Monday, September 24, 2018

A decline in "local" media: radio station owner asks why

uring Hurricane Florence coverage (we escaped, but many local churches cut and ran on a drizzling Sunday morning with little, if any, local damage by closing their doors while bars were open on Sunday for Premier League, La Liga, and NFL games on the screens all day), it caught my attention when I was informed a while back about weather alerts that local schools are now requiring parents' mobile phone numbers for the sole purpose of sending text messages to announce school closings.  Back in the day, we had local radio stations listed to do the same thing.

The consequences of media consolidation to smaller markets reared its ugly head.  The area is down to three radio stations, two of them owned by one New York state chain that under the former owners of those two radio stations, they yanked local news and both state and national talk radio programming.  Our market is now one of the "dark" areas of the state where no access to news is possible.  The third station was sold from a local family to a Sacramento chain, and has no community presence.  The consequence was because schools have no access to the auto-tuned from New York or Sacramento programming, they could not post weather alerts or school, church, and factory closings.

Keven Cohen, the owner of WQXL Radio, noted the frustration of larger radio stations.  In 2012, iHeartMedia fired him from the afternoon time slot.  After a year off to comply with his contract, he developed a radio startup and today is one of the better radio stations in the market, airing local morning and afternoon programming, Saturday night programming, and national shows such as Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham, Dave Ramsey, and Michael Weiner, Ph.D., on his station.

In a recent column, he noted Cumulus Media (which provides him with national radio news on the hour) let a popular radio host go, though he will now be remaining on the station through a syndicated program which they are the flagship station for sports produced by another company.  He also cited a popular newspaper writer and then a well-established television broadcaster being let go -- all in a few weeks.  The fact longstanding reporters are released quickly forced him to ask what has happened to media, especially since he's seen it from both a host's side and an owner's box.  After seeing the lack of local coverage of Hurricane Florence and the schools now going to alternative sources to inform parents, what has happened to "local" media?

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