As the east coast was gripped by two huge snow dumps, Washington DC radio management prepared for the worst figuring that since everyone was stuck at home, and not in their cars, they’d be watching teevee.
But WTOP-FM, a Bonneville news talker racked up double digit ratings by making the “WTOP pledge.” Programmer Jim Farley told Radio-info’s Tom Taylor they promised to “stay on top of all the power companies until all our listeners had their power restored." They encouraged staffers and listeners to call in or go on the air to recite their weather horror stories.This is well-known programming in Seattle. Despite we rarely have weather worth talking about, KIRO, KOMO go on 24 hour blabber binges for days on end with all hands on deck (board-ops, managers, spouses) blah, blah, blah-ing about the drifts, the wind, the cold, the wet basements. (Folks who usually rant about cutting government services, now complain that the service is not good enough).
Chatty Frank Shiers becomes a radio rock star; Dave Ross interviews bottom-tier light company bureaucrats, and Dori Monson posits fiercely about people building on the flood plain. It's umbrella yes/umbrella no. Listeners call in virtually unscreened with detailed prattle about BBQ-ing in the garage and what wimps Seattle drivers are. It's hugely boring. Ratings soar.
But no more, at least for the next year or two. El Niño (the warm current that’s swung our way as it does every decade or so) plus the bigger picture of climate change not only made for an unusually mild, dry winter, but has lowered possibilities for "snow events" and floods (water events?) to next to nil.
How much more can this beleaguered industry take? First the PPMs, now this!
Fair weather is kicking local radio when it’s down. Robbing local talk radio of bad weather as a topic is like taking away Tim Eyman, high school sex, or the City of Seattle. What’s left to talk about?
Radio management and talk hosts can only pray for (as we are) an earthquake, a terrorist attack, or an eruption of Mt. Rainier.