The Baltimore Community Radio Coalition (BCRC) is a collaborative project of faculty at Goucher College, Loyola College, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and members of the Baltimore community.
Children, youth and young adults in many Baltimore neighborhoods face daunting challenges to their emotional well-being, education and safety. Public health interventions target these challenges on many levels: they seek to reduce the challenges themselves, and increase the capacity of individuals and communities to overcome them. However, communities need means of communication to act cohesively. Modern media—newspapers, television, radio, even the Internet—are increasingly targeted at a regional or national level. Information that originates and is received locally is needed to disseminate accurate information, provide a sense of ownership and build support for common causes. In that sense, community radio is an infrastructure intervention—it seeks to provide a means by which communities can organize formally and informally to improve living conditions.
At the same time, children and youth need opportunities for intellectually engaging activities that build on their strengths, teach them new skills and provide them with the potential to to play active roles in their communities. The skills involved in community radio—developing story lines and focused arguments, learning interviewing and speaking skills—are associated with academic success and with developing a positive image of youth in the community. Thus, community radio complements other interventions aimed at youth literacy, violence prevention, school-retention, appropriate use of health care resources, and career development.
We have been working with youth media projects since 2000, initially with funding from the Open Society Institute. Some of the audio programs produced by students in our "Uniquely Spoken" project have been posted on the public radio web site, PRX (the Public Radio Exchange) and have been used by public radio stations from across the country.
We currently work with three community sites in Baltimore. The Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School in lower Charles Village is equipped with a small studio (funded by a grant from the Radio and Television News Directors' Foundation) and a micro-power transmitter. Programs are also produced at Learning, Inc., in Hampden, a non-profit organization that serves youth having trouble attending middle and high schools. An after-school radio production activity for students (supported by the Community Schools Initiative/YMCA of Central Maryland) has just begun at Wolfe Street Academy and installation of a micro-transmitter is planned for spring 2008. Micro-transmitters are made possible by a grant from Loyola College's "Year of the City" program.
BCRC's youth-generated material is featured on The Community Radio Hour on WLOY, Loyola College's internet radio station. WLOY can also be heard on 1620 AM in the vicinty of the Loyola campus in Baltimore and in lower Charles Village.
With the support of a Bloomberg School of Public Health Faculty Research Initiatives Fund grant, we have installed a training studio in Hampton House on the BSPH campus. The studio houses basic recording and editing equipment for use by students, faculty, and community groups. Watch this site for notices of studio "open house" and training events.