April 24, 2014

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But First, There Was Radio...

Todd Baucher on how broadcasting has changed since his beginnings in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

As in broadcasting itself, "Before Television, There Was Radio".

And that's where my career in the area began, 30 years ago this week.

Two months after graduating from Ohio University, I was hired by WBRJ Radio in Marietta.  While there's still a station at it's 910 AM frequency (WLTP), the station technically doesn't exist anymore.  Its studios were located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Marietta, behind the Indian Acres Park ball fields and the Washington County Fairgrounds.  If you go there today, you will find, not a radio station, but the Marietta Aquatic Center.  The radio station building, which had been vacant for several years, was torn down in 2004.  (In fact, in its article on the demolition, the Marietta Times noted I worked there.)

Radio was different then than it is now.  In fact, from the vantage point of 2008, we now know is was about to change.  Back then, it was still possible for a station to be an AM-only operation.  Now, the dominant stations in the Parkersburg area and elsewhere are multi-station operations, with one company owning several AM/FM stations and housing them in the same building.  That was not legally possible in 1978.  It wasn't until the 1990's when the Federal Communications Commission allowed companies to own more than one station in each city on each band: one AM, one FM.

Also then, the electronic media was radio and television, and was until fairly recently, when the Internet and cell phones got into the act. Television, and WTAP, have worked to adapt to that new technology.  In the largest cities, radio has as well.  But in all too many places, radio has simply thrown in the towel, particularly where it applies to news.  Not enough radio stations in small towns have viable news operations, and, I believe, too many who have a "news person" don't know what it is to aggressively cover local news.

Some of that was true when I worked in radio as well. And a lot of what I did during my two years in radio was learn.  But even in large cities today, there is only one station that's "your official news station", while the others play various music or syndicated talk formats.

Those who believe radio is no longer a useful news source might consider this:

Suppose you're driving in your car, and you get a sense a storm might be brewing.  You want to know if there's a storm warning.  Television, obviously, is out of the question.  It's not a good idea to consult your cell phone for messages while you're driving (and "text message alerts" are something we've worked hard on for several years).  The one other option is: turn on the radio.  Hopefully, the radio station you choose is one which can interrupt the latest hit song or talk show to quickly alert its listeners of a severe storm. But a lot of them don't.

That's an audience radio could reach.  And it doesn't.

 

 

 

 

 

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