Friday, January 27, 2012

Future of Radio-Community and Microjournalism--KHTS

I wrote this for a publication that folded before the series was published. Still think this information is of interest. KHTS is a great station that works hard to serve the Santa Clarita Valley. Enjoy!

Since the invention of radio, many have said it is a dying medium. Depending on what or who you read, radio still is dying, or maybe not- in a current environment where Pandora usage grew and every type of i device helped create a time bend in created content, people are still in their cars and are still listening to radio.

Over the last 30 years, many things in communications have changed. There was deregulation under the Reagan Administration and the Communications Act of 1996 that in many ways meant the death of small, locally owned radio stations. Big corporations came in and gobbled up all they could own in a particular market.

Currently, media looks to be consolidating differently. The internet reshapes and is combines what was traditionally print, radio, and television into one. A person has many ways through internet and traditional media to acquire information that matters to them.

Storytelling remains key and a new concentration in journalism has surged in covering local news. Micro journalism harkens back to the turn of the last century when many neighborhoods had papers often in the language of the neighborhood printed on a daily or weekly basis. Today with blogging, internet, and smart phones the focus is the same, but the delivery method has changed.

Locally owned KHTS is an example media working toward what news and journalism will possibly look like in the future. Carl and Jeri Goldman have owned the station twice- first from 1990-98 and from 2003 to present. Radio is something they both know well, being second generation in the business. This knowledge and experience makes the station something unique, something that industry people from all over the nation are taking notice of and are visiting to try and learn what the answer is in making a local station successful.

“Our vision is that as owners we can do what we want.” says Jeri Goldman. “Coming from a corporate America radio world, everything was live and die by ratings.” Now the duo looks to break the mold and work to find ways to serve the community. Examples of the station’s programming include a Non Profit Spotlight, highlighting local charities (the show has a year out wait list), Families in Action with local teens in studio and giving voice to their stories as well as coverage of sports-locally with high school games and Los Angeles professional teams.

KHTS is aware that they are the only station in town and they see it as a way to serve the community and do what they want in response to feedback from the community. Many people in the Santa Clarita Valley are tuning in because they like the local news, ads, and traffic with the community/hometown feel. The station continues this message and content through text alerts and email updates as well as the station’s website.

KHTS is a place to serve the community in a way that no one can compete against them. The station is aware of its strength to cover local news and when looking at the website, no national news is on it- they know a reader will go elsewhere, but if it’s SCV news, they work to do a better job than anyone else, making it the target and the focus.

In reflecting the community, that is how the station is able to compete with larger Los Angeles stations. “If there is an accident or closure (in the SCV Valley) KNX isn’t going to report it or even if they do a listener would have to sift through traffic from Orange County to Palm Springs.” says Carl Goldman. “So that’s the beauty. We compete against the big boys in that they can’t cover it all. They are more handicapped -they can’t cover it all or it’d be all traffic.”

This is a strength in an emergency situation too. The Goldmans and KHTS were there for the 94 Earthquake, the Tunnel Disaster, three floods and six fires. When fires happen, the bigger stations don’t know the streets and have reported roads open when they weren’t. Being local also means relationships. KHTS has the trust of the sheriffs and a back and forth communication that a larger LA station doesn’t have in a time of reporting a local emergency.

KHTS also faces different challenges in serving the community versus a public radio stations in that it can’t always live stream content due to licensing. When asked what’s a concern for radio what to look for in legislation, Carl Goldman first shared his experience with the Fairness Doctrine in that his first full time job in radio was 95 percent Fairness Doctrine in preparing documentation to send to the channels that be and he was not the only one on staff with that duty. He argues that currently there are so many avenues to express different points of view and that most broadcasters look to both sides because the bottom line is it is a bad business decision to not voice both sides. By not bringing in an opposing view it wouldn’t serve the station or the community. It is a free market, not a monopoly on getting those opinions out and if not on the airwaves, the opposing view has many other ways to be heard-so it makes sense and good radio to have it happen.

The Goldmans and KHTS recognize that it is challenging times for small business in the community. The station is projecting by quarter versus a year out due to these economic challenges. They boast that through it all, they have been able to keep everyone on staff. In these times they are motivated by the John F Kennedy quote, “When written in Chinese, the word ’crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity. It looks as if KHTS is looking forward to the future and are poised to take off, focusing on serving the community with local content on many different media platforms. _______________________ _________________________________

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