February 3, 2015
Is it dead?
Pre-consolidation, almost every station, FM and AM, had at least one newsperson, one person whose job it was to gather and deliver the news, at least in morning dive, and sometimes in afternoon drive as well.
Those days are gone for commercial radio (gathering and sharing information is thriving on public radio). We will never again be the primary source listeners go to for news.
I don't think any of radio's owners would try to claim this change is because listeners don't want to hear news. This was initially a money issue -- after which technology trumped us -- not a listener issue.
I've had debates with various levels of executives for years about whether radio should still offer news. Many believe radio has simply become preempted, first by television, and more recently by the Internet and smartphones.
They think the only thing that comes out of radio disseminating information is a massive movement of our listeners to video and internet options.
That may be true.
But if we don't alert our listeners to important breaking news stories, especially those that have mass interest in our listening communities, how can they ever trust us again?
If we don't tell them about the fire at the Children's Hospital -- even if there are no casualties -- how can we expect them to be listening when the plane crashes at the airport, or when the natural gas line explodes?
I'm not suggesting every station needs a News Department. I'm just saying that if we expect listeners to trust us with their attention, we have to earn it by alerting them when something we think they will find important happens.
Even if that means they stop listening for a while and head for the nearest TV or computer.