The Pender Guy crew, a group of Chinese-Canadians and Asian-Canadians, produced and aired numerous radio programs. But the Pender Guy crew did more than make radio programs.
Suppose you are a group of Chinese-Canadians or Asian-Canadians. Suppose you want to produce a newer version of Pender Guy - or something like it. What might you need to make Version 1.1 of Pender Guy?
What ingredients were involved with the original Pender Guy? What ingredients might be involved with this new version, Pender Guy 1.1?
The Pender Guy radio series started as one of the activities suggested to participants of the Between Us Chinese youth conference.
Many of the women and men who started Pender Guy had prior experience in the Chinese-Canadian community. We cared deeply about our community.
When we started Pender Guy, many of us knew relatively little about radio production. Our determination, no, passion to make the community better pushed us to learn what we needed to learn about making radio - and about making radio better.
As Pender Guy grew, new Pender Guy members may have been attracted for various reasons to the show. Many or perhaps most Pender Guy volunteers gained a new appreciation of the community through their radio work.
Radio is a wonderful medium. Radio reaches people who cannot afford or are not in a position to use other media. Radio is immediate. Radio's impact is limited only by the imagination.
Some Pender Guy crew members may have been attracted to Pender Guy through personal curiosity about and their interests in radio. The Pender Guy environment facilitated their learning not only about radio - but also about working with people who cared passionately about community, about radio, and about community radio.
Many Pender Guy crew members enjoyed making radio. Some continued to develop their radio and media careers - before, during, or after involvement in Pender Guy.
Pender Guy was produced and aired on a community radio station: Vancouver Co-operative Radio, CFRO FM, 102.7 MegaHertz.
For Pender Guy, community radio was a special form of radio.
Pender Guy Radio Collective members were not forced to adopt a traditional, hierarchical, compartmentalized crew structure. That flexibility gave Pender Guy individuals and the crew opportunities to develop and to experiment with our own ways of working individually and as a team. An individual member could, starting with very little radio-production knowledge but a lot of determination to continue learning and working hard in the team, eventually become a Pender Guy co-producer.
Working in Pender Guy was an intense experience. To make good Pender Guy programing - and to make Pender Guy good - we needed to go beyond just working hard. Perhaps, in some ways, various Pender Guy crew members worked, ate, and breathed Pender Guy. As volunteers, we paid to make Pender Guy - for our community radio memberships, for our tape and production supplies.
At the community radio station, in the small hours of the morning just before the last bus home arrived, when I was determined to finish a production well - or after staying more or less awake for perhaps dozens of hours in order to get a Pender Guy special feature completed to my satisfaction before airtime - I knew why I was there. And money was not my answer. Many of my colleagues may have had similar or parallel feelings about their Pender Guy experiences.
Working in a community radio station with limited resources, we understood that we had responsibilities to the station - and to our non-Pender Guy colleagues at that station. One example where Pender Guy crew members carried out those responsibilities was the sharing of custodial/janitorial maintenance of the radio station. When the Pender Guy show's turn to do clean-up came around, Pender Guy crew members did the clean-up.
Being in communication with and collaborating with other community radio workers in non-Pender Guy shows focusing on other constituencies provided me with valuable insights. Various communities shared - and share - similarities in themes, patterns, needs-contexts. The Pender Guy experience for me then was not one like opportunities in other organizations to work only with colleagues who were almost exclusively concerned with "Chinese-Canadian" or "Asian-Canadian" concerns. Vancouver Co-operative Radio provided support for radio production groups focusing on radio by and for women, communities with diverse sexual orientations, communities with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, people involved in the union movement, musicians and listeners who cared about musical diversity, and numerous other groups and individuals.
I received radio production-related training from colleagues, including especially non-Pender Guy colleagues, at Vancouver Co-operative Radio. I also eventually provided training workshops at that community radio station to others wanting to learn radio.
Indeed, at one point, I tried to invite and to train various Chinese-Canadian women to form a radio production group to produce a feminist, Cantonese-language, high-quality radio program series with effective documentaries and perhaps a public affairs focus at Vancouver Co-operative Radio. While that series did not launch, the women involved continued to contribute in various community-related areas. Years later, some of the women from that group, with support from others, started what was apparently the first Chinese-Canadian Women's Festival/Chinese-Canadian International Women's Day Festival - with on-site child care - in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I expect that Chinese-Canadians or Asian-Canadians wanting to make Pender Guy 1.1 - even perhaps with a different name - will also need to share a passionate caring about the Chinese-Canadian or Asian-Canadian community and its improvement. I expect that their Pender Guy 1.1 work will benefit greatly from their personal, first-hand knowledge and experience from their being a part of and working in that community. I expect that Pender Guy 1.1 will benefit from its crew's strong interest in media - and, in particular, in community media.
Some of us in Pender Guy knew relatively little about radio production when we started our Pender Guy involvement. We learned about radio production and journalism in workshops by and in communications with our non-Pender Guy colleagues - many of whom were also volunteers - from Vancouver Co-operative Radio. And we learned from each other - from our Pender Guy colleagues.
