Tony Norman is an attorney in the District and a progressive activist. (Courtesy Photo-WPFW)
Tony Norman, a former Ward 1 advisory neighborhood commissioner, was recently elected chairman of the Pacifica Radio Foundation. Pacifica, a pioneer in listener-sponsored radio in the U.S., is known for its liberal slant in political coverage and for shows such as Democracy Now! and From the Vault.
Norman said he wants to ensure that this brand of radio thrives. “It is important that community-based listener-sponsored radio succeed and compete in this evolving mass media market,” said Norman, a 1984 graduate of Howard University Law School and leader in the effort to preserve McMillan Park in Ward 5 from over-development in an interview with the AFRO. “Pacifica has a proud history of covering activist movements and is well-positioned to amplify the voices of a new generation of activism emerging today.” He was elected to a one year term with the foundation on February 25.
Norman served as the vice chairman of Pacifica’s board from 2014 to this year and before that he chaired the board of WPFW, the Washington area’s Pacifica outlet.
Pacifica has stations in Los Angeles and Berkeley in California, in Houston and New York, and 200 affiliate stations. Norman is the first District resident to lead the Pacifica board in a decade, with the last local board leader being the late Ambrose I. Lane Sr., a local poverty activist.
Norman said that radio listenership has declined as social media has increased in popularity. “Young people aren’t listening to radio because they are using iphones and apps to get their information, in addition to social media,” he said. “We need to move in that direction to stay relevant to young people.”
As an example, Norman said that the average WPFW listener is 65 and that must change in order to thrive in the 21st century. “We are reaching out to a diverse audience,” he said. “With WPFW, our listeners are mostly Black but they are becoming diverse and the WPFW signal reaches into Baltimore and deep into Maryland and Virginia. Our listeners have moved out into the suburbs and while we want to keep our base market, we want young people to support us also.”
Norman said there is a market for news and programming that the larger, corporate media doesn’t offer. “We offer our audience voices that aren’t heard by the mainstream radio stations,” he said. “While those stations feature news and content about the Democrats and Republicans, we cover other party candidates that have strong voices but aren’t heard as much.”
Pacifica stations generally don’t solicit advertising and are supported by individuals in the form of donations and memberships as well as corporate donations and some government support. Norman said that WPFW has 8,000-9,000 members, and Pacifica in general has anywhere from 50,000-100,000 members.
“Congratulations to Tony, who is a fellow Ward 1 resident and a fixture in local media,” D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said. “I think it’s so important to ensure that there is a place for fellow progressives to share their views, and WPFW creates that opportunity in the District.”
“For as long as I have known him, Tony Norman has been an advocate for D.C. residents and a strong community leader,” said Andre Byers, Development Corporation for Columbia Heights president and CEO. Norman is member of the organization. “It seems natural for him to be a part of independent radio because he has not been afraid to challenge the mainstream.”