Off Limits

Dead air

When Colorado Public Radio woke up on September 29, it hadn't exactly turned into a cockroach. But that didn't makes its fall subscription drive -- or, as one CPR host called it on the air, the "Franz Kafka fundraiser" -- any less surreal. For the second time during the ever-growing public radio conglomerate's quarterly beg-fest, the station's phones went down and the on-air talent was forced to ask listeners to log on to the organization's Web site in order to donate. By the time CPR's nightmare was over last Friday, it had spent the better part of five days without phone service and, at times, without an Internet connection, either. "We had never had this happen during a drive," says Sean Nethery, vice president of communications for KCFR, "so obviously it was not ideal."

The culprit? Give yourself a dollar if you guessed Qwest, which this past summer officially pulled the plug on numerous charities formerly supported by its predecessor, US West. But Qwest's role as spoiler here was a bit more circuitous: Although CPR actually uses Nextlink as its phone and Internet provider, Nextlink leases its phone lines from Qwest. "It kept causing entire systems to go down. They were all blitzed out," Nethery says. "We couldn't receive calls and we couldn't call out." To avoid torturing listeners with an extra subscription drive this year -- CPR counts on each drive to raise several hundred thousand dollars -- the station simply decided to drag this one out, and Nethery says it did the trick. "Nearly 3,000 listeners subscribed," he says. "It was very successful. A third of our yearly subscriptions comes from the drives."

As do a majority of the complaints from CPR's regular listeners, who can't stand the begathon.

CPR isn't the only media outlet getting static this fall. Last month, the Colorado Medical Society followed the lead of the Denver Medical Society in encouraging its member physicians, as well as hospitals, to remove magazines and newspapers that carry cigarette and other tobacco ads from their waiting rooms. The DMS, which has about 1,500 members, even released a list of approved publications. Who wasn't on it? Both Denver dailies and Westword, for starters, but also such waiting-room staples as Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Cosmo, Redbook and Vogue. While DMS executive director Kathy Lindquist-Kleissler realizes that a lot of people may not appreciate being forced to read Farm Journal, Fishing Facts and the Harvard Business Review (which all eschew tobacco advertising), it's for their own good. "We've gotten a response from a number of members who are either adopting the policies or have similar policies," she says. "Some have had the practice in the past, or will in the future, of ripping out tobacco ads before putting the magazines out in the waiting room."

Ideally, Lindquist-Kleissler says, doctors will use the new policy as "an opportunity to educate their patients."

Or try their patience.

 
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