Big Radio killed the radio star

2X2L calling CQDriving to work this morning, I noticed that telltale green haze of spring along the side of the highway. Millions of tiny little buds will unfold into flowers and leaves in a few short weeks, which means that it’s finally going to be warm enough to get back out to the garage and build some monsters.

A significant part of the enjoyment I get from gluing my fingers together and pouring plaster into my shoes is the background noise generated by my old radio and police scanner. I’ve always been an AM radio fan, and I would probably listen to my HAM receiver more if I spoke Russian. (There’s some kind of spacial vortex surrounding Snug Harbor that acts as a band-pass filter allowing only broadcasts originating from Kamtchatka for some reason.)

The point is that I like hearing about what’s going on around town. I feel more plugged in listening to my local station, and that’s a valuable service to the community, don’t you think?

There was a time when my shop radio was always tuned to AM 840 WHAS, the 50,000 watt blowtorch in Louisville, Kentucky. Whether the discussion was about the size of the herd this deer season or the state of relations between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, it was always seasoned with a familiar local flavor that made whatever was going on feel more personal, meaningful, family.

Sadly, the high corporate mucky-mucks have taken the soul out of my old radio and replaced it with automated network programming. Nighttime talk about the latest metro council gaffe or ballot initiative is gone. The ongoing argument over how to pay for the Ohio River bridges project isn’t ongoing anymore in my garage.

I am a capitalist at heart and I understand the economic realities of broadcast radio. It’s cutthroat, and if your ads don’t sell you don’t make payroll. However, I also understand that you have to have listeners. What set WHAS apart and locked my dial was its professional on-air talent, but now it’s just another repeater for some catalog program out of New York or Florida or Los Angeles.

That local quality, the essence of why I loved listening to WHAS in the evenings, is simply gone and I can’t express just how sad I am about it. So much of the “local” in local radio has been sacrificed at the altar of the almighty dollar just as certainly as a peep in a microwave. It’s all a formula now, reduced to two minutes at the top of the hour and surrounded by the monotonous droning that the latest media metrics charts show we mindless sheep will tolerate for 7 minute segments between commercial breaks.

Jim Strader, a perennial WHAS favorite, still manages to hold onto an hour on Sunday evenings to talk fishing and conservation. Time enough to forget about elections, and terrorists, and left-wing wackos, and right-wing conspiracies. A refreshing breath of what’s going on a mile away instead of across the country.

So I sadly turn away from an old friend and string a new long-wire antenna across the garage to see if anyone else is left out there. Cincinnati? Indianapolis? St. Louis? ” 2X2L calling CQ… 2X2L calling CQ… Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t .. there .. anyone… 2X2L… “

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