If you were to tune your radio to FM 89.3 (WMKV) on a Sunday evening, you would undoubtedly learn that Cincinnati is a city with an impressive collection of international connections. This is not news, however, to Pat Niskode.
Pat Niskode, a native of India and longtime U.S. resident moved to the states in 1966 to study engineering. Pat cheerfully jokes about his age and says that he is “one of these baby boomers trying to be a drag on society.” That’s not likely. Pat might have returned to India with his engineering degrees if he had not fallen in love with an American schoolteacher. They moved to Cincinnati in 1977 when Pat took a job at General Electric Aircraft Engines in Evendale. One of the first things he noticed was that there were only six or seven other Indian natives working at G.E. Now, there is a nonstop flow of foreign employees, many from G.E.’s plant in Bangalore India which routinely sends employees to Cincinnati for training.
Four years ago, Pat heard a radio program called World Front on WVXU. The show, hosted by Scott Aiken, featured global news and commentaries and was sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Greater Cincinnati. Pat had heard of neither the show nor the council (now known as the Global Center of Cincinnati), but was intrigued by the fact that there was a program that was dedicated to something more than local high school football scores. So he called and said he wanted to get involved.
World Front folded when WVXU was bought by WGUC. Pat felt the end of World Front had left a void in coverage of global issues in Cincinnati. He turned to the Global Center, and, with his tremendous enthusiasm, soon gathered a group of volunteers excited about producing a radio show which would address international issues from a Cincinnati perspective.
And just what kind of global issues are there to talk about in Cincinnati?
Cincinnatians are a modest bunch and as such, we do not flaunt or assert our individualities. Even immigrants to Cincinnati tend to settle in and assimilate quietly into their new communities. Cincinnati has no Chinatown or Little Italy or any other areas of concentrated ethnic culture. Certainly, some neighborhoods have higher concentrations of Eastern European, Hispanic, or Asian populations, but a newcomer to the city (as well as most natives) would be hard pressed to identify these areas. Pat thinks this is why our cultural diversity is overlooked by so many people, not least of all the locals. Furthermore, the mainstream media largely ignores ethnic communities, unless, of course there is a cultural festival to cover. As a member of the immigrant community and an employee of an international corporation, Pat knows about an immigrant’s need for support from their own ethnic community as well as the need to assimilate comfortably into a new home. "It's natural for immigrants to seek out others from the native country. That community offers support and can make the transition to living in America easier. But then some immigrants will want to move away from the native community." Even ethnic restaurants tend not to cluster in the same area, with the possible exception of Indian restaurants in Clifton.
It is not just the major corporations that bring immigrants to Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s wealth of universities is a draw for immigrants wanting to study, teach or conduct research. Each of the local universities offers large and active programs for international students and faculty. Refugees also settle in Cincinnati, looking for a safer life.
World View receives community support from the International Visitors Center and the Global Center of Cincinnati which hosts a number of foreign visitors throughout the year. Many become guests in World View’s studios. These visitors may include Eurpoean business and community leaders, activists working to combat human trafficking, or visiting dignitaries from multiple nations. Former Middle East convoy for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross has been on the radio program as has Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations. One of Pat’s favorite interviews featured Martin McGuiness, the Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who was here to give a speech as a guest of a local Irish organization.
It isn't just immigrants and visitors that give Cincinnati an international flavor. It also comes from native Cincinnatians. World View has featured local Red Cross employees who regularly work at refugee camps and natural disaster sites around the world, as well as educators, such as the Sisters of Notre Dame in Park Hills, who have started schools in rural areas of Africa, long before Oprah had the idea.
One of the best resources for World View material is word of mouth. The December holiday programs are a perfect example of this. Wanting to produce a program that featured holiday music from around the world, Pat located a children’s choir at a Chinese school in Mason who could sing Happy New Year in Chinese. Not long after contacting the Chinese choir, Pat received a call from Filipino community asking if their choir could be part of the broadcast. Next came a tip from a friend that the International Baptist Church in Springdale could sing carols in several different languages. A Korean woman from the same Baptist Church let him know about a Korean Baptist church in Montgomery (who knew?) that also had a choir that could perform. That holiday, World View aired two shows of international holiday music featuring music from India, China, the Philippines, Korea and Spain.
The Holiday music program was another of Pat’s favorites. He laughs about trying to fit the Chinese children’s choir into the small studio, while parents watched (and coached) through the studio’s windows.
Pat notes that World View would not have been a success without the support of the WMKV staff. The fact that WMKV is a tiny station is not a hindrance in the digital age. The show is available live on the internet or in downloadable podcasts, enabling listeners to listen any time from any place. Pat notes that they have received emails from fans as far away as Brazil and Zimbabwe.
The internet also enables former Cincinnati residents to keep up on international issues in Cincinnati with information they’re not likely to find anywhere else. The show can also provide a link for foreign visitors to their home culture. Often World View will feature a local expert on a particular region of the world to discuss current events or it will seek out citizens from a country in the news to share a personal view. The result is a unique voice with insights that are virtually invisible in the mainstream media.
World View is not a show just for Cincinnati’s international community. As Pat explains, the globalization of commerce and technology affects us all. The mainstream news might report global events, but it more often than not fails to explain them.
World View airs on WMKV FM 89.3 on Sunday evenings at 7:00. Listen online at Global Center of Cincinnati.
Linda Averbeck volunteers with the Red Cross, the Global Center and CincyUpdate.com and was recently named one of the Business Courier's Forty Under 40. She loves enlightening people about all the cool, interesting things to experience in Greater Cincinnati, with her blog, a column in Taste Magazine and CincyUpdate.com.
Photography by Scott Beseler