For Planet Waves FM, The Personal Is Political

Planet Waves Executive Director Eric Francis Coppolino (Photo: Jeff Bisti)

Planet Waves Executive Director Eric Francis Coppolino (Photo: Jeff Bisti)

Do you find yourself watching the news lately and wondering how any of it affects you directly? As Executive Director of an astrology-focused station, Eric Francis may have the answers for you. Pacifica Network is excited to announce one of its newest affiliates, Planet Waves FM, an internet radio station based in Kingston, New York. Francis and I spoke this week by phone, and he offered some insight into what Planet Waves is all about.

“One of the things I do is astrology of many major news events,” Francis said. “It’s a way of getting behind the news. It’s a way of assessing the emotional and spiritual impact of events on people, and it provides a different dimension to look at the world through.”

In the early ’90s, Francis worked as an investigative reporter—in particular, he specialized in the history of Monsanto, having reported on toxicology and fraud issues involving dioxin. But, in the mid-’90s, while seeking a new, more effective way to reach audiences, Francis decided he needed to “change [his] game.”

“I was into esoteric studies,” he explained, “and I basically recreated myself as an astrologer.”

The leap from investigative journalism to astrology is not as farfetched as one might think. “In my career, astrology and journalism have always happened in the same place,” said Francis. “When I got my first job as a municipal reporter covering the township of Warren, New Jersey, the editor of that newspaper was an astrologer. There was an astrology calendar hanging over my desk, and this hardboiled editor was a professional astrologer. There was no astrology in the newspaper, but the newspaper office was all versed in astrology to some degree, especially if you worked in the office with Flo Higgins everyday.”

“When I rediscovered astrology about seven years later, I did so in the pages of the New York Post, where Patric Walker was writing. Then, a couple years later, after some very concentrated studies, I became an astrologer and started writing in the astrological genre.”

His previous experience in journalism informed his new field of study, allowing him to bring with him a couple of major specialties: public higher education funding, student activism, organochlorine issues, and environmental fraud.

“I entered the field of astrology with the background of an investigative journalist. I was 30 when I did this, so I had quite a long career up to that point because I started young, and I got into some serious work as a student journalist. So I started this astrology project with a background, and that background led me to start doing news astrology. I brought in all the ethos and experience of the journalist and editor into an astrology project.”

So, very quickly, Francis and his team found themselves covering major news events from a dual perspective: as journalists, but also as astrologers. “Astrologers try to do this, but their stories fall flat because they don’t know how to write, how to make a call, or how to fact-check,” Francis explained. “I had already edited several different magazines by the time I started Planet Waves and imported all of this skill and knowledge—basically having created a genre that is a type of investigative astrology—but it does something else, which is that the underlying ethos of Planet Waves is looking at all these world events from the perspective that they are personally relevant.”

Photo: Jeff Bisti

Photo: Jeff Bisti

On the current state of mainstream media, Francis observed, “There is a problem with the news, in that the news is reported without any thought about its impact or actual meaning on the listeners. What I’m able to do with Planet Waves is draw the connection between the changes that the world is going through to the individual community encountering those changes…to take the material on a spiritual level. That is the essence of Planet Waves.”

Founded in 1998, Planet Waves covers the spectrum of the most intimate personal material to the most widely public, where the meeting place is astrology. It is a multifaceted project: there is Planet Waves TV, which is Francis’s experimentation with YouTube. The radio aspect, however, is more recent.

“My first real radio gig was a Sunday night radio show on Radio Woodstock for a couple years in the late ‘90s. I got the hang of it doing late-night radio. I had done many appearances because I was constantly getting interviewed as the editor of Student Leader News Services. I am very comfortable with the radio format, and I love the radio format. When Planet Waves started getting its feet on the ground, I started a weekly program in 2010, and I’ve run the program continuously, weekly, for five years” (To date, Francis estimates he’s produced 250 episodes of Planet Waves).

Up until then, Planet Waves began as a paid newsletter. “When the blog format became inevitable, I resisted,” explained Francis, “but in 2008 we went into a blog format. It’s not really a blog, though, because there are ten writers working; I consider it a daily magazine.”

The main program, Planet Waves, is uploaded every Tuesday evening by 8:00ET, with a second program published monthly.

Francis was inspired to affiliate with Pacifica after hearing pledge drive programming from the nearby WJFF in Jeffersonville, New York. Currently, Eric is looking to add Pacifica programming to the schedule, including “Democracy Now!” “We’re interested in airing programs that touch on any aspect of spiritual life, food, and music. We want to keep it personal.”

Eric Francis with his dog, Jonah Kelly Francis. (Photo: Zoe West)

Eric Francis with his dog, Jonah Kelly Francis. (Photo: Zoe West)

Francis plans on using Pacifica programming to augment and build, and as part of this process, he shifted Planet Waves to a non-profit corporation, called Chiron Return, Inc. in 2014. “The inherent purpose of [Chiron Return, Inc.] is to train investigative journalists and teach media literacy. Planet Waves FM, in this sense, has become the first real project of Chiron Return, Inc., and it gives us a platform to build on.”

“I plan to prevent the art of investigative journalist from becoming a lost art,” said Francis. “One of the great gifts of the Bush-Cheney administration was that it spawned a new generation of investigative reporters.”

Francis has plenty of ideas for Planet Waves in the near future. His plans for early next year include an expansion project, involving putting investigative journalism training into motion, and to deed his entire document collection to Chiron Return, Inc. and making them available online.

Welcome to the affiliate network, Planet Waves! We look forward to seeing your progress in the years to come.