Walter Pierce

re: Tuned in and turned off

by Walter Pierce

Comments reveal strong feelings about local radio Local radio for me has long been KRVS, KBON and the amplitude modulated KPEL sports-talk station — and those stations only. National Public Radio, Medicine Ball Caravan, a little swamp pop and men arguing about sports pretty much run my cup over. I know enough about commercial radio to know it isn’t for me, and that Auto-Tune has worn out its welcome. 
But based on last week’s cover story and on a 200-word INDsider blog posted more than three weeks ago that is still generating comments, I am in the minority. Local commercial radio is very much alive, and listeners are tuned in. Between Don Allen’s “Making Waves” cover story on the local radio landscape and Leslie Turk’s blog about morning show host Scott Daniels getting his pink slip at KXKC, more than 100 readers have chimed in on Lafayette’s radio market. A hundred comments is a lot of traffic for us; suffice it to say I was surprised, and pleasantly so.
The inescapable conclusion of all that digital chatter is that radio listeners have strong loyalties — to stations and to personalities — and those loyalties aren’t easily dislodged. Assuming that the comments vowing to dump KXKC in retaliation for the Daniels sacking — the majority sentiment in that comment section —  were genuine and spontaneous and not personally orchestrated or encouraged by the decommissioned deejay, it’s clear he enjoyed some fierce fidelity among listeners. 
A reader with the screen name Allyson opened the anti-KXKC salvo: “Citadel is stupid for letting go their most loyal employee! ONE THING IS FOR SURE, I’m not listening to KXKC again, nor any other Citadel station for that matter. Bobby, Ali, and “Tawana” bother the HELL out of me! BIG MISTAKE!!!” 
Upper-case indignation, but not surprising. The same reason that local radio thrives also ensures the longevity of local TV news: consumer loyalty — to personalities, to brands, to habit and ritual. Probably for most of us, radio is an experience of transit — driving to work, driving home from work. Daniels, now selling cars at Hampton Toyota — not unlike commercial radio’s raison d’etre — was an a.m. guy; he livened up what for many of us is the suckiest ritual of them all: the morning commute. It is no coincidence that the morning airwaves are populated by wise crackers — and I’m not referring to enlightened rednecks.
Of all media, radio is the most resilient, the most plucky. Its imminent demise has been trumpeted following every new technology since television, but it remains a robust presence. Just as motion pictures learned to adapt and thrive as the small screen began pitching its tent in America’s living rooms 60 years ago (Uncle Miltie gave us CinemaScope in a manner of speaking), radio — local radio in particular — has maintained a clear frequency even as the Internet and those hurtling satellites belly up to the trough. Many thought the eight-track player would deliver the coup de grâce when it brought the record album from the den into the car. Clearly they were wrong. Thankfully they were wrong.
As late as Monday of this week — the day we go to press — radio listeners were still throwing in their two cents about the local dial. When Auto-Tune finally and fatefully runs its course, maybe I’ll venture out of my admittedly limited radio cocoon and check it out. I hear that grunge rock music from Seattle is righteous.