We have written several times on storytelling and its continued value in all forms; knowing who you are, what you do and being able to communicate that fact simply and succinctly in a world of white noise is more valuable today than ever before. Lots of screaming going on, but when you listen, what are you hearing?
That’s why the power of audio in storytelling continues to grow. We know all about podcasting and its appeal. In urban areas you can’t go more than a few feet where someone is not listening to something on an audio device. Music, talk, whatever; we are tined in and hopefully not too tuned out. Listening has become more of an oasis than ever before, if we can do enough of it.
So it is that through the beauty of Facebook’s “On This Day” feature (one of two things I do every morning; look at birthdays and click “On This Day” as it takes you back to where you were an serves as a great reset for all going on for at least a few seconds) and noticed that a few years ago, my alma mater, Fordham University, had posted a picture and short story about the beginnings of college radio in the Bronx, at WFUV. My math was still good enough to notice that the actual 70 year anniversary was only a day behind, so it became a sharable, and widely sharable moment. The business of the day let the real value of that moment to slip away, which was to take a second and reflect on the value of spoken word storytelling that has evolved over 70 years literally in a top floor hallway and now in a basement of a venerable building on a beautiful campus north of Manhattan. The building is Keating Hall, and the campus is of course, Fordham.
Now there are many budding stars who walked those halls and those studios. The names always bandied about, Charles Osgood, Alan Alda, Vin Scully in days way past; Pete Fornatale, Dennis Elsis, Mike Breen, Michael Kay, and Bob Papa amongst many in recent years, but the real value came from the storytellers born in the studio and the meetings that have gone on to be successful communicators in fields very wide; accountants and doctors, entrepreneurs and marketers, PR professionals and advertising executives, fathers and mothers, who all learned the value of the spoken word and how to communicate effectively. Over 70 years the numbers of students, faculty and even dedicated professionals who come back to mentor and now broadcast is in the thousands, and the value of those traits; speaking, writing, LISTENING…it is radio after all…has never been stronger. Then there are the friendships personally and professionally that share that bond of early mornings, late nights and chilly afternoons that helped build teamwork and professionalism on and off the air. All of those things are invaluable, and why I think the picture posting struck such a cord.
November 1 WFUV will host its “On The Record” annual fundraiser, and will honor two great communicators, Judy Woodruff, the late Gwen Ifill and the late Bob Wolff (along with longtime sports director Bob Ahrens and others), who were not WFUV alums but shared the great ability to storytell and communicate, traits that are the lifeblood of any business today. I had the great pleasure of listening to and being touched by the lives of many great storytellers who helped shape me (Bob Wolff being one of the first when I was starting out in the business with another of the amazing storytellers, the late Mike Cohen) and the means to storytelling remains the same; be clear, be authentic, be engaging and be succinct.
Most of all be a good citizen, as that personal capital is what you take with you in a very fluid business world today. I like to think that over 70 years of radio in The Bronx, there were lots of good communicators being born for careers, but even more importantly, there were some great citizens being nurtured and stories being told. That was the beauty of WFUV and other stations like it then and now; it wasn’t the baritone voices, it was the people who told the stories.
After all, without great storytellers, who can put the message forth? It literally can fall of deaf ears!
Earlier in October was College Radio Day, which is a very worthwhile effort to acknowledge audio storytelling in all shapes and forms. I have seen and continue to embrace, the great students and professionals who are enhancing the art of storytelling across colleges and high schools. It is an invaluable trait in business today and hope it will continue to be nurtured and grow, just like it has been at Fordham now for an amazing 70 years.
Great people can tell great stories; you just need to listen.