Monthly Archives: January 2009

There Is Life After Radio

It’s hard to know where to begin during a wild week like this.

The calls and emails have been pretty steady all week from people that suddenly found themselves without employment.

Funny about times like these.   New babies, death and unemployment always give us the reason to catch up with old friends.

Unemployment is not my idea of a great subject for becoming re-acquainted, but it is what it is.

If this is your first time through the car wash, well don’t panic.

It will not be easy to find the next job, but it should be exciting.

Believe it or not there are many people still  working that actually envy your situation and severance package.

Be honest.

Weren’t you actually cursing the old job just a few days ago?

Sudden unemployment means freedom and a chance to take time to explore new opportunities.

For one thing you can now search for a job in the open without fear of your employer finding out.  We don’t have that opportunity too often.

People who saw you as untouchable in the last job, just might have been waiting for this moment to talk about employment with them.

And for those who wonder, yes there is ‘life after radio’.

The skills you’ve learned working with people, listeners and customers will serve you well in ‘the real world’.

So once the grim reaper from HR has dropped you and your box of belongings at the front door, take a long breath.

Reward yourself by taking time to relax, and move on.

The sooner you get past the pain, anger and hurt, the sooner you get your life back.

Hey, it’s your life.

Don’t let their bad decision to fire you, consume you.

Their loss.

Your gain is to step away and look at the world with fresh eyes.

If you’re still working, make sure you reach out to those who are not.

And if you’re someone doing hiring please return phone calls, answer email and be a source of hope for those looking for work.

There is nothing harder than going day after day without so much as an email response when you are on the beach.

Judging by the weather around the country, some of those beaches are pretty cold right now.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2009 in Uncategorized


This Is A Test..

When it comes to telling a breaking story, radio is still best.

WCBS Newsradio 88 jumped into action within minutes of hearing the USAirways flight was in trouble this week.

Thankfully for me, their internet stream worked beautifully that day.

Television was not so good at least for viewing the story on the internet.

New York is fortunate to have a fully staffed news station.

But it’s not just radio’s ability to tell the story.

In a major disaster radio becomes the vital communication link to inform the pubic.

I wonder what kind of coverage a story like that would get if the same accident occurred in another city?

That flight had a happy ending.  But it was so close to being an unthinkable disaster, perhaps even crashing into the busy city.

How many radio stations are staffed to cover that kind of story?

Would the staff be trained and ready to handle such an emergency?

A growing number of major population centers have no real local broadcast teams.

This lack of staff is a national security concern as well.

Until some point in the 1980s or 90s America had something called The Emergency Broadcast System.

It had flaws and probably was terribly inadequate in a real emergency.

The EBS  did two things:

  • Made station operators stay on their feet because this time it might not be a test.
  • Reminded the general public that radio offered information in times of crisis.

Of course this was in the days of ‘element 9’ and when we lived in fear of FCC inspectors.

Back then people were paying attention.

It was your job as the guy  signed on the log to pay attention.

The government required that  you pay attention.   Logs were signed, transmitter readings taken every half hour.

Even the AP wire was checked and cleared.  Many stations had UPI too.

If you worked Sunday and left without clearing the wire, there was hell to pay Monday.  And the machine better have paper in it too.

This is not about nostalgia for the ‘good old days’.

I am talking about what should be a real concern for the safety of our communities.

Empty radio stations can’t respond to trouble.

Disasters happen.

One day something will happen somewhere that will require the radio station’s full attention.  But no one will be available.

There won’t be anyone to clear the wire.  There won’t be a wire.

There won’t be anyone to get into the news car, or break in from the newsroom with live update.

There’s no news car, newsroom or live person to do the update.

Business is business and should be free to operate in the best way it can to make profit.

But radio is more than a business.

Station owners aren’t really owners, they’re trustees.   The government can take the license back at any moment.

A little wind storm like Katrina showed just how different radio is as a business and the role it plays in the community.

The true owners of the frequencies need to demand that the trustee operators do so in the public interest, convenience and necessity.

Radio operators get rich off the licenses.   Therefore, the true owners should be given real service and protection in return.

Big broadcasting is now full of robber barons.  They’re taking money out of the community but not putting something back in.

Every mayor and city council should demand an emergency plan from  every radio station licensed to their community.

They must know how stations will respond in times of trouble.

I’m not talking only about the next Katrina.

There’s the next Three Mile Island to think about too.

Why is it so important for the radio stations be ready?

Because when the really bad stuff happens electricity is out, the cable tv is off, there’s no internet and portable radio is your only way to get vital information.

Portable and easily accessible. Still radio’s greatest strength.

Go with your strength.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 17, 2009 in Uncategorized


Where Listeners Really Listen

WTIC, WBZ and several other large AM stations cut air staff jobs during the past few weeks.

An article in the Hartford paper explained that WTIC is ‘hemorrhaging’ money.

Certainly AM stations are at a disadvantage simply because they are on the less popular medium wave band.

Talent costs are higher than for FM music stations.  The staff for an AM news talk station is generally larger,  often with several people in the newsroom, sports, producers etc.

It puzzles me though why these stations aren’t crushing the market when it comes to advertising revenue.

Work on any big AM station, and you’ll be amazed at how closely the audience listens to every word you speak.

News talk is a format used by ‘listeners’.  They pay attention, not only to the show content but to the advertising messages as well.

Several years ago I programmed WSYR in Syracuse New York.

Our home repair host left the station and we had an immediate need for a new one.  I called the guy who built my home and asked if he’d do the show at least until we found a replacement.

“Well, I don’t know much about radio and honestly never really listen much”.

“That’s ok” I said.  “You’ll just have to answer questions like you do all day at work.”

He came on and is still doing the show today.

Several weeks later he told me that he was completely stunned by the response.  He had no idea how many people listen and how closely they pay attention.

The little air work I did on the station attests to the same thing. People would mention hearing me on the air weeks after the show.  It was amazing.

FM listeners never mentioned hearing you on the air.   AM listeners listen and they respond.

Even years after working overnights on WWVA Wheeling people commented about listening to the station and remembered what we talked  about.

The point is AM radio stations are not like their FM sisters.  Sales people need to grasp the difference and understand how important a local personality can be to helping an advertiser.

Given the choice of advertising a product on AM or FM, I’d take the AM station with personality every time.

Perhaps  management should hire true AM specialists to manage, program and sell these powerhouses.

It would stop the hemorrahaging at the bottom line.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2009 in Radio programming