Shakespeare gave Richard the Third a now famous soliloquy in which he begins, "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost" and before long the war was lost as well. One could just as easily begin, "For want of a frequency"and end with the loss of New Orleans.
It has been widely reported that, as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, many radio stations were unable to give warnings, because they were just automated parts of large chains with no local news or programming staffs on site to respond to an emergency. But most people do not know that a different version of the same problem afflicts the rebuilding effort.
These are NOLA's non-commercial radio stations: WRBH, which does special programming for the blind and visually impaired; WBSN, a Christian station; WWNO, a classical music station; WWOZ, a mostly jazz station; and WTUL, the student station of Tulane University, which plays all kinds of music I'm too old to listen to.
As far as I know, these stations all do worthy work in their respective fields, but not one of them is a public affairs station. In other words, most radio discussion of rebuilding New Orleans is in the hands of the same broadcast corporations that abandoned the city to begin with. The poor people of New Orleans, who are already largely shut out of the rebuilding process, have no real broadcast voice at all.
There are two simple lessons to be drawn from this story. The first is that our problems are all connected. The second is that wherever the rich have disproportionate power, poor people pay with their lives.
Jeremy Alderson is the founder of the Homelessness Marathon, a 14 hour radio broadcast featuring homeless people.