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VOL. 124 | NO. 118 | Thursday, June 18, 2009

WKNO Mounts Foreclosure Education Blitz

By Andy Meek

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Public broadcasting audiences in Memphis soon will have access to a new fountain of information about the mortgage crisis that will span TV, radio, the Internet and the printed page.

Next month, the local public television station whose call letters stand for “Window of Knowledge” will kick off “Facing the Mortgage Crisis.” And WKNO is launching the project with the same mission implied in the station’s name.

Part public service announcement and part knowledge resource, “Facing the Mortgage Crisis” will involve WKNO tapping community groups and experts to help define the scope of a problem that has whipsawed the national economy.

Broadcast and Internet resources also will be brought to bear as different layers of the project are unveiled over the course of several weeks.

Many of the information resources developed by WKNO – such as brochures that will be distributed at libraries, WKNO events, churches and similar public gathering spots – will focus on the most unpleasant side of the housing slump.

Teri Sullivan

“Memphis being one of the top foreclosure markets in the country, this was really a great project for us to use to make an impact in the community,” said Teri Sullivan, WKNO promotions manager. “It was really a no-brainer. Our first goal is to shed light on this crisis as it affects the entire community, and not just those who are facing foreclosure. We want to define the scope of the mortgage crisis in our area.

“The second goal is to connect community members who need help with the resources available in the area, using the medium of public broadcasting.”

The Daily News is one of WKNO’s partners for “Facing the Mortgage Crisis.”

The relevance of WKNO’s public outreach on local housing woes was proven Tuesday during the Memphis City Council meeting. The council, along with Shelby County government, approved the city’s participation in a lawsuit soon to be filed against national mortgage companies believed to have targeted local black communities for high-cost loans.

The city and county resolutions approving the lawsuit list reasons are likely to be spelled out in greater detail in the “Facing the Mortgage Crisis” project. Local officials say they believe the suit is warranted because the disproportionate number of foreclosures caused by the unfair loans have eaten away at the area’s tax base and devastated property values in high-foreclosure neighborhoods.

“This is an issue that affects everybody,” Sullivan said. “Being a top foreclosure market affects neighborhoods that become vacant, it increases crime and it makes our property values go down. It doesn’t just affect people who are losing their homes.”

Preparations remain under way for the project, but WKNO already has a broad outline of what it hopes to accomplish. The group envisions creating a Web site that will contain information about the foreclosure problem and what anyone whose home is or might soon be on the auction block would need to know.

That Web site would be displayed prominently on the WKNO-TV and WKNO-FM sites, as well as the Internet sites of partners in the project.

News stories around the housing problem will air on WKNO-FM. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be used to get the project’s message out.

A series of one-minute television public service announcements will be created. And in addition to the brochures handed out with information the public needs to know, WKNO will produce a 15-minute documentary and broadcast a 45-minute panel discussion about the issue.

At press time, panelists for that production scheduled for broadcast July 29 still were being finalized.

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PROPERTY SALES 72 296 17,839
MORTGAGES 83 360 20,786
BUILDING PERMITS 161 671 36,487
BANKRUPTCIES 46 192 11,874

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