Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OK, I admit it, I'm a thief!

I'm a horrible hypocrite and I should be locked up! I drive around in my little Honda Civic, looking all innocent, all the while hiding a terrible, dark secret! I've been stealing almost every day for several years! This is worse than that time I skipped a school board election just because I don't have children and had no idea who to vote for. So, what did I do that could be so bad, you ask?

I've been listening to NPR and I let my membership lapse. I know! I feel terrible about it! OK, here's what happened:

I used to contribute years ago and I actually gave quite a bit because I would take the expensive premiums, like tickets to concerts and things like that. But several years ago I was having major financial problems and I could barely pay my bills. I don't want to act like I was living in poverty or anything; I was just going through a brief period where I had no money.

My only entertainment was watching public television, using an antenna (OMG, no cable?!). So I maintained my very reasonable $40 annual contribution to my local PBS station. But I had to let my public radio subscription lapse. I wasn't actually listening to the radio very much, anyway. After a few years, though, while I still didn't have much money, I probably could have afforded to start contributing again.

But I didn't. Here's the problem: When I first looked into trying to make a minimum donation to KPCC, our station in Pasadena, it looked like the minimum amount they wanted was $89. The 89 corresponds to the number on the dial (89.3) and I know I could have given less but I felt like I wouldn't have been a real member. I was just shocked that they wanted over twice as much as my public television station; I think it's much more expensive to produce television. The second problem is that I actually listen to two stations (the other is KCRW, 89.9) and I couldn't decide which to give to and I didn't feel like I could afford both. And I just kept putting it off and then completely forgot about it. Every once in a while, as I was quickly turning off a pledge drive, I would say to myself, "Self, you really need to make a contribution. You can afford it now."

So I finally did it! I just contributed to both stations. By the way, KCRW only demands $25 from you for a basic membership, which is very reasonable.

One more thing: you know how they always say how important it is to contribute, no matter how small the amount? Well, I think that's bullshit. I think they probably lose money on small contributions because if you donate anything they end up bombarding you with mailings pleading for more money. And those mailings must be expensive! I'm reminded of a New Yorker cartoon from a few years ago by Matthew Diffee where a guy opens a letter and it reads, "Your generous donation will help pay for these solicitations."

That's my rant of the day: coming out of the closet as a longtime public radio thief and telling the tale of my courage and generosity in taking 30 second out of my day to go online and contribute the absolute smallest amount I could comfortably get away with. Does that make me a hero? Maybe; but I'm not doing this for the glory. Hearing Carl Kassell's voice every day is all the thanks I need. If you don't listen to public radio, you should; it's very good! And if you can't afford to donate any money, don't worry about it; I've got you covered. Don't let them make you feel guilty! I'd rather you were listening to public radio and not contributing than have you not listen at all!

But if you can afford it, send them some cash! It doesn't matter how small the amount. every little bit helps. Really.


Delphine said...

I worked at my college's telethon and we were supposed to try to get people to give anything, even $5 because then the participation percentage would be high and that makes us look good. If an organization has a high percentage then they might be able to get corporations to give by showing how many people are involved.

eric3000 said...

Thanks, Delphine; that's interesting! OK, so every little bit really does help!

BigAssBelle said...

oh the shame! i, too, have been thieving the airwaves, blissfully indulging in This American Life and Splendid Table and Car Talk without contributing a single penny.

you have motivated me to make amends this very day. i shall donate to my station which is just a few miles away. thanks for the kick in the pants.

I don't want to act like I was living in poverty or anything; I was just going through a brief period where I had no money.

it strikes me that you have perfectly put into words the difference between people with resources and those who have never had them and, in our current system, never will. i don't mean only financial resources, but resources of education and skill and hope and resiliency.

BigAssBelle said...

i meant to say that there is an abject poverty that comes doused in the knowledge that things will never change, while a period of no money is simply a period of no money, equal in a way to poverty, but not really the same.

Ms. Place said...

I served on a local PBS advisory board for 6 years, Eric, and sometimes didn't donate. Oh, the guilt! But I would answer the phones during the telethon and volunteer my services in other ways. Still ...

I adore NPR so much that I download 18 hours of podcasts every week to listen to Good Food, This American Life, The Business, Fresh Air, NPR Shuffle, and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

It's been a year since I contributed, and you shame me, Eric, SHAME me into donating again.

Oh, and Lynette, yes. There's a vast difference between finding oneself in temporary straits and facing a life of abject poverty.

Great post - again - E3K. Food for thought. Gotta go and find my checkbook! :)

eric3000 said...

Yay! My post is reminding people to contribute! I'm glad I'm not the only one who kept forgetting to do it!

mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

Oh heck, Eric ! I only allow my kids and mom to give me guilt. Ok line up behind mom, you succeeded. But I won't do it right away. Nope. I usually procrastinate and rebell a little bit first.

Anonymous said...

Eric, this is way OT, but --

Do you think you'd ever run for office?

-- desertwind

PS - Example of political life. The crowd roars when a local band sings their biggest hit -- "Recall the Water Board".

eric3000 said...


I haven't completely ruled out forming an exploratory committee, but the answer is probably no. LOL!

Linda Merrill said...

True confessions... I worked for public television (WGBH-Boston) for 14 years - lots of overtime spent, plus I volunteered for our auction. And no, I don't donate. I'm terrible, I know! And, I am a daily NPR listener. But, I just feel like I paid my dues! OK, excuses, I know!

But seriously, thanks to all of you for your support. You not only get to keep listening to the on-air talent that you love, but you're supporting the countless people who work behind the scenes as well!

trixie said...

Linda - volunteering is contributing! It is a much larger and more meaningful contribution than money.

When I stopped working full time my charitable contributions had to be scaled back. Then Katrina came along and my horror at the situation was intensified by having family and friends living in New Orleans and that altered my priorities again. It is hard to say no -- especially to organizations that you've supported previously.

I'm not saying it isn't important to support public radio and tv but if you have to choose my inclination is to focus on the smaller organizations with the most personal connections. Public Radio/TV have endowments, professional fundraising campaigns and corporate donors. I'd rather support the jazz station that comes out of a local college.

Not having money has also made me get creative about being charitable; profits from a t-shirt I designed support the New Orleans SPCA: www.cafepress.com/korainhell
(I hope you don't mind my putting up the link but I don't expect anyone to buy one and by all means don't feel guilty it! Like I said, you have to pick charities you feel personally connected to... but if you know anyone who would support this please pass it along!)

wildflower38 said...

Hello, my name is wildflower38 and I'm a thief too. I've been exercising to Margaret Richard's Body Electric. I haven't made a contribution since 2000..... I'm so ashamed.......

An said...

I want to win Carl Kassel's voice on my home answering machine!

(Oh yeah, and thanks for the reminder too! I've been meaning to drop that check in the mail!)

stever said...

Has anyone else noticed a recent change in Carl Kassell's voice? It sounds a little more clear to me. Amy I crazy?