Thursday, August 5, 2010

Local Radio – “B” List at Its Best

My husband suggested I blog about this so here goes…

One aspect I love about a small town is local radio. Obviously is a great way to disseminate information to citizens. But it’s much more than that. Local radio is usually people you know, or you know people who know them, talking about people you actually know. It’s like a gossip session or a family reunion. I’m not sure if any of these “radio professionals” have any training in broadcasting. To call these folks “B List” is a compliment, I think. I don’t think it really matters. I know, I’ve been there and done that.

When I lived in Arkansas and worked at the Russellville Chamber of Commerce I was in charge of all of the Chamber programming and getting the word out about all the projects we were working on. Local radio was my primary way of doing this. I LOVE the radio stations in my home town. The DJ’s have been the same for decades. The men who did the football play by play broadcast when I was in school are now giving the play by play for our children (that is if I was old enough to have children that age because we all KNOW THAT I’M ONLY 25). I think someone new joined the broadcasting team about 10 or 12 years ago and he’s still considered absolutely “new”. I missed this when I moved to the Dallas area. Denton, where I lived, could have supported a local radio station, but being within the perimeter of the media of the Metroplex, we didn’t get much individual coverage or attention. Sure the DJ’s are truly professional and know and interview actual celebrities from the entertainment and music industry, but will these people be at the dunking booth at the town festival this weekend – I think not.

With my job at the Chamber, I spoke with the local radio professional about twice weekly. They would do phone interviews mostly, but sometimes I would get to go down to the station and wear the headphones and speak “live on the air” to what I knew were dozens of eager listeners. I would talk about the Christmas Parade, the town’s football pep rally, the current class of Leadership Russellville, whatever it was.

But because it’s people who you’ve known for years or at least known of - the conversations I’m sure could feel like eavesdropping to those listening. I always felt the urge to ask the interviewer, “Now, how’s your mother?” Sometimes we’d wander off on our own conversation about when we saw each other last. Quality radio, I know. I would hear myself on the radio and I would immediately change it. HIDEOUS!!!! Sometimes people would know my name from the radio when they met me. My head got at least two sizes bigger.

Here in the “Greater Tri-State”, we have local radio too. It’s on an even smaller scale it that’s possible. They talk everyday to people they know about other people they know and I make fun of them. That is until I remember my past. This summer they’ve really tickled me with their summer games and promotions.

The local radio’s summer promotion has been something like “104 Days of Summer.” Good enough… The first half of the summer they were having some sort of a race with rubber ducks. You’d call in and get a rubber duck that would float in a race. The owner of the duck who won the race got a jet ski – or something like this. I didn’t really pay too close attention. I’m too busy making fun of them and changing the station. I assume they had the race and got a winner for the jet ski. It’s the promotion for the second half of the summer that has me wailing with laughter.

The first many, many times I heard this on the radio I knew I misheard or misunderstood. Then I really paid close attention. The promotion goes like this – the station is going to give away a car. That’s a nice prize, I know. When given the cue to call, listeners call in and if you’re the correct caller you qualify to win the car. OK, here’s where I actually researched, I know the contest goes like this – at an event later in the summer 12 names will be drawn from those qualified. Each will be given a key and one will start said vehicle.

So what’s the quirky “B” list, small town twist? I didn’t mention what type of car.

It’s a used car. No I’m not a snob who is above used cars. I’m proudly driving one right now. In this economy getting a dealership to donate a used car is fabulous. There are tons of great “pre-owned” vehicles on many lots across the greater tri-state. So I’m in my used car hearing the about this contest and I thought the DJ said that the car was a 200? (two thousand and something that I didn’t hear) Pontiac. I heard it again - 2000 Pontiac. No that could be correct, I thought. I heard it again, “win a 2000 Pontiac.” That IS correct! They are giving away an 10 year old car. The ultra professional, non-irritating DJ’s tell me that it’s “Destined to be a classic.” I find this hilarious!!!! I’ve seen a picture of the car and it’s not that bad. It’s nice, in fact. But on its face, this contest is ridiculous. You truly need the benefit of a photo to appreciate what you’re entering to win – and radio does not give you that.

Winning anything is great. Or at least I think it is. When I when something I’ll be able to say for sure. I picture the contest going like this: someone wins the car and tries to act excited. Then you have to call a tow truck to get it home or to a garage to be fixed. When you find out how much that will cost you try to sell it on Craigslist to a least get something out of this headache of a “prize.”

But this is why I love local radio. It’s a hokey contest put on by people you’ve known all your life. You’re good manners won’t allow you to tell anyone how silly it is. When it’s all said and done someone will be saddled with a Pontiac that they hope they’ll be able to get parts for and the gang at the radio move on the next contest to encourage listening. As for me, I’m hoping they have a DJ for a day contest. I’d win and show them how great “B list” really is.

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