Each year, as part of the OSS Radio Station Hubs Program, a selected handful of local public radio stations nationwide help raise awareness of the initiative by facilitating OSS conversations in their communities. The initiative brings two strangers with opposing political beliefs together for a conversation—not to debate politics—but to get to know each other as people. 

This year, the cohort of five OSS Radio Station Hubs includes KRCB, Northern California’s Public Media station, based in Sonoma County. In this second installment of our Hubs blog series, we focus on this station’s experience implementing OSS. 

Hubs Manager Melissa Velasquez with the KRCB OSS team: Kathryn Nelson, Rhian Miller, and Max Allen.

Since KRCB was chosen as a Hubs station in May, freelance Producer Rhian Miller has been in charge of coordinating and facilitating OSS conversations for the station. With a goal of 25 completed interviews by the end of December, she and the station are committed to reaching that number.

OSS conversations require stations to recruit both liberals and conservatives which has been a bit of a challenge, notes Miller. “Our county leans pretty liberal, so we’ve had to be a little more creative in recruiting conservatives and we’re still working on it.” KRCB Radio Manager Kathryn Nelson is personally invested in the recruitment effort and has gone the extra mile to generate interest in OSS, recently visiting the local farmer’s market to talk with some key community members who happened to be running a booth there. She adds, “As a community radio station, this effort reminds us that It’s very important that we bridge the divide ourselves and ensure that we are accessible to all groups of people.” 

To promote OSS, the station has also been experimenting with content, says KRCB’s Associate Radio Producer Max Allen. In addition to creating :30 spots with snippets of OSS conversations for social media and radio, KRCB-TV has created a TV spot with OSS conversation partners former Northern California Public Media President and CEO Nancy Dobbs and Santa Rosa Metro Chamber CEO Peter Rumble. KRCB plans to create a longer, three-minute version of the spot that includes Dobbs and Rumble’s reflections after the conversation. “We want to get the word out about OSS in every way possible,” says Allen. 

This is music to the ears of OSS Radio Relations Manager Melissa Velasquez, who manages the stations’ partnership with OSS. She states, “I’ll make suggestions to the stations about creating content and I encourage them to experiment, but when they take the initiative and run with itlike KRCB hasthat’s so encouraging to see and their enthusiasm is contagious.”

So far, the response to the initiative from the local community has been positive. Says Miller, “In the interview room, right after their first conversation, several people have already expressed interest in participating again.” Organizations are interested too. “Of the community organizations we’ve reached out to, all the leaders are telling us ‘We’re so glad you’re doing this,’” adds Nelson. “They are happy to spread the word to their networks.” 

Why did KRCB apply to become a Hubs Station? “For us, it’s simple,” remarks Nelson. “Now, more than ever, it’s so important to bridge divides–we really feel strongly about this.”

KRCB’s work on OSS will culminate with a listening party the second week of December, which will allow participants and the community to celebrate and reflect on their Radio Station Hubs experience.