Stella-Stevens“If you were to ask me why I love being in radio, my answer today would be very different than when I started more than 25 years ago. As a teenager, when I entered the business, it was the music that mattered to me most. I loved all types of music – rock, pop and country – and I thought: How cool would it be to sit around all day playing records and hanging out with rock stars?! Naturally, as one gets older, reality sets in. 

Absolutely, it’s cool to listen to your favourite music all day, but I soon found out, like most jobs, it’s much more than that and it involves lots of hard work! Plus, rock stars are too busy being ‘rock stars’ to hang out with any and every DJ (as we were once referred to). I continue to shake my head and laugh at my unrealistic expectations.

I quickly learned that although music is what draws listeners to a radio station, initially, what goes on in between the songs is what keeps them listening. This information is certainly nothing new to those in radio. It’s one of the first lessons we all learn, and it’s always worth reinforcing.

I remember driving back to Edmonton from Vancouver years back. As I entered the city limits, I wondered why the air looked so smoky. It was nice and clear when I left a few days earlier… What changed? Sure enough, when I turned on a local radio station, within minutes the announcer said it was due to a forest fire in the northern part of the province. Wow! How did he know what I was just thinking?! Chances are, he was thinking the same thing when he walked out his door in the morning and he wanted to inform his listeners because he knew it would matter to them, as well. The six o’clock local TV news and the local newspapers were all reporting on the forest fire!

CNN’s viewership is enormous as they provide excellent coverage on many stories around the world, but I’m sorry to say, Wolf Blitzer wouldn’t consider that a “situation” enough to be included in his room. Satellite radio coverage is too vast to pinpoint any given area. An iPod only cycles through downloaded music. Forget smoky conditions, what about in cases of severe weather? To be sure, local media will care about a local story before anybody else, so it should be a natural reflex to turn to local media first!

I used to MC an annual breast cancer run, which was preceded by other events, including a fashion show. I’m always happy to promote these types of fundraisers on the air as I can do this with no issues from management. The radio station will even run commercials at no cost to organizers and the station kicks in all kinds of sponsorship. The local dealership, who was also a sponsor, would let me borrow a big fancy SUV with pink ribbons all over it. I’d add my own special touch to the SUV – lacey, pink bras hanging from all the windows. People would stop me at the grocery store, the doggie park, the movie theatre, wherever, to ask why I was doing this. Some had already heard about it on the radio and were delighted to see the SUV up close. It was great fun to help raise awareness about such a serious disease.

Some would even share their personal survival stories, or tell me about loved ones who, sadly, had lost their battle. Some even donated their old pink bras to add to my display. (Thank goodness, because mine were too small to really gain any attention!) Either way, they were appreciative that the “radio” was a part of this campaign. Many charities and organizations know they can always count on the support of local media.

Furthermore, think about the last time you flipped through the newspaper or tuned into the news and learned about the ways city council is spending your tax dollars. Remember the controversy on the removal of the City of Champions signs? What about the Uber protest by taxi drivers throwing the shirts off their back? Where would you have seen or heard about that, if it wasn’t for local media? Let’s not forget about the buzz and the pride we felt for our city, thanks to local coverage of “Spider Mabel!”

Not only does local media act as a ‘watch-dog’ and bring issues to light, but it shares “stories” of those in our community – those that feed hungry school kids, help the homeless, take up a certain cause because no one else is doing a darn thing about it… Doesn’t all that deserve to be publicized? And who is going to do it?

Local media matters because its members live in your community – drive those very same potholed roads, get stuck at the same train crossings, marvel at the incredible engineering feat of the east leg of the Anthony Henday. They care about the family that just lost everything in a house fire, the senior who has lost her savings in a phone scam and warn you might be next. To be sure, they care about the same issues as you do, and they care about connecting with their audience.

So, in a few words… the reason why I love radio today is that I get to be an active participant in our community and not only talk about things that matter, but be a part of things that matter.”

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reprinted from www.meetthemedia.ca with credit to Tamara Vineberg