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iPods Didn’t Reach Out To Katrina Victims, Radio Did



Updated September 01, 2005
Traditional Radio has taken quite a beating over the last few years: FM has been derided as too cluttered, repetitious, and formatted; there’s a whole generation of young people who have never even listened to an AM radio station. To them, it is as foreign and archaic as something called “vinyl” records. But, that's just the beginning.

Traditional Radio has been pummeled by new satellite competitors including XM and SIRIUS, iPods and other mp3 players, streaming Internet Radio, Podcasting, and even cell phones and PDAs.

The Federal Communications Commission, fueled by an absurd and reactionary small amount of people, has brought pressure to bear on AM and FM stations in the form of record indecency fines for programming which for previous decades it either lackadaisically ignored or punished with only a slap on the hand.

Howard Stern and other high-profile radio personalities are abandoning a ship called “Terrestrial Radio” as quickly as they can find a Satellite Radio channel to land on.

The harbingers of dark days have all but trumpeted the news that traditional radio is dead – and if it’s not dead yet, well then it’s terribly anemic and certainly doomed beyond repair.

Meanwhile, one of the worst hurricanes on record, Katrina, has left a path of devastation along Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. And during the bleakest moments of despair - while hundreds of thousands of people held on for their lives as communication options went dark, one-by-one, it turns out the hero of the moment was one of those archaic AM radio stations.

The Charlotte Observer reported: “One radio station, WWL, remained on the air and became the city's sole source of information.”

According to TheState.com: "In New Orleans, talk radio station WWL-AM became something of a crisis line, with callers reporting the locations of people who needed to be rescued."

Yes, it was one of Radio’s senior citizens, WWL-AM, a station which began transmissions on March 30, 1922, along with its sister station, WLMG-FM, that had the grit and resources to hang in there and provide a lifeline of information in a catastrophic situation.

MediaWeek.com reported:

WWL-AM, the 50,000-watt Talk station in New Orleans owned by Entercom Communications, came back on the air late Monday after it was knocked off the air Monday when the city’s levees broke down. As the situation deteriorated, Entercom authorities said they would shut down two of their four stations, keeping WWL and WLMG-FM up and running. To do that, Entercom is evacuating its staff from downtown New Orleans and setting up a new site in Baton Rouge.

And as you read this now, hundreds of AM and FM radio stations across the country are sponsoring drives for food, water, supplies and money to send to those hit by Katrina including Clear Channel Radio which initiated "Storm Aid" throughout the chain to do exactly that.

Say what you will about that “old technology” called AM and FM. But, I have yet to hear one report of an iPod, mp3 player, or PDA that assisted during the storm or is now rallying anyone to help our desperate fellow Americans.

Cell phones were helpful – until the power grids went down forcing all cell phones into eventual failure. And true, XM Satellite Radio has a 24/7 Emergency Alert channel which provided information. But, how many people have wearable XM Radios at this point?

No, the fact remains: the technology most people are quick to dismiss as tired and almost useless is the one which has risen to the occasion.

It was Mark Twain who said “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Yes they have been...

...and I think I just heard the spirits of Guglielmo Marconi and Edwin H. Armstrong whisper, “Well done...”

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