Originally posted in The Sands Report
Date: March 19, 2020
Written by: Richard Sands

I was all set to run part two of the feature on KNRK’s 25 year run. But then I called an audible. What’s the one thing on every-one’s minds? It’s not a birthday. It’s more a matter of life and death. The novel coronavirus COVID-19. Around these parts, we worry about it because of some pre-existing conditions and/or autoimmune issues. We’re working out of our home office. In our PJs. But hey, that’s what I always do! And you… what are you doing? I checked in with various Alt stations from large and small markets to see how they’re handling it, starting with Mark Hamilton at KNRK.

He told me they are playing it by ear so far. He was figuring out how he could schedule music from home, but jocks were still coming in to do their shifts for the time being. “We have cancelled all concert ticket giveaways,” he revealed, mostly because it is unknown if the shows will even happen, and if they don’t, Hamilton doesn’t want unhappy listeners. Quite a few shifts are being done from home studios. I caught up with Jeremy Pritchard at an opportune moment—he was working out of his studio in his garage at that very moment! I asked if his station is doing things differently now.

“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs as broadcasters if we weren’t reacting to what’s happening is in the community,” the KBZT PD/PM jock answered, adding that station events, appearances, remotes and shows are all being put on hold. “With local governments around the country putting restrictions on crowd sizes, it just seems like the responsible reaction to helping contain what is now a global pandemic. We’ll assess how far that travels into the year as things develop in the coming weeks.”

Pritchard says they’re prepared to have the jocks do their airshifts from home if things get worse, but I wonder about the big events, like spring and summer festivals? When I caught up with Nerf, PD at KTCL, he was really bummed. “It kills me to say it, but last Friday we had to postpone the granddaddy of our events, Keggs and Eggs. It’s the fifteenth year and we’ve already put a ton of work and promotional support into it,” he says, figuring it would have been irresponsible to put it on, and that listeners were surprisingly understanding. Other spring festivals elsewhere are being rescheduled or cancelled.

What’s Nerf telling the jocks about how to approach this topic on-air? He discloses, “We’re trying to talk about it as part of the shared experience of being in the community, give good information, and otherwise stop the spread of panic. We’ve also started encouraging people to donate to their favorite foodbank. People are out there hoarding food, but what if you can’t?”

Of course, it’s all about attitude. Alternative stations are basically known for their snarky sense of humor. So how are they handling that aspect in Denver? Nerf expressed that his station generally is super light-hearted, upbeat, and takes nothing seriously. Then he noted, “It’s a hard refocus when we go from entertainment to media, but when we do, I really get a feel for the role we play in our community. If I have to go into the studio in a space suit slathered in Purell all the way through the summer, I’ll do it to fulfill that role. Keep people informed but calm, with a sense of humor and normalcy.”

In Bend, Oregon, KRXF PD Mike Flanagan is trying to stay optimistic, hoping their summer concert series will still be able to happen, but several station events and appearances have already been cancelled. At this time, he’s making contingency plans for jocks to do airshifts from home. In the meantime, he’s informed his airstaff to focus on “local, positive content.” He’s told them to avoid talking negatively about hoarders, government, authorities, foreigners, overreactors, underreactors, and whatever else is the rant of the day because people hear enough of that already.

Meanwhile, he sent a memo to staff. In part it reads, “We are in a unique yet familiar situation. We handle this one as we always have in times of concern and upheaval; be it wildfire, terrorist attacks, the start of war, or a disease outbreak. We serve the public with entertainment and information. We provide music and interesting topical content. We disseminate timely and accurate information. I truly feel that is our obligation and is the reason why I love being in radio. As broadcasters we also have the advantage of being in the community and living through the situation right along with our listeners. Due to social distancing, our voice is one of the closest they will hear…My thought on music is that we should definitely play those all time favorites and hot new currents a lot. People need to be comforted by winning stuff and singing along to hits.”

There’s an old Chinese curse that says, “May he live through interesting times.” For some reason, we’re on earth at a time that can only be described as “interesting.” Yes. We’re cursed! But hey, you got into radio for some reason. Maybe this was it.

In conclusion, KBZT’s Pritchard says, “There’s a lot of panic out there; some people stir it up out of fear and some have their own agenda. Our job as broadcasters should always be to help assuage the panic with the confidence our listeners have bestowed on us and the music that binds us all together.”

Read original article from The Sands Report here.

Supporting Paragon blogs:
1. Local Radio Pandemic Checklist
2. The Digital Media Evolution Just Became a Revolution