Cheap PR

The e-mailed press release’s headline reads: “Wal-Mart Helps Chico/Redding Students Turn Trash into Cash.” Then it has this kicker: “Public/Private partnership earns more than $100,000 for elementary schools and removes over 100 tons of plastic from the waste stream.” Hey, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well maybe. Here’s the deal: The Wal-Mart Kids Recycling Challenge encourages elementary school students to bring plastic shopping bags, like the ones that Wal-Mart hands out, to their schools. For each 60-gallon collection bag the school fills, Wal-Mart gives the school 5 bucks. In the Redding/Chico area, which also includes Susanville, 33 schools took part in the program, giving Wal-Mart 610 collection containers filled with plastic bags. For that, Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the history of the known universe, handed out $6,550, which included a special $1,500 award to the top plastic bag gatherer, and another $1,000 among the next three finishers. With what was left, the other 29 schools that participated got about $70 each from the largest private employer in America. If you’re worried about Wal-Mart over-extending itself with this trash-into-cash promotion, forget about it. The Beast from Bentonville only had to pony up about half the money it gave to the schools. Turns out that Wal-Mart itself gets $2.50 for each 60-gallon container it sells to the Salt Lake City company that recycles the bags. Genius. Wal-Mart. Always cheap PR. Always. And hey kids, try not to spend that all that money in one place; but if you do make sure that one place is Wal-Mart.

Do the math. The board of directors for community radio station KZFR recently passed a proposal to hire a part-time news and public affairs director. If funding can be raised, the position could be filled by as early as this summer. The station needs $10,000, according to longtime programmer Bobbi Tryon. “If you are interested in hearing more local public affairs and news on your community radio station, a committee to figure out how to help fund this position is forming,” Tryon wrote in a press release. “Be a part of a team that will be able to look back and know they made a difference.” Tryon said she doesn’t want to hold a bake sale or car wash to raise the money. If 100 listeners donated $100 each, the goal would be met, she pointed out. Continuing that line of reasoning, 200 listeners each giving $50 would do the job. Let’s just cut to the chase and say that 10,000 listeners, and we know there at least 10 times that number, should each give a buck. Or maybe we all collect plastic bags for Wal-Mart. If you have questions call Tryon at 891-4335.

Speaking of radio news, I’ve had a number of people ask me what’s happened with Todd Thornton, news director for KCHO, which is just a few dial stops up from KZFR. Thornton, whose deep radio voice has brought us the local and regional news in the morning hours for the last few years, has been MIA for some time now. I called the station and was told he was indeed taking some time off but that he would be back at a still-to-be-determined date. Thornton’s substitute for a while was Barbara Manning, who to my ear sounded too professional to be local. She, too, had to leave for a while. If Thornton can’t get back in the studio any time soon, it would be nice if Manning could step in again.

I started teaching a news-writing class this week at Butte College’s Chico Center. The class lasts one hour and 20 minutes. Getting out of the center’s parking lot when class is over takes almost as long. I am also advising for the school newspaper, The Roadrunner, which like its namesake refuses to die no matter how many times it falls off a towering cliff or gets blown up with dynamite or hit in the head with an anvil. Even so, we need some people to sign up for the newspaper production class—Friday afternoons, 3 to 5 units—or the school might just drop another anvil on our heads, and this one could be fatal.

Best cat ever; now stop calling in the death threats, Dina.