First World Report will broadcast black issues

Wailin Wong

Like fuzzy reception, For Members Only’s radio show on WNUR came on, faded out, faded back in and faded out again.

But the program is returning with full force this weekend, and host Mike Blake says the voice of the black community will be louder than ever.

First World Report, an FMO-affiliated public affairs program, will broadcast its first show of the year at 3 p.m. Saturday with a Martin Luther King Jr. theme. Blake and other FMO students took control of the show after it went on hiatus Fall Quarter.

“There are only 500 black students on campus, and it’s imperative to show we have a voice despite our small numbers,” said Blake, a Medill freshman. “I thought my not taking advantage of this opportunity would be an injustice to myself and the black community.”

Two years ago, Kim Johnson saw a photo of black students in the 1960s or 1970s broadcasting a radio show. Johnson, now a Medill junior, found out that First World Report had been missing from WNUR programming for about the last 10 years and decided to bring the show back to life. This year, Johnson passed the hosting duties on to Blake so she could focus on her studies.

“I started it from nothing,” Johnson said of the program. “This show was my baby. It was my heart.”

First World Report will kick off with man-on-the-street interviews, followed by an in-studio open forum with guests and callers. Blake is the permanent host and will share the mic with two co-hosts that will rotate each week.

For the first show, instead of a live guest, First World Report will play a taped interview with Michael Eric Dyson, the DePaul University professor and MLK biographer who spoke Tuesday at Northwestern.

Future topics include blacks in the entertainment industry and interracial dating, with guests coming mostly from NU and Evanston.

Medill Prof. Ava Greenwell, who hosted First World Report during her sophomore year at NU in 1981-82, said the show was a way for local politicians to have their voice heard.

“Some of the people we had on the radio might have not gotten the same interview time in mainstream media that they got on First World Report,” Greenwell said.

And Blake said he hopes the program will be an effective mouthpiece for the black community to educate listeners about black issues. First World Report has a 3 p.m. time slot on Saturday, which Blake sees as a time when many students will be tuned in.

When Johnson resurrected the show two years ago, the program was broadcast at 8 a.m. Saturday and was eventually promoted to noon, a time Johnson said she fought to win.

“Missing (a show) for us wasn’t an option because we were an African-American show and working with a predominantly white general executive board,” she said. “Not to say that all of them were prejudiced, but I wasn’t given respect until way later in the game. I wouldn’t back down.”

Blake said he also thinks First World Report is held to a higher standard because it is a black program. But that pressure motivates him to produce the best show possible, he said.

“I go in with the mentality that there are always more whites than blacks,” Blake said. “For us to excel, we have to be the kind of show where we’re being talked about. If we as the staff can’t generate that enthusiasm within ourselves, we do not deserve to be on that show. It’s a pretty big challenge, but I put it in God’s hands.”