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First, whoever in WDUQ’s underwriting department accepted a donation from Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania ought to be sent to the blackboard to write, 100 times, “I will not stick my fingers in the administration’s eyes” as Sister Mary Elephant stands behind them with a yardstick.
No one should work at a Catholic university and not realize that abortion and birth control are the “third-rail” of politics within the Roman Catholic Church.
There might be other teachings you can dispute (probably unsuccessfully), but you will find few sympathetic ears in the Catholic hierarchy for challenging the church’s position on those issues.
And no one should have been surprised that Duquesne’s administration objected to the Planned Parenthood underwriting. There is nothing else they could have done and still remained true to their values.
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Duquesne took a principled stand. Maybe you disagree with the principle involved. That’s OK. As a Catholic, I have some problems with the stand myself.
But you surely know the old joke about the millionaire and the lady. The punchline is, “We already know what kind of girl you are, we’re just haggling over your price.”
Let me draw an analogy. Several years ago, a very vocal group of Pittsburghers protested WQED’s decision to sell WQEX-TV (16) to Cornerstone TeleVision. Should WQED-FM (89.3) have been forced to run underwriting announcements opposing the sale? Of course not.
If a group protesting against civil rights for gays and lesbians wanted to underwrite WYEP-FM (91.3), should WYEP be forced to accept the money? Not if WYEP doesn’t want it.
So, neither should anyone complain because Duquesne has asked WDUQ not to run announcements for Planned Parenthood, when that group’s mission is diametrically opposed to one of the Catholic church’s core beliefs.
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Second, the people (mainly on the left) threatening to withhold their donations from WDUQ are ultimately defeating their own self-interests.
Let’s take an argument to absurd lengths: Suppose a boycott of WDUQ was successful, and the station could no longer afford NPR programming.
Or, let’s take the position of an editorial in today’s Post-Gazette, and say that NPR programming should be pulled from WDUQ as long as Duquesne holds the license.
What might Duquesne University do with WDUQ’s license if the station was no longer an NPR affiliate?
Well, they could turn it into a student-run radio station again, which might be noble, but wouldn’t have nearly the listenership or the news content that WDUQ presently has.
Or they could sell it to a Christian or Catholic network, which would use it for either proselytizing or Catholic teaching.
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I’ll bet that many conservative religious groups right now would pay Duquesne $20 million for WDUQ’s 25,000-watt FM signal in Pittsburgh, let alone WDUQ’s repeater stations in Johnstown, Somerset and New Baltimore, which each would fetch several million dollars on their own terms.
In Cincinnati, after all, Xavier University (another Catholic institution) recently sold WVXU-FM to a competing NPR station for $15 million.
If WDUQ was actually toeing a Catholic or “conservative Christian” line, do you think groups advocating for women priests, equal rights for gays and lesbians, birth control, legal abortion, or any other position in conflict with the Catholic church would get their causes covered on 90.5 FM ever again? I don’t.
Yet right now, all of those groups are given a platform for coverage on NPR and WDUQ.
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There is no history of censorship at WDUQ, at least as far as I know. As several people have pointed out, the first news organization to report on the Planned Parenthood “flap” was WDUQ.
Personally, I find a lot of flaws with WDUQ’s news coverage. Namely, that it’s very thin. NPR’s national and international reporting is often very good. But WDUQ’s local news relies too much on the Associated Press wire, press conferences, and coverage of staged events.
But that’s a function of having an extremely small, overworked news department. Believe me: I’ve been there and done that.
The fact is that WDUQ is the only FM station in Pittsburgh that has an independent news department that provides daily local newscasts, is actually based in Pittsburgh, and isn’t shared with a bigger radio or TV station.
I think that’s something that’s worth supporting, even with its faults and limitations.
. . .
So if you’ve donated to WDUQ in the past, you should feel free to donate to them again.
Not because of Duquesne University’s stand on birth control and abortion.
And not despite Duquesne University’s stand on birth control and abortion.
But because it’s the same public radio station — imperfect but trying to serve the public — that it has always been.
. . .
Jason Togyer has been a PBRTV correspondent since 2001. He works full-time in public relations and marketing, and part-time as a producer and on-air host at several local radio stations. He is also part of a group trying to start a new public radio station in the Mon Valley area. Opinions expressed do not reflect those of his employers or of PBRTV. Email him at jt3y-at-dementia.org.
Commentary by Jason Togyer
I would like to announce that PBRTV will no longer be accepting any underwriting from WDUQ-FM (90.5)
We feel that we can no longer endorse the mission of any radio station that thinks “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (Saturdays, 1 p.m.) is funny.
OK, I think Roy Blount Jr. is funny. But the rest of the show isn’t.
Anyway, allow me a few editorial thoughts on the current tempest in a teapot that’s swirling around the Duquesne University station’s Blaw-Knox tower on Mount Washington.