As Newspapers Go Under Local Radio Can Benefit

Promoted. Originally posted 2009-06-06 11:10:50 -0400. -- GH

As we have been hearing over the past several months, more and more newspapers are finding themselves up against the ropes and shutting down.

I'm not going to get into the printed press' blame game and their claims that if a local newspaper goes under, less "reliable reporting" will be available to the public.

No here in this posting it's not about loss, but gain and opportunity.

While it will be three years next month when I was caught up in the nationwide CBS Radio downsizing, I still keep in touch with former co-workers and do still on occasion listen to or at the very least visit the website of one of my former stations, WTIC-AM in Hartford, CT.

At the beginning of this year while still making cuts at the Hartford Radio Group (and I presume elsewhere in the CBS Radio Family) the 3 PM to 6 PM afternoon talk show was done away with and replaced with three hours of news and features from the WTIC-AM newsroom (the best news team in Connecticut radio in this biased writer's opinion).

When I hear it brought up, and even today on the radio I heard in a report, that if local communities lose their local paper (and I firmly believe my town of Danbury will eventually be one) folks of a given community will no longer have access to the local news they need.

Here is where local radio stations can step in and do what use to be done when I first got into radio here in Danbury back in the late 70's.

How many of you can remember the TV show, WKRP In Cincinnati and how we use to laugh at things like the news being brought to you by the local funeral home ?

While the two stations I worked for WLAD/WDAQ and our competition WINE/WRKI didn't go quite that far, the idea was the essence of local radio back then.

As a sportscaster besides giving the local high school scores, gave, as mundane as it may sound, bowling league scores, industrial league baseball scores and even on occasion talked about the biggest catch at Candlewood Lake.

This is what local radio was and could become again if a local newspaper goes under.

While local radio stations have more and more cut their own staffing and picked up SAT programming over the years, they usually do still have some sort of a news team. When and if that time ever comes, they could give up the "happy talk" of disc jockeys who think they are being funny (not to burst bubbles, but many couldn't tell a good joke to save their life and have to rely on "joke services") and offer more local news, in-depth interviews, public service and event announcements, etc.

If done right, the "program director" of the local station won't be someone who flits through services and charts to see which songs are being listened to the most, instead the program director of tomorrow will be the "news director" who can oversee finding and developing a steady stream of local news and features to offer its local listeners in between the SAT world of talk radio.

So often the term "The Golden Age" of something is used. As newspapers die off, for local radio "The Golden Age" is about to be revitalized for many years to come if the station owners, managers and programmers have a mind to.

I think they will be pleasantly surprised by how much their local listenership will go up and in turn (economy aside) also will ad revenue. Radio station operators which have "dualops" (having more than one station in a market) can devote one station to become the "station of record" and provide local listeners with all the local news they need wrapped around cost saving SAT talk radio.

This is what WTIC-AM has become.

While keeping Ray Dunaway (he's a great guy by the way) for the morning show which includes some of the best "news" interviews in Connecticut broadcasting, having that three hour news block in afternoon drive and then SAT talk shows to fill up the rest of the programming day, tie that in with a top notch website, and WTIC-AM is a model of what future radio can be for local markets when the local newspaper goes out of business.

As they say what was old becomes new again.

The newspaper industry won't publicly admit it, but as long as there is local radio, the local paper really won't be missed.

And to put it into another term for folks in local radio to think about, during the winter and bad weather, parents aren't going out to buy the local paper to see which schools are closed, they're listening to your radio station.

Now imagine having that kind of listenership all the time.

(Note - Originally published on my blog FOCUS June 3, 2009)

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Thanks, artlyn.

It will hopefully generate some conversation.