As noted earlier, I was impressed with Houston’s KTRH, which did what good radio should do in times of crisis – go extremely two-way, passing on news and information while hearing from listeners live, on the air.
KTRH had hosts who did just that from the git go; I listened on and off for three or four days and got a perspective on the flooding I didn’t get watching the national news. It was good, though I kept wondering – where are the station’s reporters? After all, KTRH calls itself “Houston’s news, weather and traffic station.”
As it turns out, KTRH isn’t – as I assumed – an all or mostly news operation. It’s really a talk station, with Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin chewing up big parts of the broadcast day. As Tom Taylor’s radio newsletter put it, “Houston’s a market with no all-news station and just one big talker, iHeart’s KTRH/740.”
So two things: I’m even more impressed by KTRH doing what it did – going and staying live for an extended period of time – without the backing of a large newsroom. The station did hook up with one of the local TV stations, which helped with things like live press conferences.
The other thing is: how is it that the fourth largest metro area in the U.S. doesn’t have a full time radio news operation? One was tried in Houston a few years back, but it was abandoned three years ago in favor of, if I recall correctly, classic rap. All-news cost too much, the owners said at the time.
Yes, news is expensive, but it can also bring big rewards. Witness WTOP in Washington, DC, a commercial (as opposed to public) all-newser that’s consistently number 1 in the market. And I believe it makes Hubbard Broadcasting a great deal of money.
So what’s changed in the world when a market with millions of people can’t support a robust news station? I remember 25 years ago in Syracuse NY, a much, much, much smaller town, when there was not one but two radio stations with news staffs of nine or 10 people. Seems to me Houston should have one with at least that many, because it’s not getting any quieter out there.