Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Monday, June 29, 2009

Radio: The Last Moonwalk

In the summer of 1977, I was a college student preparing for a career in broadcasting. One afternoon in August, I heard the news (through word-of-mouth) that iconic entertainer Elvis Presley had died. I immediately drove to my local Top-Forty radio station (where I worked part-time) and offered what little assistance I could in getting all the relevant information as well as a healthy sampling of the King’s music on the air. The entire staff pulled together and our hometown station rose to the occasion.

Flash forward to a day in June, thirty-some summers later; I heard the news (through the internet, the contemporary version of “word-of-mouth”) that iconic entertainer Michael Jackson has died.

That night I tuned in our local 70s-80s radio station (the one that boasts of being "First With The Hottest Music News") and listened for a full hour. I heard absolutely nothing about Jackson's demise, no updates on the story, none of his music, no mention at all.

Sad fact is, I doubt if anyone really noticed; if you wanted updates on the story, or to hear any of the King of Pop’s hits, you went to TMZ.com, iTunes, your iPhone…anywhere but radio.

Radio, to put it bluntly, has dropped the ball. The problem is largely due to mismanagement on the national level, but in many cases, (as in the one cited above) a local market manager is in a position to make a difference, yet shows little interest in doing so.

Radio can be, and in many places still is, a powerful, engaging medium. All too often today it isn’t. Until certain broadcasters in our community are willing to deal with that fact, much of Bismarck/Mandan radio will continue its precipitous slide into irrelevancy.