In times of crisis, we are reminded of the importance of radio. When all else fails, radio is the medium to which people turn first for reliable and accurate information. Radio has the ability to transition from an entertainment medium to one that provides listeners with a lifeline of news and information.
In Ukraine, some stations have switched from regular programming to round-the-clock news and information services. Stations incapable of addressing this need have simply gone dark. In the face of incredible odds, Ukrainian journalists are risking their lives to provide listeners with critically important information.
Crises come in all forms – tsunamis, earthquakes, pandemics, floods, civil unrest, tornadoes and wars. If the Internet goes down, broadcast radio remains on the air. If electrical power is cut, radio can still be accessed on battery-powered devices including smart phones. People who may not necessarily listen to radio on regular basis often turn to a local station when things turn bad.
In an era when local radio news departments are being decimated by cost-cutting, we are reminded that information has always been one of the pillars of radio’s identity. Of course, radio has a multitude of audio competitors. However, when a crisis occurs, many of radio’s competitors fall short of providing people with the critical information that they need.
Podcasts and music streams have their place but when it comes to delivering immediate news and information, nothing beats radio. Social media may pretend to provide its audience with information but is it reliable and accurate? Hardly. As we know, fact and rumour exist side by side on social media platforms.
Information is at the very heart of what we do. It is time that we give our news presenters, editors, street reporters and interviewers the credit that they so richly deserve. Stations large and small need to take the necessary steps to ensure that their news and information capabilities are ready to meet the challenge when the next crisis occurs.