In the early days of the big ice storm that knocked out power to so many in southern Missouri, I kept hearing from friends in Kennett, Missouri (where Barb and I grew up) what a great job the local radio station (KBOA-AM) was doing. It was the only source for information and just a few announcers were keeping the station on the air with a generator and broadcasting non-stop with nothing but a phone and a microphone.
Steve Tyler, News Director Charles Isbell and Operations Manager Monte Lyons are all veteran radio guys (“with more than 100 years of experience between us”) who remember a time before computers and automation and syndicated talk shows. I figured they had some good stories to tell about the recent disaster. It runs about 20 minutes and –since they were on a speaker phone– you might have to listen closely.
A tip of the hat to William Pollack, President of Pollack Broadcasting, the owner of the station(s), for deferring to his local staff and letting them make the call on how best to serve the community.
With cable and phone lines down, the Internet wasn’t much help for all those people sitting in the cold and dark, wondering when the power would come back on. But radio was there. Literally the voice of a community. Or communities.
I can’t foresee the future of small market radio but have to believe it will involve this kind of service and involvement. But that’s going to take people. People who know their neighbors and local business because they live there.
Will finding and hiring and training these men and women be easy. Doubt it. Will such staffing cut into profit margins. Probably. But if broadcasters don’t find a way to be truly local and relevant… their stations are almost certain to be cold and dark.
For those that missed these earlier posts, Matthew Howard and Charles Jolliff share some photos of the ice damage… and friend and fellow-blogger Dr. Everett Mobley shares the journal he kept for the two weeks his family was without power. This is a terrific account.