around!

Nannette Drake Oldenbourg: MA. ? about international radio.

Geo Beach: Nanette, please go ahead directly with your question to Sue.

Nannette Drake Oldenbourg: Sue, what should we know about how…

Nannette Drake Oldenbourg: …various points of view from media around the world…

Nannette Drake Oldenbourg: …are faring here in the U.S.?

Sue Schardt: My own opinion and that of many people I talk to — both inside and outside the industry…

Sue Schardt: …is that we need to do a better job of presenting a wider range of viewpoints…

Sue Schardt: …I think some of this can be addressed by finding ways to bring in a broader range of voices — from both reporters / producers…

Sue Schardt: …and from the many broadcasters out there themselves…

Sue Schardt: …This is a difficult problem — essentially trying to “crack” pack journalism…

Sue Schardt: …When you talk about “various media from around the world”…

Sue Schardt: …you run into a very wide range of cultures, styles, and also levels of government control that you have to contend with…

Sue Schardt: …and if you’re aiming to bring these views and perspectives to an American audience…

Sue Schardt: …you have to pass by the very critical ears of gatekeepers who, for the most part, hold a very strong and specific standard for how radio should sound — for better or for worse…

Sue Schardt: …I do believe it’s very important to try to accomplish this, though. Because, ultimately, it’s about broadening people’s understanding…

Sue Schardt: …which is very critical right now.

Dolores Brandon: Question: More Re independents and satellite. Have any of your clients gone this route and are they happy with it? A prominent independent recently asked me this question. I really didn’t know what to tell him.

Geo Beach: Sue, please have at Dolores’s satellite question!

Sue Schardt: Depends on who you define as independent, Dolores — Are you thinking in terms of a single-person producer…

Sue Schardt: …or independent in a broader sense?

Dolores Brandon: In other words, I know many AIR members signed on with the satellites…

Dolores Brandon: …I listen to WNYC and I hear Jonathan Schwartz on Sundays reference XM.

Sue Schardt: To my knowledge, the route that single-person / independents have to go to get programming on the satellites…

Sue Schardt: …is as part of one of the 24×7 streams.

Dolores Brandon: I’m not entirely sure what were the particular concerns this producer had, but I can imagine they were financial. Is it worthwhile for producers to create product for satellite?

Sue Schardt: …I don’t believe either company is signing on many individual producers directly, and I see no indication that that is going to happen anytime soon…

Sue Schardt: …it’s important to know, too, that there is no money to be made for an independent on any of the Sirius channels (which is where pubradio programming resides)…

Sue Schardt: …If there is anyone in the house from PRI or NPR who is willing to talk about the terms of your channel’s / arrangements with producers…

Sue Schardt: …please let Geo know…

Sue Schardt: …Right now, I’d say that Sirius or XM are best utilized by independents as a) secondary distribution channels and for the visibility they might generate, and b) a way to forge strategic relationships.

Dolores Brandon: Sue, please tell us more about your current work as a consultant in radio. What drives you, what excites you most, and what frustrates you most?

Geo Beach: We’re talking about cars, car radios, love, satellite radios, international radios, and independents in radio, here on AIR’s Member Spotlight, with the charming Sue Schardt in the hot pink spotlight tonight.

Geo Beach: Sue, can you talk a little bit about SchardtMEDIA?…

Sue Schardt: And I’m always up for talking about food.

Geo Beach: …Following on Dolores’s lead…

Geo Beach: …Hey, Sue Schardt — You might actually be giving suits a GOOD name! Your website even includes a “Prayer” by Max Ehrmann. Tell us about running a business which includes in its mission “to create and support initiatives that embrace the ideals of service, trust, enlightenment, and making the world a better place.”

http://www.listenerchoice.com/home.html

Sue Schardt: I decided to go independent — start SchardtMEDIA — on the heels of a year spent on an R&D assignment from The Christian Science Monitor…

Sue Schardt: …ah — I’ll try to weave in the Max Ehrmann…

Sue Schardt: …after Monitor Radio shut down, I stayed with a couple of others to explore how Monitor might…

Sue Schardt: …develop new, self-sustaining models for electronic media…

Sue Schardt: …It was a wonderful year working in a strictly ideas-driven, inventive process…

Sue Schardt: …After a year (and after producing a new, hybrid radio program pilot)…

Sue Schardt: …I decided I really liked working in that way — independent, ideas-driven…

Sue Schardt: …and decided to give it a go on my own. Voila. My little corner was born.

Geo Beach: It’s the second hour of the second edition of AIRadio Spotlight, and tonight we’re welcoming Sue Schardt. Sue has a breadth and depth in radio that’s exhilarating. If you’ve got a question for her, lemme know.

Geo Beach: Sue, Monitor Radio is still dear to the heart of many folks in public radio — listeners as well as people inside the industry. There was something special about that show, produced outside the media centers of New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC…

Geo Beach: …Can you share some of your thoughts about that special brand of public radio — Monitor Radio?

