What Happened To The Local Forum?
When we first scanned the Boston dial in the aftermath of the Marathon Bombing on Monday, the coverage was mainly all or nothing. There were the stations with 24/7 News coverage or the stations with the occasional insert every few songs.
Today’s coverage has been a little more nuanced. We still have WBUR and the CBS owned stations all rebroadcasting 1030 WBZ. Greater Media’s 96.9 WBQT and 102.5 WKLB along with Clear Channel’s 94.5 WJMN and 107.9 WXKS-FM have all spent time today rebroadcasting Hearst’s WCVB-TV. Many other stations stuck with their normal music programming with little or no coverage of the shutdown of basically the entire city of Boston. However, Entercom’s trio of Sports 93.7 WEEI, Rock 107.3/97.7 WAAF, and Talk 680 WRKO offered an alternative to the hard news coverage once all the morning shows signed off for the day.
Living in the New York metropolitan area some of the strongest aural memories were the radio broadcasters stayed on the air in the hours after the 9/11 Attacks providing an outlet for their listeners to mourn, console, and calm each other. Howard Stern, Elvis Duran, Mike & The Mad Dog, and countless others made radio the only outlet for listeners and hosts to get away from the hard news on television and actually share their emotions. The WWL led United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans did the same in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
With the city of Boston and adjacent suburbs on lockdown, people are sitting in their homes glued to the television or internet worrying about their safety, friends and family, and when the crisis will be over. Only a handful of broadcast outlets are providing continuous forums for the audience to share these fears, emotions, and thoughts with each other in a public forum. Entercom’s Sports 93.7 WEEI (and its regional eight station network) and Talk 680 WRKO have done just that. While some of the talk has turned to fear-mongering (and on WRKO political bias) the stations are giving their audiences the outlet to interact. None of the other major commercial radio stations in the market are doing so.
Stretching it out further, what has happened to this as a 24/7 format? Get away from the old and male political leaning Talk and focus on topics that effect those locally. Its worked for over two decades on “New Jersey 101.5” yet attempts to make it work elsewhere are few and far between. When Sports stations like WEEI and WFAN New York become the only stations during crisis doing local issues Talk there is a major void waiting to be filled.
Have been listening to @WBUR all morning. Forget TV. Forget Twitter. Radio provides the best/most professional coverage on Boston.
— Sho Ito (@sito_) April 19, 2013
WBZ News Radio 1030's coverage today. Wow. Just wow. Marconi winning stuff. No, beyond that. The best radio news coverage I have ever heard.
— Matt McCarthy (@MattMcCarthy985) April 19, 2013
— Brian Fleming (@brianfleming07) April 19, 2013
— Jannel SamAdamslover (@Jannel23) April 19, 2013
This is what radio can continue to do best, yet most are running away from it. Is there really a long term financial viability in not doing so?