Recently, a Ross On Radio column remarked on the Australian visitor who was looking for station tours on a U.S. visit, and the major-market PDs who had seemed surprisingly receptive. I speculated that was because so many radio people recalled their early station tours, as did I. The column asked whether there was still any demand for station tours, or anything to see. Here are some of your stories.
Robert Cohen, Washington D.C.: "I was in Buffalo, N.Y., with my mom who was visiting her older sister, who was seriously ill. The hospital was not far from WKBW and I decided to see if I could get a tour of the station I had listened to every night growing up in Southeastern New Hampshire. The receptionist told me to wait while she buzzed the PD. Just then, [legendary personality] Joey Reynolds walked through the door, and, hearing me ask about a tour, said, 'I'll show him through. C'mon kid!" It was not the palace I had expected, but at the end of the tour, Joey said, 'If you want to sit in with me tonight, come back at 7 o'clock,' which of course I did. I don't imagine many kids today get that opportunity."
Brent James, MD, 4KQ Brisbane, Australia: "In my first life here, 1988-98, we still had a very big physical music library. This always seemed a highlight of the tours back then. In a CD world, they always seemed blown out by albums-upon-albums and countless rows of singles dating back to the mid-'50s. It's not quite as romantic showing today's visitors a smaller wall of CDs--sadly, we even get a few wows at those in the digital age--and a database of files, no matter how many titles are in it for various formats."
Paul Wilson, CBC Hamilton, Ontario: "I enjoyed your piece Monday on station tours. I ended up on the print side of the business, but actually did take a memorable tour of CJAD Montreal in the early '70s when I was trying to figure out what to do. In the decade before that, living in Sarnia, Ontario, I was a devoted listener to the Big 8, CKLW. Seems to me I heard that back then it had more listeners than any other station in Canada – except most of them lived in Detroit. Love that Motown."
Chad Saunders, National Music Center, Calgary: "I got hooked into radio when my Cub Scout troop went to [legendary top 40] CFCN for a tour. Community station CJSW takes at least two or three tours through each month. Last week, my three year old son and his pre-school class rolled through. CJSW is equipped with three production studios, where over 100 bands and musicians perform live on air. CJSW actively wants people to come see the studios and either volunteer or see what the community has helped build . . . CJSW has about six dedicated high-school-aged volunteers and a couple of them have shows on-air. They love the ability to share their music with friends and the listening audience. The live part is key. It taps into what a DJ feels that day, what the weather is like, what the news is, and allows the programmer to create a soundtrack for that moment. You can't do that with a podcast."
Dan O'Neil, WNAV Annapolis, Md.: "We still do tours for the Cub Scouts. They get points toward a communications merit badge. And here's what they get when they tour:
• A stop in the control room, for a live "shout-out" with Terry Alley, our afternoon jock;
• A few moments in the newsroom, where we show them how Annapolis's only local radio news department gathers information they're interested in, like school closings;
• A visit to the production room, where we show them how a commercial gets put together;
• A few seconds in the streaming audio studio, where we give them a glimpse into the world of audio streaming and internet phone apps;
• A look at the back rooms of the building, including a 50's-era bomb shelter containing emergency communications equipment and the former WHFS studio (we store a ton of stuff back there, including a life-size Elvis cutout);
• A trek into the transmitter room, which contains lots of glowing tubes and flashing lights, including satellite hookups for the 5 different networks we receive (Orioles, Navy, Ravens, In The Garden, and CBS);
• And if they're really interested, a peek out behind the building at the monster generator that keeps us on the air during those 4- and 5- day power blackouts.
So, yeah, there's still stuff to see during a station tour. But then again, we're one of those "small market" stations.