Sue Schardt: it’s funny you’re asking…

Sue Schardt: …I was with Trevor Nelson over this past weekend –former Monitor Radio producer, now with 60 Minutes (and also now my brother-in-law)…

Sue Schardt: …(Monitor Radio bred more than radio programs)…

Geo Beach: (Yes, Trevor’s even visited here at Tempest studios in Homer, Alaska!)

Sue Schardt: …and in Cincinnati / PRPD, had a mini-reunion with Dean Cappello / WNYC, Chris Turpin / ATC, Graham Smith / ATC — and David Brown / Marketplace came along later…

Sue Schardt: …so all this to say that Monitor was a tremendous and rare breeding ground for many of us to do some wonderful things…

Sue Schardt: …to learn, and to have powerful access to many people with our work…

Sue Schardt: …I think this was true for those of us inside the building, and who are now contributing wonderful things in other places in public radio…

Sue Schardt: …as well as many who got their first assignments — got their start and found an outlet at Monitor Radio…

Geo Beach: Sue, Dmae had a question. She asked, “I’m curious — as an independent who distributes her own work, I wonder if you could tell us what’s the number one or two complaint about indies who are trying to get them to air a program.”

Sue Schardt: I got carried away with the …

Sue Schardt: See. Did it again.

Geo Beach: Dmae, any specification on Who “They” Are?…

Geo Beach: …happens to the best of our Right Pinkies!

Sue Schardt: Gotta watch out for that right pinkie.

Geo Beach: Well, Sue, go ahead and dig in on Dmae’s questions, assuming an omniscient “THEY”.

Sue Schardt: I don’t actually distribute my own work, but have certainly worked with / have relationships with many who do…

Sue Schardt: …A couple of frustrations — and I think this is true for producers of all stripes trying to get their work on radio stations…

Sue Schardt: …is the fact that there is very little available space for new programming on the top 100-120 radio stations…

Sue Schardt: …And another frustration is the lack of access to the folks who make decisions about putting programming on…

Sue Schardt: …To a lesser extent, but it’s still there, is frustration about the relatively narrow appetite there is for anything that sounds new, or different…

Sue Schardt: …From a PD’s POV, there is a tremendous amount of competition for their attention — a lot of “noise” — people wanting things from them. This, of course, becomes more true as you work the way up the ladder to the larger markets.

Geo Beach: Is that answering your question, Dmae?…

Geo Beach: …And I might play Devil’s Advocate here, Sue…

Geo Beach: …But aren’t they (PDs, Gatekeepers) so often wrong?…

Geo Beach: …Is there an antidote to conservatism as this medium grows up?

Sue Schardt: I’ve never been a PD, so I can’t possibly speak on their behalf. I can only make my observations…

Sue Schardt: …I can say that the Third Coast Festival was an ear-opening experience for me, and for many there, I think. Some amazing and inspiring work from some of the UN-usual radio suspects — Greg Whitehead, Allan Coukell, Australian Kaye Mortley, ex-pat now Aussie Sherre Delys, film-maker Alan Berliner — others.

Geo Beach: Sue, in an essay in “Current” titled “There’s growth and freshness at the margins of our audience”, you focused in on some concepts that are just now beginning to garner broader attention — from “Core Values of Classical Music Listeners” to brainstorming about Public Radio Weekend…

http://www.radiocollege.org/rc/ru1.html

Geo Beach: …How is public radio doing at growing and at getting fresh?

Sue Schardt: …Sorry — meant to have an ellipsis — let me finish my previous thought. With all of our vast resources and the strong reach pubradio has developed — I believe latest estimates show that 13% of the public listens to NPR — I find it a shame that there is really no outlet for the work of some of our most creative artists and producers…

Sue Schardt: …It should be a priority in the system. Now that we’ve built the infrastructure and the established credibility, gatekeepers at all levels need to work harder to make room for this good work…

Sue Schardt: …An important first step is to be AWARE of it (and we have Joanna Zorn, her crew, and Chicago Public Radio to thank for the important work they’ve accomplished with that). And we need to cultivate more of this work…

Sue Schardt: …And then making room for young producers, old time veterans, and for those that lie someplace in between…

Sue Schardt: …We have a lot of training going on, which is good. But another thing we can be doing is paying attention to the work that is out there, and encouraging excellent others who’ve been discouraged from doing more experimental work…

Sue Schardt: …Dmae Roberts comes to mind, and Karen Michel. Give them the courage to move back into it. We need to start by “praising the good” — as someone wise once said…

Sue Schardt: …And expanding our definition of what is good.

Sue Schardt: As far as your other question, Geo… how is pubradio doing at growing and getting fresh…

Geo Beach: Do please crack your knuckles and continue, Sue.

