Panel Talks Radio Tonight from WBCN to Now in ‘Power to the People—Then and Now’

Bruce Springsteen performs at the Harvard Square Theater in May 1974. His first radio interview was on WBCN, Boston. (Photograph by Barry Schneier.)

A panel of media luminaries gathers tonight, live, over 97.9 WHAV, to discuss the evolution of local radio—from the launch of WBCN Boston’s underground format in 1968 to the need for essential local news reporting today.

Award-winning filmmaker Bill Lichtenstein talks about his documentary, “WBCN and The American Revolution,” with radio historian Donna L. Halper and media writer Dan Kennedy during WHAV’s presentation of “Power to the People—Then and Now” at 7 p.m., tonight. Lichtenstein began working at the station as a volunteer on the WBCN Listener Line at age 14 in 1970, and later as a newscaster during the time of profound social, political and cultural change.

“A year ago, ‘WBCN and The American Revolution’ launched an exhilarating tour of film festivals and screenings across the United States, many of which benefited community radio stations. Audiences were uplifted and empowered by the story of how a rock radio station and a passionate community of listeners mobilized to change their world for the better,” says Lichtenstein. “Now, in this unprecedented time, as we are all facing shared danger but must do so apart from one another, the spirit of community is stronger than ever. I’m thrilled that we’re able to share the inspiring message of the film in this way.”

Bruce Springsteen’s first time on radio took place over WBCN and the station helped launch Aerosmith, Queen and The Cars. Despite the emphasis on rock ‘n’ roll, WBCN also delivered local news. In a promotion, the station declared, “Once radio kept the public informed. It does again.”

Listeners may rent “WBCN and The American Revolution” from WHAV for $10 to stream at home for up to three days. They may also participate in tonight’s panel. There are details at

Bill Lichtenstein

Bill Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein’s work as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist and documentary producer spans more than 50 years, and has been honored with more than 60 major journalism awards.

His work with the Peabody Award-winning Lichtenstein Creative Media includes “West 47th Street” the award-winning documentary film; “The Infinite Mind,” for a decade public radio’s most honored and listened to health and science program that examined all aspects of the human mind, mental health and neuroscience; the groundbreaking “Voice of an Illness” documentary series, the first programs to feature people who had recovered from serious mental illness telling their own stories, in their own words; and “If I Get Out Alive,” narrated by Academy Award-winning actress and child advocate Diane Keaton, which exposed the conditions faced by young people incarcerated in adult correctional institutions.

Previously, Lichtenstein worked for seven years for ABC News producing investigative reports for “20/20,” “World News Tonight” and “Nightline” and, later, he was one of two producers of the ABC-TV program “Jimmy Breslin’s People.”

He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, and has written extensively on politics, health issues and the media for the New York Times, Nation, Newsday, New York Daily News, Village Voice, Boston Globe and TV Guide, among others.

Awards for his work, and that of LCMedia, include a George Foster Peabody Award, United Nations Media Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, eight National Headliner Awards and four Gracie Awards from the American Women in Radio and TV, among other journalism honors. He is a graduate of Brown University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  He taught Investigative Reporting for TV as well as Documentary Film at the New School for Social Research from 1979 through 2006.

Donna L. Halper

Donna L. Halper.

Halper is a former deejay, music director, and radio consultant, who spent more than three decades in broadcasting before reinventing herself as a Lesley University professor.

Halper is often called upon to comment on trends in media. She has made guest appearances on PBS, NPR, the History Channel and local radio and television stations. While she was in radio, she discovered the rock group RUSH, who dedicated two albums to her, and she appears in a 2010 documentary about them.

She came to Lesley in 2008 to develop and teach courses related to the study of communication and media, including Media Analysis, Introduction to Communication and Introduction to Journalism.

She is the author of six books and many articles, and she has been widely quoted by reporters seeking information about local and national media trends. Her research interests include the study of representations of women and minorities in media, early baseball history and unsung heroes and heroines in the history of broadcasting.

Halper holds a bachelor’s in English from Northeastern University, a Master of Education in Counseling, master’s in English from Northeastern University, and a doctorate in Communication from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy.

Kennedy is a professor at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, specializing in opinion journalism and alternative business models for news.

He is a regular panelist on “Beat the Press,” a weekly roundtable program on media issues, seen on WGBH-TV, channel 2; writes a weekly column on media and politics for; and has contributed articles to a number of other publications, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Nieman Lab. From 2007-2011, Kennedy wrote a weekly online column for The Guardian.

His latest book, “The Return of the Moguls: How Jeff Bezos and John Henry Are Remaking Newspapers for the Twenty-First Century,” was published by ForeEdge (a division of University Press of New England) in March 2018. Previously, he wrote, “The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age,” detailing the New Haven Independent and other community news sites.

From 1991 through 2005, Kennedy wrote for The Boston Phoenix, mostly as the alt-weekly’s media columnist. While at the Phoenix, he won the 2001 Rowse Award and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ 1999 award for media reporting. The Phoenix, at one time the largest weekly paper in New England, ceased publication in March 2013.

Kennedy’s blog, “Media Nation,” is a nationally recognized source of news and commentary.

In 2019, Kennedy was named the Yankee Quill Award recipient from the Academy of New England Journalists for a “lifetime of achievement and distinction in New England journalism.” In 2018, he was awarded the James W. Carey Award for Outstanding Journalism from the Media Ecology Association.

Major support for this program comes from Covanta, “Powering Today. Protecting Tomorrow.” Additional support comes from Dick and Mary Rose Early, Atlantis Investments and Brian S. Dempsey.

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