It's sneaked up on us again this year – today is World Radio Day 2020.
Don't feel bad if you work in radio, and you missed this special day. Here in the U.S., World Radio Day isn't that big a deal. But it should be. American radio has always been groundbreaking – not just because of what it represents, its personalities, its community service, and its long history that now covers almost an entire century.
Radio here in the U.S. is always a hot topic, whether pundits argue about consolidation, disaster coverage, disruption, the FCC, and myriad other issues that become topics in the worldwide community we know as radio.
So, rather than just tell you about World Radio Day 2020, I thought we'd try something a little different.
Today's post is a tribute to the personalities and hosts who entertain and inform us day in and day out, from New York City to Nome, from commercial radio to public radio, to syndicated hosts in many markets and the midday jock in a small unrated town. (We even have a little “Canadian Content.”)
We reached out to a number of these voices millions enjoy every day here on AM and FM radio stations – some names you know, as well as people who do great radio without a lot of fanfare in the industry trades.
And we asked them to tell us about their most memorable and/or rewarding moment on the airwaves – that time they knew they were having an impact on an audience in a truly important way. It turned out pretty well, don't you think?
Andrew Gardner – Afternoon drive, WMGK, Philadelphia:
Oh man, there are hundreds. The last ‘most rewarding day in radio' for me occurred last week, when I got a text from a woman who was driving home after just having to put her 98 year-old mother in hospice.
She had been listening as we were about to track a vinyl side of ‘Synchronicity' by The Police, and she told me hearing that side, with all its crackling, brought back a flood of warm memories and allowed her have a good cry on the car ride home.
“The last line of her email was, ‘Just wanted to let you know that the music you guys play impacts every person every day.'”
Alyssa Page – Middays, KNDD/The End, Seattle:
“It was National Coming Out Day, the hashtag was all over Twitter and although I'm sure the listeners who follow me know I'm out and gay, I've never ‘come out' over the air. This day wasn't about me, it was an opportunity to put myself out there and use my microphone to potentially help someone listening feel like they weren't alone.
“I appreciated hearing my favorite jocks in the past let their sexual orientation be known, and I wanted to pay it forward. After I turned off the mic, I felt a wave of emotion flow over me as the studio text line filled with ‘Thank-yous' and sentiments of solidarity. The connection I felt with our audience that day is what keeps me going in this crazy biz.”
Jason Mahoney – Mornings (“Dave & Mahoney”), KXTE/Las Vegas
“The most impactful day was also our hardest day of broadcasting; The early morning of October 2, 2017, right after the largest mass shooting in American history here in Las Vegas.
“We pulled everything from the air except ourselves and the callers to let them be heard. We knew our community was hurt, scared, angry and in need of information on how to help.
“We were able to help direct our listeners to our local blood banks and shelters. When they were at capacity people still wanted to help so they brought food, water and aid to the workers, volunteers and first responders who were doing their best to save the lives of our friends, family and visitors who were affected.
“We hope no one has to experience what that is like but being able to communicate directly with our listeners helped us and our listeners on that day begin the process of understanding and healing.”
Emmanuel (DJ E-Man) Coquia, PD KPWR (Power 106), Los Angeles
“To travel the world and bring ‘radio' to people were incredible experiences. Here’s what I mean. During the war in Iraq & Afghanistan, I was able to be a part of a few USO tours to the Middle East to entertain our troops abroad at various military bases.
The best memories of those trips were when we got to interact and talk with many of the soldiers, many who listened to us (radio host/artists) on the radio and share their stories, memories and experiences of us. Knowing the many sacrifices they’ve made being out there, the fact all of them told us we ‘brought a piece of home' to them was the best feeling ever.
Elizabeth Kay – Mornings, WMYX (99.1 The Mix), Milwaukee
“During our Thanksgiving food drive we asked listeners to donate turkeys. Minutes later, an elderly man stopped out and donated 25 turkeys! When I went up to thank him, he had tears in his eyes. I asked him why he was crying and he told me he just left his wife’s side who was passing away of cancer at a nearby hospital.
“He felt lost and sad, but heard about our food drive on the radio and felt compelled to give back because it’s what ‘my wife would have wanted me to do.'
“It was a true act of love.”
E. Curtis Johnson – Program Director, KKBZ (The Blaze), Fresno
“On my hometown radio station in Montana I did the night show my high school junior year and the morning show my senior year. The winter of 1978-79 had a long cold-snap where 20 below was the high temperature. The extreme weather created a power demand that shut down the town’s grid. The utility couldn’t reset the substation because everyone’s heaters were on.
“At 6 a.m. I broadcast from the transmitter site on emergency generator power with only a space heater and a microphone. For 90-minutes, I asked listeners to turn off their heaters so that the utility could reset the substation.
“I’ve had fun with listeners in many markets on many stations. However, that cold morning is the only time I’ve served the public in the public interest.”
Terrie Carr- PD/Middays, WDHA, Morriston, NJ
“WDHA has such strong ties to our community with our outreach programs and we always feel such a sense of accomplishment in our service. It really resonates with me when on occasion we see how artists view our brand.
