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Reflecting A Nation's Grief

(by Eric Rhoads) As America mourns the tragedy in Newtown, I was curious how radio would respond to the crisis. Thanks to apps like TuneIn and iHeartRadio, I was able to listen to stations in the Connecticut area. To my surprise, during my brief sampling of music stations, I heard upbeat air personalities playing music as if nothing had happened.

Talk stations raised the issue, of course, but I heard little local talk programming, which is why I had tuned in. I wanted to hear the local perspective. (Here's how Cox Media Group in Connecticut covered the events as they unfolded.)

Frankly, I heard much more mention of the events on nationally syndicated talk, and even during some non-issues talk programming. For instance, weekend computer guru Kim Komando acknowledged the tragedy at least once each quarter hour, saying she was trying to have a normal broadcast while America grieves. It was appropriate.

What are stations to do in times like these? I'm sure programmers across the country are wondering if their normal glib or comic tone is appropriate. Frankly, listening to some stations where cheerful air personalities rambled on about the music felt out of sync with America's grief. Especially stations in Connecticut.

And of course, one wonders about automated or voicetracked stations. Were they playing the hits as if nothing was wrong?

These are moments when it's not easy for radio, during a tragedy that has touched all of America. What's the right tone for a music station? As a former programmer, I'm not sure what I would have done back then, but today I believe frequent acknowledgment is important, along with a slightly somber or more measured tone. Listening to upbeat DJ breaks just feels wrong somehow.

To their credit, loads of stations are showing their true community spirit, including many outside of the Connecticut area, raising funds to help the affected families, having their communities sign cards, etc. This is where radio shines, using local relationships to help.

When I was a program director, I used to say my title was really "program reflector" because my job was to make the station a reflection of the community. It is that reflection that makes us more than just another media property; it makes us part of the family. Clearly, this past few days has been a time for radio to reflect, in some way, the grief felt in all communities across America.

Eric Rhoads

(12/18/2012 12:01:10 PM)
Well said, Eric.

Hopefully the December 10 cover story on RADIO
INK, "Surviving SANDY" will find some desk tops the corner window offices. Giff

- Dave GIff Gifford
(12/18/2012 11:20:30 AM)
"Brazil: HD Radio Test Results"

"After extensive testing of Both HD Radio and DRM, the Secretary of the Ministry of Communications Electronic Communications, Genildo Lins, said the tests of the two technologies have had poor results, especially high power FM... That being duly noted, results show a 112 KW EIRP analog station with a 1.12 KW digital carrier that is unusable 6 miles from the transmitter site in some areas."

(12/18/2012 7:13:04 AM)
I only heard two syndicated shows - Mark Levin on Friday and Monica Crowley on Saturday. Both said from the heart how horrible it was, then ended every sentence with a 'But. . .' and went on to rail against democrats trying to score points off a tragedy with their gun control ideals. Levin called them 'A disgrace.'

It was disappointing. I didn't want conflict in those 24 hours. I didn't want a debate on gun owner rights. But they have no act without hating the other side. It's boring.

- Godzilla
(12/17/2012 5:39:35 PM)
Americans have been slaughtering each other at industrial levels and with ever-better technologies for decades. The U.S.A tops the world in gun-related murders, accidental killings and suicides.

When an event of the nature of what transpired on Friday is revealed, the nation recoils in horror and disgust. Even while individuals and affected communities mourn, there is still an inbred (and some would argue "necessary") response of coping or "carrying on".

Commercial radio stations continuing with (mostly) standard broadcast routines does not reflect with any particular callousness or lack of awareness that powerful values and ideals have just been severely challenged. But, not decimated. Rather, a coping mechanism has been engaged - usually, I suspect, with some forethought.

Even as radio attempts to move through these days with a commonality of regular programming, it can be certain that this vicious and insane act will not be far from anybody's mind.

Whether the debate has now gathered a momentum that can carry it to a reasonable and useful conclusion - and remedial action - remains to be seen.

Radio will have every opportunity to contribute to the debates and engage in the arguments that are sure to follow.

As a foreigner and invited guest, I can only comment on what is a typically American scenario.
People kill people. Guns kill people. But, in all the western democracies, Americans with access to automatic weapons kill more people than in any other country. And it is American who will decide what happens to address that fact. Or, it will be Americans who will be doing more of the mourning in future.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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