Ah, it's that time of year we all look forward to - the time of year when the Fayetteville City Council decides who gets to administer the public access channel for the next year - two years - three years - what-have-you. It's all sort of boilerplate, unless - and until - you have the eventual inclusion of folks who don't think the city should be in the business of providing such a channel to its citizens in the first place.
I mean, just look at some of the people who come in the doors!
And some of the programming? Well, some of it might please the folks at the Chamber of Commerce, but some of the other stuff? Gimme a break!
And then, of course, there is the "infighting" that one hears about from time to time, the political upheavals. Is it seemly for the City of Fayetteville to contract with an organization which is prone to such high emotion?
This is a canard, pure and simple, as well as being rank hypocrisy. Many of the ones pointing their fingers at C.A.T. (And before that it was Fayetteville Open Channel) are well aware of the political battles in almost every non-profit.
In 20 years of either being involved with non-profits or writing about them (or doing shows about them), I can pretty much tell you that what people see at the rare board meeting or two at C.A.T. is hardly a rare occurrence in such a world.
The grim truth about most C.A.T. board and committee meetings is this - they are pretty damned dull to watch, as is the case with most non-profits.
Occasionally there are internal conflicts, which are played out for all the world to see. Then folks get to act like small-town librarians, looking down their noses, waving their fingers, and saying "Shush!"
"You don't hear about this sort of thing at other non-profits," someone will say.
Ah, so true. I wonder why that is. Wait - I know the answer! And it's one that even the most hypocritical of C.A.T.'s critics is aware of, but will rarely acknowledge:
C.A.T. board meetings have cameras in the room. Other non-profits don't.
When the occasional dust-up happens at C.A.T., it's played out in living color, right in front of the world. Eventually a reporter - usually a few days or even weeks after the fact - gets wind of it, and covers the story.
Scathing editorials are written.
I've been to board and committee meetings at other non-profits where it looked like violence might break out at any second. There was one board in town - which accomplished much good work - in which power shifted every few months depending upon who you were sleeping with at any particular point.
And then there are the boards who simply lose their sense of purpose, and sort of forget why they are meeting in the first place. Some simply can't agree on anything anymore, and they just sort of drift away with the wind.
The Non-Profit Highway is littered with the corpses of these organizations, once so proud, so influential, so respected.
That hasn't happened to public access in Fayetteville - even during the Great Access War, people remembered what was important to them, and when the dust cleared, everyone worked together, and public access in Fayetteville is stronger than it has ever been.
Maybe instead of whining about institutional arguments, some of those who claim to worry about it should instead be asking C.A.T. how they manage to work out their differences?
How does an organization seemingly come close to the brink, and yet rise up again?
For 30 years public access has survived in Fayetteville because of the passion of those involved. And yes, sometimes that passion spills over into the rare (try watching monthly board meetings and you'll see how rare it really is) board meeting, but at the end of the day, those involved know what is truly important, and wounds are healed, and folks work together.
I've seen far too many non-profits where that simply hasn't been the case.
Maybe instead of finger-wagging and folks (who know better) casting aspersions on C.A.T., people should be asking them to write a survival manual.
Quote of the Day
Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press" —Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786
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