Poynter: “Hurricane Harvey couldn’t silence Texas radio stations”

(Source: Poynter via Kim Elliott)

When Hurricane Harvey’s intensity became clear, employees at 93Q in Houston reserved hotel rooms across the street from the station. They were going to be very busy.

The on-air talent slept in the Cox-owned radio station for days, said Bill Tatar, digital content manager at Cox Media Group Houston. When they weren’t on-air, they did Facebook Live hits.

93Q is not normally an all-news station. But when emergencies hit, local radio stations can convey vital information: which streets are open, what shelters are taking people in and where communities can rally once the water begins to recede.

“Radio has been all over Harvey doing what radio does; immediately helping with updated information,” said Valerie Geller, a radio consultant. “Most stations dropped the format and went ‘all Harvey,’ taking calls, and across the country, stations are sending help and raising money.”[…]

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2 thoughts on “Poynter: “Hurricane Harvey couldn’t silence Texas radio stations”

  1. John AE5X

    Throughout the storm, and particularly in the aftermath, I realized more and more that there is *much* room for improvement in how the media here in the Houston area could have been infinitely more useful. Rather than serving the stricken members of the community – and there were 10’s of thousands – the bulk of their content was for an external audience who wanted a show to watch. Entertainment vs. usefulness – different programming entirely, and I’m sorry to say that entertainment ruled the week.

    TV provided more useful programming than radio, but largely for an audience that couldn’t make use of it without electricity. Radio could have and should have relayed timely information on topics that stricken people needed to know immediately – which main highways are open, which bridges are flooded, from where are water rescues being staged. This information was broadcast but it was diluted with useless banter between announcers that added up to nothing and yet occupied the bulk of each hour. Battery life wasted listening to crap while trying to learn pertinent info.

    I realize that every minute of air time can’t be dedicated to such focused topics but I think it would be greatly helpful in future disasters if a time-standardized method of info delivery was adopted, ie stop the BS sessions every 15 minutes (no matter what) and concentrate all the known information as a list – the open bridges, shelter locations, staging areas, etc – rather than peppering these nuggets throughout a lengthy broadcast containing much non-relevant info.

    In short, putting out the info isn’t enough – it needs to be done in an efficient, orderly and predictable way that maximizes the ability of users to benefit from it.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Thank you for your insight, John. It’s true–listening to a station from within the affected area, you would be looking for a different level of vital information.

      Here in the mountains of NC, when we receive a particularly nasty winter storm, the local AM stations actually provide an incredible level of useful info. Then again, they have almost NO listeners outside the area. None to cater to–just their local crowd.

      Of course, I haven’t leaned on local radio for help in a major weeks-long disaster since the late 80s.

      I hope you, your friends, family and property made it through all of this okay.



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