Easy answer, actually. It’s been eaten alive (or, perhaps, dead) by big media conglomerates. For them, it’s all about bandwidth; he who has the most wins the game. The heck with how they treat the needs of their listeners.

I spent the majority of my working years in radio and TV. Before that, I spent my youth listening to the radio and practicing to be a DJ. I know, I scanned several other articles on here and – surprise! There are others who were doing the same. However, I grew up in a mostly-rural area of the upper Midwest, in the 1950’s and 60’s. That put me just a bit too late for the days of Radio Drama (although I love to listen to it today) and too far from the big cities to enjoy any type of big-time DJ’s, except for what we could hear at night. More on that momentarily. First, for those of you who missed it, a bit of a word picture on what local radio was like in those days.

Inside a local radio stationRadio stations were almost always owned and operated by somebody who lived right there; that owner likely led the sales force and, in many cases, the news team, too. It was hands-on and responsive (and responsible) to the listeners. The main local station my family listened to would be considered “hokey” by today’s standards, but I wish somebody had the guts to try it again. We worked our way through the morning routine, timing ourselves by the regular blocks of programming. It’s been 40 years or more, but I can still remember how KICD Radio would lead us through the morning – weather at 7:30, flying weather at 7:35, sports at 7:40, a phone in quiz/trivia block at 7:50, news (local – not a network)- at 8:00.

The day continued in much the same fashion, but with longer programs. The noon news was longer – 15 minutes, I believe, and obituaries were often the top story. That’s right – obituaries. But, I can tell you, my grandparents never missed it. Along the way, a live, phone-in, recipe exchange (with the host repeating each ingredient twice, so the listeners could be sure to write it down correctly. In the afternoon, an announcer read to the listeners. Yes, he learned from a novel for a full hour. And you thought Oprah’s “Book Club” was an original! Hah!

You knew when the weather was stormy because they had a network of citizen-reporters who watched the skies and tracked where the worst weather was. When weather radar became available, this station was among the first small-town stations to utilize it.

Whatever Happened to “Local” Radio?
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