How CFRU Radio is Bridging the Social Distance

Jenny Mitchell photo by Scott Haynes smalljpg

by Barbara Salsberg Mathews

During these COVID19 self-isolation times, your workplace along with other establishments may now be closed. It’s only natural that feelings of confusion and panic can set in. Here’s how one local Guelphite responded to the situation. Jenny Mitchell is CFRU’s Volunteer and Mobile Studio Coordinator, and a musician and songwriter in her own right. In her role, Mitchell recruits and trains volunteers, and supports them in getting involved in the station. She also coordinates CFRU’s Mobile Studio project, which goes into the community to offer radio opportunities to those who may not have access to the station at University of Guelph.

Jenny Mitchell, CFRU’s Volunteer and Mobile Studio Coordinator.
Photo credit, Scott Haynes

I asked Mitchell what motivated her to create the radio show, ‘Bridging the Social Distance’ and she replied:

“When CFRU decided to temporarily close the radio station to our volunteers and public, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have any work to do, I wouldn’t have volunteers to work with, and I’d have to cancel my Mobile Studio projects. Then my perspective shifted. I was looking through posts on the newly created Facebook page: ’CareMongering Guelph—Leaning Into Community During COVID19’, and saw beautiful and generous offers from folks with cars, offering to pick up groceries, supplies, etc. I too have a car, but it didn’t seem like there was any lack of that form of support. So I tried to think what I could offer that hadn’t been suggested yet, something that I’d be uniquely suited to offer. I thought about my comfort with strangers, my endless capacity and passion for stories, and decided to offer myself and my platform at the radio station for people who wanted to connect and share ideas, feelings and perspectives.”

The main purpose of this show stems from the reasons behind Jenny’s usual Mobile Studio Project – to get more and different voices and stories on the airwaves. She adds:

“I think it’s really important that we find ways to stay connected to each other. It’s been a common theme for folks to apologize for heavy feelings, to minimize their situations because other people “may have it worse”, but I think the reality is this time is hard for everyone, and it’s validating to hear that we’re not alone in these feelings. People are also sharing ideas, creative responses, and silver linings, which can be just generally very inspiring.”

Jenny has interviewed 9 people so far, including local community members and people from far and wide. She has interviewed a children’s performer, a mom working in tech, and a woman in quarantine having recently returned from a cruise. She has also spoken with people in other locations, such as: Los Angeles; Dawson City, Yukon; Ottawa; Prince Edward County; and the UK. Jenny tells me:

“I enjoyed speaking with Barry Rooke in Ottawa about the role of community radio at a time like this. I’m enjoying the return of the “phone call”. I feel like actually talking out loud to people in different places had been replaced by text and email. It’s beautiful to pick up a phone and hear a real voice on the other side.”

The show is currently airing on CFRU 93.3fm in Guelph, and streamable online on every weekday at noon. Each day features a new episode. If you miss them in real time, they are available in CFRU archives, If you are interested in being interviewed, you can contact Jenny Mitchell at [email protected].

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