Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Radio Homepages Range from "All Over It" to "Absent"

Waiting for a hurricane is like waiting for unwanted company. You have to get ready, even though you hope plans will change and your company won’t show up.

No such luck in New Jersey today as Hurricane Sandy, arguably the state’s most unwanted guest, is at our doorstep.

With Atlantic City projected to be close to the landfall cross-hairs, I waited for Sandy’s arrival Monday morning by checking out websites for the majority of the market’s FM stations.

Yes, of course, it’s first and foremost about ‘what’s on the air.’ Still, with the potential historic nature of the storm, the appetite for information is already bordering on insatiable.  Some stations had strong online efforts augmenting their on air content while for others, online content about the storm was non-existent.

WSJO/SoJO 104.9 and WCHR:  devoted 2 ½ pages to Hurricane Sandy news and photographs.

WENJ, 97.3 ESPN: three of five flippers were dedicated to Hurricane Sandy content including a live video feed and storm photos.

While not an Atlantic City station, New Jersey 101.5 was heavily invested with unique pages for "Cancellations and Delays," "How Bad Will It Get?" (video that was also posted on a number of other websites), "Here Comes Sandy" (east coast story), "Sandy Ready to Blast New Jersey," "Share Your Storm Photos," plus about a dozen other hurricane-related stories and information pieces.

WFPG, Lite Rock 96.9 and WPUR, Cat Country 107.3: Each had a single, static, satellite photo of Sandy (still showing it south of Florida) that clicked through to links for live radar, headlines and evacuation news.

Two stations simply relied on their Facebook feeds; there were a few updates and photos but nothing approaching substantial.

One station website had a link to storm closings, but clicking there took me to a page of closings dated 8/29/2011. 

For seven others, beyond an (or similar) link, there was nothing on the homepage about the hurricane. Instead, it was the usual collection of flippers one might see on any non-extraordinary day: how to win concert tickets for shows (the shows ranged from December to April), plugs for weekend countdown and/or request shows, plus flippers for downloading the TuneIn app, booking a cruise with a personality (none of these activities I suspect were high on listeners’ ‘to do’ lists), and a couple or slides about winning a DJ poll or the last rating period. 

Then there was this listener poll question: “The best thing about fall is…” Hurricane Sandy wasn’t listed as one of the choices.

In today’s , New JerseyBroadcasting Association President Paul Rotella said, “…that’s what local radio is all about: being prepared, being nimble, and being informative, with real information our listeners need. It’s amazing how dedicated local broadcasters are, especially in New Jersey where local radio means so much to our state!”

Some of our state’s broadcasters clearly have embraced this attitude both on air and online. A salute to you and your staff and a thank you for your work and dedication during a very difficult time.

Hopefully too you've inspired others.


Bob Jones said...

That's great that these stations updated their websites for the hurricane, even if in some cases the graphics were still showing Florida. Do they think this took the place of live up to the minute reporting, or are they so busy voice tracking that this is the best they can give?

Mike O'Malley said...

Thanks for the comment, Bob. I don't know the answer for all the stations' on air products, but I did spend some time with NJ 101.5 which was definitely live and all over the storm.