“Back in the early 2000's Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora had a small window of time in their promo schedule and decided they had to take a charter helicopter into Morristown airport so they could visit WDHA. They hung out on my show and spoke about all of their amazing NJ memories at clubs, with friends and how the state helped mold them as performers. It was like a homecoming with hundreds of people in our parking lot waiting to welcome them home.
“Also in 2018, Steven Van Zandt made it a point of visiting my show with literally boxes of his favorite tunes! He was supposed to “Guest DJ” with me for an hour, but decided to stay for three because the feel of actual live, local, terrestrial radio inspired him. It was like having a family member back home. Our socials were blowing up, phones blowing up and the feedback was amazing. And man did we laugh! Connecting New Jersey legends and their NJ memories with listeners through our station was truly an indescribable feeling. Maybe it was a “Jersey thing” but man, those were two memorable days on the air for sure. (and Steven brought his dog Edie for me to play with!) ”
Bob Stroud – Middays, WDRV (The Drive), Chicago
“In March of 2018, I was part of a day-long Drive tribute to The Loop, our main competitor. Their decades-long rock format would be wiped off the dial for Christian programming. Because our production director, Matt Bisbee, and I had worked at The Loop for years, we had reels of airchecks we incorporated into our day-long tribute.
“The phones exploded with listeners who were touched beyond belief. I spoke with many grown men who were crying on the other end of the line. Not only had we remembered The Loop, we had remembered the listeners as well.”
Prospector – Mornings, WEZX (Rock 107), Scranton
“My Mother died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. On the next show I talked about my Mom, her life and her battle with a disease that stole her independence and identity. I spoke about how her life was reshaped by Parkinson’s and how she still lived her life to her fullest. I broke down.
“I got a call from a Susie who was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She said hearing me talk about my Mom was inspiring. She told me, she knew if my Mom could battle and make her life meaningful, that she could, too.
“I knew I made an impact.”
Maria Milito – Middays, WAXQ (Q104.3), New York City
“Bonni, a dessert chef, has a son with a severe brain injury. She sells desserts and jams at local fairs and firehouses (Jars For Justin) to help pay for her son’s care.
“I mentioned one such event on the air where she was raising money to try to buy a new van for her son. She got a call from a man who heard it on the radio. He said his wife is disabled and they have a van they don’t use and wanted to give it to Bonni!
“That’s the power of Radio!!”
Nathan (Shags) McLeod – Mornings, KCMQ, Columbia, MO
“My two true passions are radio and the great outdoors. I love spending my free time fishing, hunting, and camping. Then, on my most rewarding day in radio, those two passions came together.
“Legislation was introduced that would have destroyed the Missouri Department of Conservation financially and essentially end the outdoor life I love in the state. My co-host Trevor took to the airwaves to try and prevent this legislation encouraging our listeners to call the offices of the people who wrote the bill in protest.
“Then, working with the Conservation Federation of Missouri we created Conservation Day at the Capitol. We broadcast live for 10 hours from the third floor of the Capitol along with like-minded Missourians and outdoor organizations protesting the bill and showing support for conservation in the state.
“Through our efforts the bill was dropped, Trevor and I were named the Outdoor Communicators of The Year and we’re coming up on the 5th annual Conservation Day at the Capitol in April. By far my proudest and most rewarding day in radio!”
Christine Malovetz – Middays/Asst. Brand Manager, WNYL (ALT 92.3), New York City
“Entercom has a powerful ‘I’m Listening' initiative that focuses on mental health, and I’ve worked with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention since I started at ALT 92.3 in 2018.
A few months ago, a listener called to share that he and his wife had lost their child to suicide, and that he appreciated hearing us talk so honestly about mental health issues. We spoke for just a few minutes, but the conversation has stayed with me, reminding me just how strongly radio can connect people.”
Scott McCord – Mornings, CFBR, (The Bear), Edmonton
“My most rewarding day in radio was when I realized I was good enough to make a career out of it. For nearly a decade it felt like I was chasing a pipe dream, like I was impossibly in over my head. To know that the sacrifice was worth it… To be able to support my family by doing the thing I love… It’s a rare and special feeling that I will never take for granted.”
This last comment from The Bear's Scott McCord probably speaks for a lot of people who had that desire to get into the radio business, but weren't always sure they made the right decision.
It is by no means a complete or even diverse list of North American radio talent. There's no way to offer a truly representative sample, so that's where you come in. In the “comments” section below, tell us your best on-air story – that time when you made a unique connection while behind the mic, creating your most memorable radio moment.
And if you like, use my Facebook page as well: facebook.com/fnjacobs
I was pleased to see just how personal many of these entries were. But after all, radio people are genuinely great storytellers, even if they don't always have the opportunity to tell their stories. On World Radio Day 2020, it's your chance to tell yours.
And if you're interested in learning more about World Radio Day 2020, go to their website, and/or watch this short video:
Thanks to Mike Stern and Bill Jacobs for helping me collect these stories.
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