Thursday, April 19, 2007

Radio's Relevance, Potential and Pitfalls

Over the past 2 weeks a number of stories have developed that are relevant to radio and also showcase our potential and pitfalls:
  • VT: The tragic VT ordeal was clearly a crisis for the community. While the debate will go on over why the University Police did not realize the importance of the early morning shooting at the dorm and do more to secure the rest of the University it was also a time of crisis where radio could have helped communicate across the campus. As the debate on how to deal with crisis situations moves on everyone seems to be talking about Internet, email, cell phone, and text alerts. What about broadcast media? What could TV and Radio have done? The AM News Talk in the market was running a repeat Rush show and didn't break in till after 3p from the report posted on the TV seemed to be covering the event from the video we saw all day, but it didn't seem to be connected to any 'network' or EAS system to communicate with the market. Could Radio have been used here to help secure the campus? Or is this really an audience that doesn't listen to us any way and going to all the web/phone systems would be a better option? We also have to wonder about all the cuts we've made in staff over the years - in a smaller market like Blacksburg who was left to turn off the Rush Rerun and start covering a story or crisis this big?
  • Imus - Of course what he did was dumb. But, he probably could have avoided the outcome on his network and NY Show if he'd just been humble in his apology. Instead he picked fights with Matt on the Today Show, Sharpton on his show and continued to try and defend the un-defensible (based on the avalanche of media coverage). This is a lesson for all on how to handle a personality crisis - apologize and be humble. In cases like this you are up against a an avalanche of negative media and the only way to survive is to crawl into a snow cave and wait it out. Imus should have said I'm sorry and went into some kind of social rehab (like every other personality does when this happens). On the other hand we did see how much coverage and attention radio can still command - even though it was not in a positive light.
  • For You in the Radio Programming Chair: Be ready for crisis in your market it can happen at any time and you need to have a plan and be ready to take quick action. Also make sure your personalities on the air know the risks. Doing live radio and trying to entertain can be risky business. Would Imus' comments have created such a stir if Chris Rock said them as a guest? It's a very subjective world when you look at public morals and standards. It's possible for anyone (even the most careful and conservative) to slip up and cross a standard that suddenly grows into a big issue. Being prepared helps and so does having a well thought out and humble reaction if it does happen to you.

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