On the Air:
Back in his Charles Street studio, WJHU-FM talk show host
Marc Steiner gazes at the tiled ceiling as if he can still see
the deep blue Arizona sky and the towering mountains.
"There is an overwhelming spirituality to the land," he says. Steiner recently returned from the White Mountain Apache reservation in east central Arizona, where he advised Apache youths on technical aspects and programming at the community radio station, KNNB-FM. He recalls how he was struck by contrasts.
"There is a glaring sense of separateness," he adds. "The reservation is the closest thing we have to a colonial legacy. There is 50 percent unemployment, there's poverty and a high teen suicide rate."
Although Steiner went to the White Mountain reservation to lend technical assistance in radio production to a teen-run talk show called Speak Up! he is quick to admit that for him the visit was a learning experience and provided a dose of culture shock as well.
"We have a lot to learn from them. It's a very complex place," says Steiner, who, when he was not offering technical support in the studio, spent much of his time with White Mountain tribal chairman Ronnie Lupe. The time spent with Lupe gave him valuable ecological and cultural insights, he says.
Best known for bringing complex, controversial and interesting guests to the microphone on his talk show, "The Marc Steiner Show," Steiner found striking contrasts between WJHU and KNNB.
"Much of the programming on KNNB is in Apache. Programming in their language allows them a continuing identity. But, overall, their programming is eclectic. Music programming, for example, runs from blues to reggae to country western, which is very popular," he says.
Steiner, who visited the White Mountain reservation in early February, will go back to White River, the largest town on the White Mountain reservation and seat of tribal government, during the last week in March. His continuing technical assistance to KNNB-FM adds to what has become a long list of players who have taken part in cooperative projects between The Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, located at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, and the White Mountain Apache community.
The Hopkins-White Mountain alliance began in the 1970s with oral rehydration programs to prevent infant deaths from severe diarrhea. During the past two decades, the alliance has included health projects focusing on vaccine research, nutrition projects for mothers and babies, and diabetes prevention.
Most recently, through the "Healthy Nations Project," the Hopkins-White Mountain Apache alliance initiated the community project to give teen-agers in the community a voice through Speak Up!--a call-in talk show designed to allow teens to discuss important community issues without fear of adult censorship or interruption. In a reversal of roles, Steiner was a guest on Speak Up! as soon as he arrived at KNNB's studio in White River. White River is almost 200 miles from Phoenix.
According to CAIANH community media consultant Antje Becker, discussions of problems related to alcohol abuse and domestic violence are frequent on the teen-produced talk show.
"The oral tradition here is very strong," says Becker, who in the beginning of the project helped organize and direct the teen-run radio call-in show. Becker adds that the show quickly became popular with teens and adults in the community who found that difficult issues--such as alcohol abuse and domestic violence--could be freely and effectively discussed first on the air and then at home between parents and teens.
"The participants developed a strong sense of ownership for the show, and a passion for it," Becker says.
When Steiner returns to the reservation at the end of March, he will be accompanied by WJHU's Lisa Morgan, who will work with the teen radio show's participants teaching editing and other technical production skills. Producing public service announcements and helping the teen participants to produce their own documentaries top the agenda for the March visit.
Steiner also is arranging interviews with the Apache Scouts, the community's firefighters, and with the elders who work toward preventing suicides. "Future plans include my broadcasting 'slices of life from White Mountain' back to Baltimore," says Steiner. "This will give the people of Baltimore an opportunity to meet the people of the White Mountain reservation. We'll showcase the kids and their work, of course."
Besides continuing to lend technical support through workshops and hands-on projects, future plans also include arranging for the White Mounain teen-agers to visit Baltimore.
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