October 16, 2006

UMass Lowell: An October Suprise

UMass Lowell: An October Suprise

Our first and biggest funder, UMass Lowell, told us on Friday (yes, the 13th) that they’ve done enough for Open Source, for a while anyway. Lowell’s interim chancellor, David McKenzie, a man we haven’t met yet, said the decision was his, under budgetary pressure.

We wanted UMass Lowell around for the longer term. We loved the association along Thoreau’s own Merrimack River with both town (as in: Kerouac, Whistler, Tsongas) and gown (as in: green chemistry, nanotechnology, and endless regeneration of immigrants and industry). We had planned with UMass over the next five years to build a community radio station around a new studio in Lowell and a new-media communications curriculum at the university.

So we put some of those dreams on the shelf, with real regret and with still more abundant thanks.

It’s not easy to get a radio show off the ground, and UMass Lowell supported us through a year and a half of a then untested concept that debuted on three stations. Support from UMass Lowell gave us time to build an audience of more than 150,000 listeners a night on thirty-one stations. Around 80,000 different people come to our website each month, from more than 150 different countries. 8,000 people download our podcasts.

We are thrilled and omnidirectionally grateful to have germinated a thriving young conversation and a new global community, and we haven’t the least hesitation in promising, with your help, to keep it all growing on the air and on the page.

It goes without saying, but let’s say it just in case: We are reaching out — a little more urgently than we were last week — for new sponsors, large and small, and new ways of paying for what has always been, and will always be, a lean mean staff of professionals. We have wildly grand ambitions in the global transformation of media, which is to say: of human conversation. We need your help and encouragement as we have from the start, or maybe just a little more so.

In the meantime, count on smart interactive radio and web content like the show on how to watch football we have scheduled for tonight.

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