How Boston radio has handled this week

Staff Writer

This piece originally appeared in Inside Radio. It's an insight into what radio in Boston has been doing this week since the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.

After taking a back seat to news on Monday and much of Tuesday, regular programming has returned to the Boston airwaves. But personalities continue to help listeners cope with what Entercom rock WAAF afternoon host Mistress Carrie calls “the roller coaster ride of emotions” they’ve experienced since Monday’s bombings killed three and injured more than 170.

Greater Media has suspended contesting in the market – for a cause.  And most stations plan to observe a moment of silence for victims next Monday.

“You want to convey the mood in the marketplace and reflect how the community is feeling,” CBS Radio SVP/market manager Mark Hannon says. In the first days after the explosions, that meant stripping away contesting and entertainment features. While no longer simulcasting news WBZ (1030), the four CBS stations continue to intersperse news updates. “As much as we are in a normal format now, we really aren’t in a normal state,” Hannon says, something exacerbated by conflicting news reports yesterday about a possible suspect and a scheduled FBI press conference that never materialized.

Clear Channel-Boston VP of programming Dylan Sprague says the goal has been to disseminate information while serving as an outlet for listeners to discuss their experiences and emotions. Music and regular features are back but the company’s three music FMs continue to break in with informal and formal updates several times an hour. “We’re in the business of meeting listener expectations, which are, ‘keep me informed but also provide a discussion outlet and keep my favorite music playing,’” Sprague says. Hannon says CBS personalities were directed to “react to it as a Bostonian” and to be authentic and genuine. “We encouraged them to interact with listeners from the heart,” he says. “Special radio happens when you give that kind of advice.”

The twice-a-day $1,000 “Moneyball Pitch of the Day” giveaway on classic hits WROR-FM, Boston (105.7) has been suspended – as has other on-air contesting at Greater Media’s Boston cluster. Four of the company’s five Boston stations were in the midst of cash contesting this week. Now Greater Media says it’ll donate the prize money to the One Fund Boston instead. The fund has been created to help the people most affected by this week’s bombing. Director of programming Cadillac Jack McCartney says they discussed it among the staff and concluded “this was absolutely the appropriate thing to do in an effort to help all the individuals directly impacted by the tragic event that took place in our city.”

Across the dial, Boston stations are using their airwaves, websites and social media to give out info on neighborhood vigils, prayer services and counseling, and how to make a donation. Some are rolling up their sleeves, too. Staffers from WAAF hopped into the station van Tuesday night to deliver dinners to security personnel policing the Boston Commons and restricted areas of the Back Bay.

The city’s stations will come together to observe a moment of silence for the victims. The NAB-orchestrated 60-second tribute will air Monday at 2:50 pm – one week from the moment of the detonation of the first bomb – on stations owned by CBS Radio, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Entercom, Greater Media and others. The focus is both on the Boston Marathon bombing victims and the emergency personnel who demonstrated acts of heroism in the hours after the attack. “As first informers in times of crisis, broadcasters want to take this opportunity to salute the first responders and the many unsung heroes who do so much during emergency situations,” NAB CEO Gordon Smith says.

But stations aren’t waiting till Monday to salute the bravery of firefighters, police, doctors, nurses, medics and other emergency personnel. “Boston Pride” and “Boston Strong” top-of-the hour IDs have become prevalent on the dial. “As we have seen in countless tragedies in our nation’s past, radio is playing a leading role in helping people grieve, process, cope, and get back on their feet,” Entercom CEO David Field says.

Our thanks to Frank Saxe, Managing Editor at Inside Radio for allowing us to republish this article.
See more from Inside Radio here.

Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Recent comments (0)
Post new comment


See all