Radio's Essential Workers By Andy Meadows

During a crisis like our recent unprecedented winter storms people are reminded of the vital role terrestrial radio plays in keeping the public in the know and connected to the outside world. Whether you’re stuck on the roads in stand-still traffic or huddled at home by the fire without power, we will be there. 

These kinds of events are also a stark reminder of the many essential employees we have within our industry. The engineer who gets creative and rents a snow-mobile or helicopter to get to the mountain-top transmitter site. The board-ops and producers holding up in a hotel the night before despite being the lowest paid, often most under-appreciated, employees on staff. On air talent who brave the winter weather to drive into the studio at five miles per hour to provide a friendly voice to listeners and let them know we’re going to be ok. The account executives and promotions people who rally to coordinate with clients on cancelled events, promotions and specials. Administrative staff that help make all of these things possible and the forward-thinking PDs, OMs, GMs and owners who put their employees in a position to succeed in these dire circumstances. 

When we choose this life we know that we’re not signing up for a normal job with typical hours and off-time. Early in my career I remember how sad my friends thought it was when I told them I had eaten Thanksgiving Dinner at a truck-stop diner on my way to cover an air-shift. Like many within the industry I’ve missed every major holiday at some point in my career. I’ve broadcasted during a tornado that came dangerously close to our studio, and another that I realized was one street from my house mid-sentence. I had to compose myself and crack the mic to respond to 9/11 and other tragic events. Plus, I spent years knowing that at any point during any concert, movie or event I could have to drop what I was doing and head to the station or calmly walk someone through an emergency over the phone. These are just a few of the things expected of us in the unwritten contract we sign when we join the family of radio broadcasters. 

Radio certainly isn’t for everyone, but it can be incredibly rewarding. When done well, local radio helps bring communities together during terrible times, reminding them of their shared bond and common goals. It encourages our better angels and leads us to help our neighbors instead of hoarding resources and fending for ourselves. 

Huddled in our cars this week here in Texas, warming up and charging our phones while dealing with day-long power outages, it was incredibly comforting to hear our favorite on-air personalities articulating our common experiences and giving us the sense that we were not alone. 

Comment below or email me at andy@radiostationconsultant.com with some of the experiences you’ve had over the years responding to a crisis on air or within the building.

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