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April 20, 2014

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9/09/02 9/11 Recalled

I was to go to New York and then to Minneapolis. On September 10th, my Minneapolis appointment asked that I change my trip to later in the week. Rather than make two trips, I rescheduled my New York meetings, too. One of those original meetings was to have been at 10 a.m. on September 11th at the World Trade Center. Two hours after the towers went down, we received a FedEx package from the man we were to have met. He, however, was no longer alive.

Each of us has a 9/11 story.

A tragedy of this magnitude increases the importance of the media in which we serve. Millions of people heard the events of 9/11 unfold while driving in their cars. Millions were glued to their Radios for hours at work, unable to get to a television. Thousands of Radio stations disrupted music formats to become News or Talk stations. Rock stations did call-in shows, allowing listeners to share their thoughts on the air. Others became All-News, or they morphed into a specialty format to meet their audience’s needs during this horrific event. Thousands of stations sacrificed important revenues because they sensed the inappropriateness of running commercials. We were there when America needed us.

American broadcasters should be proud of how they handled themselves. Most owners took instant action, instructing their stations to put financial needs on the back burner. It was time to serve the community’s needs. Most rose to the occasion. Of course, a few broadcasters ignored the events and continued as though nothing unusual were happening. They played a full complement of commercials throughout the critical moments of September 11th and during the dark days afterward: “Forget that fact that the world, as you know it, is changing forever and that thousands of people are dying. What you need is Pep-tastic chewing gum! The kind of gum that whitens your teeth while it freshens your breath.”

Those broadcasters argue that they owed it to their investors to keep the revenue flowing. I understand this logic and even partially agree with it, though I feel these broadcasters did not adequately serve the public’s interest. I was embarrassed for them, and I’ll wager that the majority of their listeners tuned to places on the dial that seemed a little more in touch with reality.

Radio raised money for victims’ families, held vigils, did appropriate promotions for the cause. During the past 12 months, I believe Radio has done a wonderful job of keeping the memory of these people alive in the hearts of Americans everywhere. September 11 is an event we must never forget. Regardless of politics, when America is under attack, Radio must serve its communities.

Will we see more terrorism and more tragedy? I pray not, but I fear we will. Will Radio be ready?


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