OPINION: WFHB is Bloomington's hidden gem


Two young volunteers take an on-air break during WFHB's early days of operation. The community radio station was founded in 1993. Courtesy Photo

Where someone receives news has an enormous effect on how they see the world.

Someone who only reads the Wall Street Journal will see the world like a Republican businessman. Someone who only reads the New York Times will see the world like an upper middle class liberal. Someone who only listens Ben Shapiro’s podcast will see the world the same way as an alt-right misanthrope. 

Though the internet has democratized a large chunk of media production, news is still largely driven by commercial imperatives. The news that appears on social media feeds can fall into any of a number of categories based on your interactions and preferences. As usage increases, algorithms eventually create an echo chamber that reinforces one’s own personal biases.

People who get their news from our community radio station are in a very different media environment. Community radio promotes community engagement at a local level. WFHB is explicitly non-commercial and exists for the purpose of public education and communication. Much of the station’s programming is geared towards local interests. The result is content that genuinely strives to educate people on local politics and struggles, as well as elevate local artists and charities.

WFHB is driven in large part by volunteers. Concerned members of the community have the ability to contribute to the station by becoming volunteer members. The variety of content underscores how closely linked the station is with the needs of the community.

There are many public affairs shows representing all stripes of life. There is a show specifically about issues in Brown County, and several completely in Spanish. Another show is about Asian Americans in South Central Indiana and a show called The Hijabi Diaries is dedicated to local Muslim women’s issues.

One of my favorites is a show called "Bring it On!", which describes itself as Indiana’s only weekly radio program specifically for discussing the issues that affect the black community. Another is "Kite Line", a weekly show devoted to prisoners’ rights and prisoners issues. There is also nationally syndicated independent programming.

WFHB broadcasts "Democracy Now!", one of America's most important daily news shows, every morning at 8 a.m. and again at noon. The station also broadcasts CounterSpin, a program that dissects the national media, and Economic Update, a show about the economy from a leftist perspective. Each of these is an example of shows that are critical of power and thus outside the mainstream. These are all voices that are ignored and effectively silenced in modern commercial media.

The music shows are an eclectic array of tastes and eras. It is not uncommon to hear bluegrass, jazz, indie pop, or death metal when randomly tuning in. The station tends to stay away from the mainstream and rarely repeats itself. WFHB also hosts a Community Calendar that community organizations can use to advertise important local events.

How else would anyone hear about a solar energy information session happening at the Monroe County Public Library on Tuesday? Or that the Monroe County civic theatre is performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a park Friday? 

If you ever feel the need to become more informed and connected with local civil society, WFHB is an excellent place to start. Community Radio is integral to Bloomington’s local culture and should be more widely listened to. WFHB can be heard at 91.3 and 98.1 FM.

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