Guest Post: What’s the WURD? The Future of Black Talk Radio (Part 2)

Now more than ever, it’s clear that we need to have independent media that has the courage to speak truth to power. And therein lies the rub from a business perspective.  How do you speak truth to power when you are reliant on the power structure for your financial viability? This is the delicate dance that all media constantly navigates. For us, we have to always honor the trust we have cultivated within our audience. This means having an unflinching commitment to talking about issues that may make our friends and business supporters uncomfortable. In other words, we must be authentic.

Complicating things further is that today far too many corporations take the Black community for granted. There is a widely held belief that you don’t have to do targeted marketing to reach African-Americans anymore. Instead, if you throw a Black person in a general market TV ad, or have some soulful music in the background of a mass market radio commercial, you’ll get Black folks and White folks without having to spend additional dollars. The proverbial two-for-one approach. And that’s killing Black media.

Add the current economic crisis to the mix where small Black businesses, a traditional base of advertising support for Black media, continue to struggle to survive, and you understand my “endangered species” analogy.

All is not lost, however. To navigate this rocky landscape requires creativity, tenacity, flexibility and patience, which we have in abundance at WURD. Last year we began positioning the company as a multi-media enterprise that includes three powerful channels: on air (900AM-WURD), online, and in the community (WURD Speaks interactive event series).  This has allowed us to begin to structure strategic partnerships with major institutions around the city. Some of these partnerships include Art Sanctuary, WHYY, the University of Pennsylvania, and The Philadelphia Theater Company.  Additionally, we have been successful in attracting such blue chip advertisers as Universal Companies, PECO, Keystone Mercy Health Plan, United Health, Peirce College, Wells Fargo, and PNC Bank.

This past June, WURD launched its first ever membership campaign. Titled “900 In 90,” our goal was to get 900 people to contribute $90 to help protect, preserve and build Philadelphia’s only Black talk radio station. This initial program ends on September 6 and has been a tremendous success. We have received an outpouring of support from hundreds of WURD listeners who have expressed how critical the radio station is to their day-to-day lives.

Tomorrow: Part 3 of What’s the WURD?, in which Sara continues to discusses the creative programs and initiatives that have helped to ensure WURD’s success; and a call-to-action for the listening community.

Sara Lomax-Reese is the president of WURD Radio, LLC, Philadelphia’s only African-American owned talk radio station. She has been the host and producer of HealthQuest Live radio show on WURD since 2002. Prior to her work with WURD, Sara co-founded HealthQuest: Total Wellness for Body, Mind & Spirit, the first nationally circulated African-American consumer health magazine in the country. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Sara’s writings have been widely published in The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Essence Magazine, American Visions Magazine and Modern Maturity.

With an entrepreneurial spirit and creative vision, Sara remains committed to educating, empowering and enlightening the community around optimal health. In her role at WURD, she is able to mobilize all of her experiences, to help build it into a powerful and vital voice for the African-American community.


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