2019 American Music Awards

Boston Radio Again Transforms From Playing Music To Covering Tragic News

As on Monday, when bomb explosions killed three and injured more than 180, further violence spurs more continuous news coverage today.

For the second time this week, tragically, Boston's FM radio dial has transformed essentially from an outlet for upbeat music into a hub of continuous hard news coverage.
Late last night, the two suspects in Monday's (April 15) Boston Marathon bombings killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, identified as Sean Collier. An overnight car chase and gun battle with police left suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev dead and his brother Dzhokhar at large. A manhunt for the surviving suspect has put the Greater Boston area in a state of partial lockdown, with public train transportation stopped and the bulk of the city's universities closed.
The pair is suspected of being behind the bombings that on Monday killed three and wounded more than 180 during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.
As on Monday, several Boston FM stations are again in all-news mode today, while others are surely offering an escape via regular programming.

As of this posting, CBS Radio-owned mainstream top 40 WODS (103.3 Amp Radio), adult top 40 WBMX (Mix 104.1), classic rock WZLX (100.7) and sports WBZ-FM (98.5 the Sports Hub) are simulcasting sister news/talk WBZ-AM (1030). (One report from Boston on WBZ-AM just after 2 p.m. today included the station's Joe Mathieu being stopped by a police officer live on-air and asked to show ID. The officer could then be heard searching the station's vehicle.) Greater Media's country WKLB (Country 102.5) is airing audio from WCVB-TV, while adult contemporary AC WMJX (Magic 106.7) is playing music among news updates. Clear Channel Media and Entertainment-owned mainstream top 40 WXKS (Kiss 108) and rhythmic WJMN (Jam'n 94.5) have mixed music with audio of local TV news coverage, while Entercom's sports WEEI (93.7) and active rock WAAF (97.7/107.3) personalities are interacting with listeners, with the latter also adhering to its standard format.
As reported on Tuesday, music stations in Boston and surrounding suburbs are offering their listeners the most pertinent content at a time when concerns for public safety have made music programming secondary.
A Suburban Perspective
While Monday's bombings took place in Boston and last night's shooting occurred in nearby Watertown, many New Englanders commute daily into and out of the city causing this week's developments to resonate on a more widespread and tangible level.
"In a way, it's an advantage for us to be located on the edge of the action," says Ed Perry, owner of independently-owned AC WATD (95.9) Marshfield, which largely targets listeners in suburbs south of Boston. "When the bombs exploded on Monday, local TV trucks were already in place and reporters on the street were holding microphones, as they were covering the Marathon.
"We were able to put our news people to work contacting our sources and, of course, monitoring the Boston media," Perry says. "We talked live on-air with nearly a dozen people at or near the scene, including several people who actually ran the race. We found a man who once handled security for the Marathon who told us about metal fragments, apparently part of the bombs and designed to increase injuries."
Perry says that on Monday, WATD recognized its responsibility to inform listeners, several of whom cheered on runners or ran the Marathon themselves. "Fortunately, we had a number of contacts up in Boston to call for information via telephone land lines, such as people who work in nearby offices or who had left the area after the explosions. This was important because immediately after the two blasts, authorities shut down cellphone service within downtown Boston to prevent using a cell phone to set off additional bombs.”
"Without cellphone service, no one from further away could contact people near the finish line to see if they had been hurt," Perry says. "This meant broadcast media became an even more important source of information."
Again today, sadly, WATD has "become a megaphone for local voices reacting to the disaster in Boston," Perry says. "We've opened our phones to local elected officials, a number of U.S. Senate candidates, emergency management people and, probably most importantly, our listeners."
Programming To Families
WMJX assistant program director Morgan Prue is at work today, despite the city's transportation restrictions. As the day bookends a week of violence and sorrow, the station is again serving its audience with a combination of news and music.
"We're a family-friendly station and on Monday we thought that many people would've turned to TV for news. We kept a more mellow tone on the air so if parents were driving around with their children, they'd know something had happened but their kids wouldn’t be too scared," she says.
Prue notes that the station has removed such titles as Katy Perry's "Firework" and Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" from its playlist, as "we felt they obviously aren't appropriate now.
"This week is a terrible reminder that you should appreciate every single day."
'Young Boston' Relies On Radio
"Everyone is safe and sound here in our cluster," echoes Dylan Sprague, PD of WXKS and WJMN. "We had some staffers very close to the finish line Monday, but everyone is okay."
The stations "jumped into information mode as soon as we heard the breaking news on Monday," Sprague says. "[Afternoon talent] Romeo was fantastic leading the coverage with a mix of news, press conferences, actualities, listener eyewitness and phoners, along with news director Billy Costa checking in all afternoon.
Sprague says that social media has also been essential in keeping its audience up-to-date since Monday. "Our social team has been on top of everything, with our on-air and digital sides really working in concert this week."
Notable about WXKS is that morning talent Matt Siegel is practically synonymous with Boston, having been waking up the city on the station since 1981. "Matty, of course, dedicated his whole show Tuesday to the events of Monday," Sprague says. "It was tough to get a cell signal in most of Boston until later in the evening Monday, so Tuesday's show ended up being a place where Boston could talk about what happened with one another.
On WJMN, the staff has similarly reflected the mindset of its listeners. "[Morning host] Ramiro, [middayer] DJ Pup Dawg and [afternoon drive talent] Bobby Blaze, as well as [part-timer] Maverik, sprang into action Monday and Tuesday and were able to keep the audience abreast of news updates in between the music," Sprague says. "Much like Matty, young Boston relies on [the team of] Ramiro, Ashlee and Santi every morning and they came together Tuesday to share experiences and information.
Sprague adds that DJ Pup Dawg dedicated Tuesday's 'Back in the Day Buffet' mix show to the tragedy, remixing clips of President Barack Obama (who visited Boston yesterday), and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  "Listeners are continuing to request those inspirational clips.
"It really seems to have made an impact."


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