I visit radio stations. While it's not all I do in my job as the editor of Radio magazine, it's something I like to do. Most of the time the visits are related to something you'll see in Radio magazine, but it's not always just business. Last month while on a trip I visited two radio studios, and those facilities could not have been any more different.
The contrast covers nearly every aspect of each facility. One is a small market AM/FM combo, the other is a stand-alone radio studio with a national radio connection. One is using equipment that has served the station well for many years, the other is loaded with all- new equipment and is getting ready to go online. One has a broadcast license, the other does not.
The first facility is the home of Radio magazine contributor Gil Wilson. He works for WAKO-AM/FM in Lawrenceville, IL. The stations have been under the same ownership since 1959 and in the same studio building (collocated with the transmitters of course) for almost as long. While not directly on my usual route for my trip, I took the detour to see Gil and his facility. The stand-alone building on the edge of a field even has the neon call letters on the roof. It's classic radio.
The second facility will be featured in an upcoming issue of Radio magazine. It's the next radio studio (actually a broadcast media center) to be built by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. The foundation is building media centers in pediatric hospitals around the country. The Seacrest Studio at Cincinnati Children's Hospital will be the sixth studio built by the foundation to go online.
Like I said, the two facilities could not be more different. But at the same time, they are very much alike.
While one still uses analog tape and well-used analog consoles, the other has a completely digital infrastructure and storage system. The Seacrest Studio also has video production capability. But the core function of the two is the same: They produce and deliver quality information and entertainment to their listeners, and the people who built these studios do it with a passion for their work.
When I visited each facility, I was told about how they used to serve their audiences. I was told about the time and effort put into capturing and producing the programming. I was shown what steps are taken to create something of great interest to their respective audiences. And in all this, I was reminded about the effective reach of radio.
These facilities are -- or at least one is and one will be -- important to their listeners. For one group it's the Friday night high school football game. For the other group, it's a discussion of a life-flight helicopter ride (and that it doesn't need to be scary). But both audiences are engaged.
I drove this trip from Kansas City, through Lawrenceville, to Cincinnati and back, and I listened to lots of radio stations along the way. Some were the big stations in St. Louis, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Others were in small towns en route. Regardless of their size and reach, they all reminded me how radio has for decades played an important role in the community. Regardless of the technology in use, radio needs to continue to fulfill that role and reach the audience not just via the technology, but via the programming.