Hurricane Ike again points out the need for strong radio service.
Power is out for the majority of customers in Houston. That’s millions of people in the dark, no air conditioning, no cable TV.
It will be weeks before power is restored in many places.
No power means no gas can be pumped. A big problem in a mobile city like Houston.
The Houston radio stations are working overtime to keep the city informed.
We can watch the KHOU TV coverage here in Austin. But if you live in Houston the only way you can get them is via radio simulcast.
Television reporters are risking their lives to get great pictures. For the most part, only people outside of town are able to watch.
KTRH, and the CBS stations have fewer people in the field. They use radio’s number one ally, the telephone to get information on fast.
Actually radio has an advantage over television at times like these.
Radio reporters can just report the story. They don’t have to find good visuals to entertain the audience.
Perhaps the best service radio provides is opening the phones so listeners can call with questions.
This is what made the WWL coverage of Gustav so good.
Besides the press conferences the phone interaction provides a link to the outside world for people sitting alone in the dark.
KTRH had a couple of dramatic phone calls from people riding out the storm in Galveston and afraid they would not survive.
Talk about compelling radio.
It will be interesting to see how long KTRH stays with continuous coverage.
WWL programming is locally produced talk making it easy for storm coverage to become the format.
KTRH is local in a couple of dayparts. The rest is syndicated. Their bench seems to be much thinner than WWL.
KHOU and WWL dropped their commercials, KTRH didn’t miss a spot.
It did sound a little strange hearing sponsored traffic reports during hours the city was under curfew.
Television’s coming shift to HD in February makes radio even more valuable during emergencies.
An analogue television will be worthless at that point. So if you don’t have cable, a converter or HD TV you couldn’t watch TV if you wanted to. Electricity helps too.
Radio stations must be strong enough to provide information in emergencies like Ike. ‘Strong enough’ means having staff and resources available.
The people at these stations need a big pat on the back for their work. They’ve going on little sleep, no showers, and often don’t even know the condition of their own homes.
Despite the discomfort my guess is not one would miss working it for the world.
This is what being in radio is really all about.