Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Fond Farewell

This morning, I posted this message to "PBS Connect", a forum for public broadcasters. I am posting it here as well since it sums up my feelings on this strange, emotional day...



After 26 years working here, today is my final day at WFUM. As some of you may have read, this departure isn't exactly voluntary. The University of Michigan has decided to suspend operation of the station citing financial concerns.
I will spend much of today packing away the remaining items in my office. The final item I will pack will also be my most treasured: a copy of the book "Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control" autographed by it's author, Fred W. Friendly. This book was given to me several years ago by my good friend, boss, co-worker and mentor Jim Gaver upon his retirement. I know this book meant as much to him as it does now to me, which is why I was so moved and honored when he passed it along.
For those of you who are perhaps not familiar with the aforementioned book, it is a chronicle of the author's time in commercial broadcasting, his eventual disillusion with it and the statement of his vision for a non-commercial television service that would eventually become public television. Although the book was written in the 1960's, the arguments it makes for the value of public broadcasting are, I think, as valid now as they ever have been. If I were the Supreme Ruler of Public Broadcasting, I would make this book mandatory reading for all PTV employees. (That and "Rich Media, Poor Democracy" by Robert W. McChesney.)
I feel I have a lot in common with that copy of Mr. Friendly's book. Our outer covers are a bit worse for wear, but inside we're still as full of idealism as ever.

During my time in Public Television, I have had the good fortune to work with a great number of amazing, hard working and talented individuals. I have worked here for so long and I have met and worked with so many fantastic individuals I cannot possibly list them all. I would, however, like to mention a representative few. First of all, the aforementioned Jim Gaver, who inspired me with the idealism, knowledge and desire to work in this wonderful field. My Traffic pals Marge Mooney at WKAR, Chris Fleming at WDCQ, Donna Deeb at WGVU, Tania Schripsema at WCMU and Suze Kanack at Wyoming Public Television. I also would like to thank Carrie Corbin at WGVU for her honesty, support and information. I also have been proud and privileged to work with Kirk Lawrence, George Corba and Mark Brown, three engineers who share qualities seldom found together in a single person: top-rate technical competence and genuine human warmth. Finally, I would like to thank my assistant and hard-working "partner in crime", Quentin Dahl for his tireless efforts in fixing my more-frequent-than-I'd-like-to-admit mistakes and his willingness to put in an extra effort in all he does. Working with all of you has been a highlight not only of my professional but also my personal life.

And my final words to my friends and soon-to-be-former colleagues who still have the opportunity to serve your communities via public broadcasting: NEVER forget how important your work is! What you do is valuable and needed in your communities. Always bear that in mind! I know from personal experience that sometimes when you're in the second week of a caffeine-fueled slog of a pledge drive you wonder why you do this, but then you get - for example - an emotional phone call from a viewer recently diagnosed with cancer who received comfort and information from a documentary you just aired. Or you read an article on a successful local artist who was inspired to pick up her brushes by painting shows on public television. (Both true stories.) That's when you realize what public broadcasting is really all about. Public broadcasting isn't about ratings. It's about people. It's about ideas. It's about knowledge and art and enlightening discussions and quality entertainment. Just forget what some pundits and bean counters may say. The work you do is still vital and important. It not only should continue; it should expand. What public broadcasting has achieved in the past decades has been amazing, but it is nowhere near what its potential could be if its true value were recognized and funded accordingly.

So now I bid you all a fond farewell. I leave here for an uncertain future, trying to find a job in the middle of a recession in the metropolitan area Money Magazine ranked as the worst in the nation in which to find employment.
But if, somehow, that future should again include a position in public broadcasting, I promise that the first thing I do will be to unpack and place proudly on the highest shelf in my new office my copy of "Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control".

So ciao, all! I'm off to make lemonade!

-John Vamossy
WFUM, Flint MI

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