Feature article from the February 2008 AIRblast

Erin Mishkin’s Big Howdy: Introducing AIR’s New Membership Manager

By Erin Mishkin 

When I was a kid, I would drift off to sleep to the sounds of other people’s stories. The program was Talk Net, a call-in advice show whose theme song I can still sing after more than 20 years. Callers’ voices would come through my small white radio alarm clock, but I would feel as if these people were right next to me, whispering in my ear. Such is the beauty of radio. Decades later, as an adult, this love of radio — its uniquely intimate nature, its ability to spark the imagination or to allow us to inhabit other people’s lives (if only for a little while) — is stronger than ever. And that is why I am absolutely delighted to be joining AIR as Membership Manager, to be part of a community whose purpose is to make stories come alive, each and every day.

My first exposure to public radio came several years ago when I worked for the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), writing communications and planning events for producers and stations. I quickly came to understand and appreciate the supportive community that is public radio — something that I missed a great deal after leaving PRSS to obtain a graduate degree in education. During my time at PRSS, I witnessed the strong connections producers make with their listeners. And I’ve spent the past couple of summers helping teens make similar connections through Open Roads, an outdoors and documentary storytelling program. Over the course of the trips, I watched as my students used their cameras as “magnifying glasses” and their video cameras as invitations to approach ferry passengers, grandfathers in parks, and local business owners about their lives.

And so with Open Roads and PRSS laying the foundation for my appreciation for documentary work, this past fall I made my way to the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where I trained in radio production. This unique program gave me a glimpse into the many challenges encountered by radio producers — from story hunting to the struggle to acquire funding. More than anything, I learned how important the community aspect of public radio is, especially to the independent producer.

As Membership Manager, I’m excited to talk to AIR’s members to learn how we can work together to get the most out of the public radio community and the resources that AIR provides. Is there something you particularly love about AIR that you want to see more of? Are there resources you wish AIR offered? Drop me a line at or give me a call at 617-825-4400 and let’s talk. With or without my little white radio, I look forward to hearing your voices.