An Asian-American radio series, Dupont Guy, existed on a commercial radio station in San Francisco, California, United States of America. But the context of the Dupont Guy series was not identical to the Pender Guy context.
Pender Guy volunteers needed to invent Pender Guy. And we needed to keep improving Pender Guy.
We experimented with various approaches. We learned from colleagues, books, and other resources.
For technical radio production skills, the Basic Equipment Manual from Vancouver Co-operative Radio was an important written introduction.
One book whose use I encouraged was The Technique of Radio Production: A Manual for Local Broadcasters:
McLeish, Robert. The Technique of Radio Production: A Manual for Local Broadcasters. London, England: Focal Press Limited, 1978. ISBN (excl. USA): 0 240 51008 9. ISBN (USA only) 0 8038 7186 4.
The Technique of Radio Production was a practical how-to (and how-not-to) handbook that covered topics ranging from interviewing to script writing to radio drama to documentary work and other topics.
Finding out about and, where appropriate, participation in relevant conferences and workshops were another avenue for self-improvement. One example of interest to me was an Investigative Journalism workshop series. The series was organized in part by the Centre for Investigative Journalism, which later evolved into the Canadian Association of Journalists, and by the Periodical Writers Association of Canada.
In many senses, learning how to make Pender Guy radio meant making Pender Guy radio. Much of the experience was a hands-on, creative experience. Especially with, in general, our production budgets being limited to what we could spare from our personal wallets and handbags, we adapted, innovated, and invented to make radio that, to our knowledge, had never been made before.
What a given Pender Guy member gained from Pender Guy was perhaps directly proportional to the square (or maybe even the exponential function) of what she or he put into Pender Guy. If a person came in to observe Pender Guy once or twice briefly and then left, that person might have felt that she or he gained perhaps only a little understanding about Pender Guy and might have left skeptical about what Pender Guy had to offer. On the other hand, a person who joined Pender Guy, and for long hours over a period of time, thought, worked, and collaborated in regards to Pender Guy intensely may have come away enriched, empowered, and perhaps even enabled. In some ways, Pender Guy was not only a technical experience, but also a people experience - an experience about culture and about community improvement via careful use of a medium called radio.
McLeish, Robert. Radio Production . Oxford, United Kingdom: Focal Press, 1999. ISBN: 0240515544.
The Pender Guy crew needed to communicate internally with each other - on a person-to-person basis and in a group or meeting setting.
Communication may be viewed as at least a two-way process and perhaps as a multi-way process. Communication in a group as complex as Pender Guy under tight production timeframes was a challenge that Pender Guy members sought to address on an on-going basis.
In general, I believe we strove to work effectively with each other. We tried to develop and to implement approaches and mechanisms to help us work effectively - individually and together.
I believe our efforts to be supportive of each other have had lasting effects. Long after the open-reel tapes of Pender Guy had finished playing on Vancouver Co-operative Radio's broadcast decks, Pender Guy crew members worked in various roles outside Pender Guy. My discovery of supportiveness by at least one Pender Guy colleague for one or more Asian-Canadians considering media careers - decades after Pender Guy finished its on-air run at CFRO FM - encourages me to think that the mutual supportiveness that Pender Guy members experienced while in Pender Guy is something that Pender Guy members share, where appropriate, with others.
Pender Guy needed to address, in addition to English-language communication with a "western" cultural approach, non-English-language communication, especially in interviews or other direct community interactions.
I expect that Pender Guy 1.1 crew members will find that effective interpersonal communication and effective group communication will be vital for their organizational effectiveness.
One resource that might be helpful is Messages: The Communication Skills Book:
McKay, Matthew, Davis, Martha, and Fanning, Patrick. Messages: The Communication Skills Book. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, 1995.
Pender Guy 1.1 crew members, in their internal and external communication, might need to address sensitively and effectively interactions among factors like language, culture, and gender.
Given the necessary technical skills, Pender Guy 1.1 crew members might need to address practically their realization that, to obtain optimal results, they need to address process effectively.
In particular, to obtain excellent content, Pender Guy 1.1 crew members will need to address effectively the needs-contexts of the people who make that content. Effective volunteer development programs - and not just volunteer recruitment programs - may be essential. Effective training, support, and participation - by people affected - in planning, decision-making, implementation, and evaluation may be highly appropriate on an ongoing basis.
Pender Guy used various means to reach the listener. An interview allowed Pender Guy to bring a listener to a specific person in a specific place at a specific time - as a time machine might transport a person into the immediate or distant past. A commentary gave a listener an opportunity to reflect on a strongly held viewpoint. A carefully constructed in-studio all-candidates meeting revealed answers to questions from concerned organizations in the community. A radio drama or radio comedy entertained and engaged - or perhaps enraged - the listener. A documentary enveloped the listener in a new awareness - and a new context. A creative combining of genres provided Pender Guy with an opportunity to blend advantages into a curiosity-arousing, perhaps even riveting listener experience.
Pender Guy helped the listener discover different areas. History, Social Issues, Drama and skits, and Music were just some of the Asian-Canadian - and Asian-American - areas that Pender Guy explored.