Sue Schardt: …Crrkk — there are some terrific things being done at stations, and with the mini-indie shops some of them have set up inside…

Sue Schardt: …WNYC is truly breaking some new ground, I think, especially in terms of experimenting with and breaking open standard formats…

Sue Schardt: …This is a good thing. New thinking…

Sue Schardt: …And I do have an eye on CPB. They have tremendous influence on how the system is shaped…

Sue Schardt: …I’m eager to see who the new head of radio will be, and what new directions he / she may inspire.

Geo Beach: It’s AIRadio Spotlight with Sue Schardt.

Geo Beach: And we’re open for questions on the topic of innovative and independent programming…

Geo Beach: …or for a shift in the direction of our conversation.

Geo Beach: Sue, on that thread…

Geo Beach: …What do you think about the prospects for WBEZ operating Loyola University’s WLUW in Chicago?…

Geo Beach: …Can a college station serve as an incubator for the Big Time WBEZ?

Sue Schardt: I don’t know enough about the situation or what WBEZ is planning to do with it…

Sue Schardt: …but do I think it’s “possible”? Yes. Absolutely…

Sue Schardt: …and, from my experience, GM Torey Malatia, and the VP of Programming Ron Jones, are very free thinkers…

Geo Beach: (Yeah, those two makes for a cool combo.)

Sue Schardt: …think outside the box, and have been very open to new ideas and running with them, in my experience. I guess we’ll wait and see what sorts of things they do with WLUW…

Sue Schardt: …Perhaps a model for others.

Geo Beach: OK, I think we should let you out of that management suit a little…

Geo Beach: …Sue, you’ve had a show on MIT’s radio station WMBR-FM in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for more than thirteen years. Originally called “In the Margin of the Other” and now “Beauty in the Margin”, every Wednesday you “find grace in the place between things”…

http://wmbr.mit.edu/schedesc.html#margin

Sue Schardt: I’m actually wearing a sleeveless black shirt and loose-fitting pants.

Geo Beach: …Well, that’s more appropriate for this question:…

Geo Beach: …How important is it to you to get behind a live mic every week, and how does your work as a talent influence your job at SchardtMEDIA?

Sue Schardt: And brown furry slippers.

Sue Schardt: It’s extremely important to me to be behind the microphone for a couple of reasons…

Sue Schardt: …For one, it just keeps me in direct touch with the medium. Anyone who has ever been on the radio before — especially live — knows there is nothing that compares to the kind of live interaction you can have with so many people -– one-on-one — at once…

Sue Schardt: …The immediacy of hearing from them, bouncing ideas, the interchange that is about the best part of what radio is about…

Sue Schardt: …Another is sort of a sanity thing. The weekly radio thing keeps my creative juices flowing steady, which is extremely important to self-preservation…

Sue Schardt: …I’m lucky to have a little corner where I’m allowed to go in and do whatever I like…

Sue Schardt: …The station is 100% volunteer and entirely freeform, and the sort of creative freedom this allows is more rarified with every passing day…

Sue Schardt: …Every week is a new invention for me, with the program. I have to continuously challenge myself in this specific little aspect of life, regardless of what other things may be happening…

Sue Schardt: …I find this to be very healthy — it builds a certain muscle, I guess — and, after this many years, I think I’ve internalized it to the point that it’s just part of my make-up — part of my rhythm — and I’m so grateful for that…

Sue Schardt: …And it absolutely feeds my paying gigs. I do my very best work (and it’s most satisfying) when I’m able to translate the spontaneity and inventiveness that I’ve developed by being on the air into the way that I work with my clients…

Sue Schardt: …And it’s all about radio, which is the best.

Geo Beach: I think there are plenty of Independents who hope you might encourage some of those network VPs to follow your lead and get out from behind the desk and slide in front of a microphone!

Sue Schardt: Now THERE’S a good idea.

Geo Beach: As we draw to a close, I’d like to thank you all — participants and observers — for joining us at AIR’s Member Spotlight webchat.

Geo Beach: And Sue, I’d like to give you an opportunity for a final word.

Sue Schardt: An honor and a pleasure to have a chance at this conversation. Many thanks to AIR, and to all.

Geo Beach: I’d especially like to thank Sue Schardt for volunteering to stand in the spotlight tonight, and for her generosity to the AIR community.

Geo Beach: The transcript of the entire webchat will be available on the AIR website after a couple of days, so your questions and ideas will have lasting value to AIR members and others in the public radio community who are not able to join us in realtime.

Geo Beach: And once again, as we brave our way out of the airwaves and into the sometimes-tangled web — thanks to AIR’s WebMagician Josef Verbanac, without whom this chat would not be possible. And I encourage you to check out other aspects of the redesigned AIR website.

Matthew Payne: Thanks to Geo, the Host with the most!!! Thanks Sue for being the next victim — uh, Spotlight. And a big shout out to my dawg Josef. Night everyone.:)

Josef Verbanac: Cheers!

Geo Beach: Goodnight, Matthew. Wherever you are.

Nannette Drake Oldenbourg: G’night!