But combining means and areas were perhaps almost questions of approach.
On a day-to-day basis, Pender Guy crew members needed to work individually and together to identify - and to address - what we felt was important. Oftentimes, Pender Guy crew members might come across situations that were new and challenging. The willingness of Pender Guy crew members to try to address those new situations creatively and effectively was vital to the growth of Pender Guy.
Effective addressing of situations might involve handling both process and results well. Effective addressing of situations might involve the production of material in a context-providing way that was both trend-setting and classic - both timely and timeless.
I expect that Pender Guy 1.1 crew members will need to have the on-going willingness - and will need to develop continually their ability - to identify patterns of needs and to address those patterns effectively, regardless whether those needs are shared only among themselves or are faced by an entire community of communities.
You are creative. People, in general, are creative. More specifically, Asian-Canadians are creative.
What Pender Guy crew members did was apply their creativity - individually and as a group. Applying creativity was, in part, a question of process. Applying creativity, however, also meant a willingness - indeed, a determination - to invent what needed to be invented. In applying creativity to a frequently-aired community radio broadcast context, Pender Guy crew members did not necessarily limit themselves to what others in the contemporary community thought at the time was necessary - or even appropriate.
Pender Guy crew members faced community-related questions intensely - week after week, month after month, year after year. Repeating the same rhetoric in the same way from one program to the next was not an appropriate option. Pender Guy crew members had to apply their creativity effectively to address the questions in new, innovative, and applied ways.
Pender Guy crew members needed to apply creativity and effective communication skills to address politically complex communities. We needed to connect with individuals and groups who contributed in their respective ways to the community context - and who might - or might not - have been in regular communication with each other.
Pender Guy was willing to pilot, to develop, and to implement new and creative approaches:
Pender Guy combined English-language voices, including voices of determined women and men both facing English as an Additional Language, into productions addressing questions that other radio stations had failed even to ask.
Pender Guy facilitated the production of radio scripts by Chinese-Canadian women and on-air announcing by Chinese-Canadian women.
Pender Guy produced and aired an in-studio all-candidates meeting where all of the candidates, including all independents, seeking office in the riding where Vancouver's Chinatown was situated answered questions that had been collected from community organizations, anonymized, grouped, and delivered to the candidates' addresses before the live-to-tape recording. Each candidate was given a sixty-second interval - timed via analog stopwatch - in which to answer each question, and the candidate was sharply stopped if the candidate tried to exceed that limit by even a few seconds. The sequence in which the candidates answered each question had not been publicized to the candidates before the recording session and had been produced with the help of a pseudo-random number generator program manually entered into a calculator.
A complete list of the creative approaches pioneered by Pender Guy would be lengthy.
How might Pender Guy make a radio production that is both timely and timeless? Some Pender Guy creative writing, replayed and re-aired to interested listeners years after the Pender Guy series stopped airing at Vancouver Co-operative Radio, is classic. To produce public affairs programing that is similarly timely and timeless might also require an appropriate presentation of context and a creative approach that allows the production not only to inform about a specific topic, but also to facilitate an understanding whose applicability is transferable beyond that specific topic.
Applying creativity may mean making connections that are new. Applying creativity may mean use of a forced association technique. In some situations, then, forcibly creating a connection between two ideas that other people might not see as related can lead to breakthroughs.
Personally, I recall covering and presenting, on Pender Guy, coverage relating to CASHRA, the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. Human rights were a large topic. Human rights questions included questions relating to gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, language, race, and numerous other areas. Were Chinese-Canadian listeners ready to address questions of sexism in Chinese-school textbooks? Were Asian-Canadian individuals and groups aware of how they might practically address accessibility situations faced by Asian-Canadians with physical or mental disabilities? Pender Guy coverage of CASHRA and other Pender Guy work may have helped - or forced - Asian-Canadians to begin facing human rights questions that were not unidimensionally race-related.
As a result of two Pender Guy programs, Vancouver Co-operative Radio received the Media Human Rights Award in 1980 from the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith of Canada. I am pleased that Pender Guy work - and Vancouver Co-operative Radio's support of that work - have been recognized in this way.
I believe that Pender Guy crew members had not said, "Let's try to make some programs to win some awards". I believe that Pender Guy crew members made productions that were intended to help the community help itself be better and reach its potential. In some ways, while other agencies provided community services via in-person interventions, Pender Guy provided its community services via the airwaves.
I believe that, in some ways, Pender Guy reached for excellence. And, in some ways, perhaps our reaching for excellence was a responsibility that we shared. Perhaps we owed our community no less than excellence on one day - and even better on the next.
I expect that Pender Guy 1.1 crew members will find that their eagerness to apply their creativity effectively - individually and collectively - will help the community help itself strive for and attain self-actualization.
The information and views in this document are from this writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the Pender Guy Radio Collective or of the Pender Guy Archival Management Team.
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This page was updated on January 26, 2005.
Copyright © 1998-2005 by Barry G. Wong. All rights reserved.