Saturday, October 11, 2014

On the Beach...On the Prowl

A roomful of promise: The News92FM Newsroom near completion, July 2012

Wednesday, October 8, 2014.
They'd called a staff meeting for 9 o'clock.
I had a phone interview scheduled for 9:30a.
How long would this take, I asked my boss.
Not long, he assured me.
Some Corporate VP's boss was coming in for a rah-rah session for all the stations, I was told.
If I needed to duck out, it would be okay.
None of us were prepared for what followed.

Our Assignments Editor was barking out stories to editors and anchors as our General Manager, the VP of Programming, and The Big VP of Radio walked into the newsroom. One of them said, "Let's cut this short--we have something to tell you." The usual buzz of the Newsroom fell silent. Our GM spoke next.
"I was going to read you something I'd prepared," he started off. Uh-oh, here it comes, I thought. "...but I'm just going to speak from the heart," he said. And he did.

With tears in his eyes he told the assembled staff that our time had run out, the ratings weren't where they needed to be to generate sufficient cash flow, and the company was pulling the plug. After 35-months, News92FM was destined for the dustbin of Houston Radio history.

Initial reactions varied from instant tears to abject shock.
For me, the numbness still hasn't worn off.
This was our baby.

News92FM Anchor Patrick Osborn
was the original morning block technical
47 broadcast journalists, producers, engineers and reporters had been assembled under the dark of night to launch Houston's first, real all-news operation in decades. The last hold-out station calling itself "news" had abdicated the throne years ago, adding political talk shows between drive time news blocks, and then eventually abandoning any pretense of providing genuine news, traffic and weather for a hungry metropolis.

We were the best and brightest in the business, and in some cases, the oldest. It didn't matter--we had a Purpose, once again; we were all 20-somethings anew, chomping at the bit to tell the stories of "the day-to-day adventures of the Human Race," as one news consultant was quoted.

(I have stolen that phrase, fair and square, as I re-market myself for a new position.)

There are lots of reasons News92FM could not continue.
There are many more for why it should have--but they're all moot now. The brilliant marketing, the amazing zeal of the staff, and the very real, daily production of quality news  (other news outlets were beginning to take our lead on stories) could not overcome the physics of a less-than optimal signal, or the economics of marketing a very expensive operation to a still skeptical advertising base.

I am deeply saddened we're no longer on the air, but I'm not overwhelmed with grief. Honestly, it's kind of nice not to have to get up at 2am everyday. But I am immensely proud of what we were able to accomplish in a very short time.
No other staff of broadcast professionals could have pulled off some of the minor miracles we did--we literally pooled our experiences to make this station great. It was a once-in-a-lifetime blend of the best of what we were...and are.

So to all of my colleagues at News92FM, I salute you.
It was the best of times...
Closing day for News92 FM: October 8, 2014


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Brent. Those of us on this side of the radio could only imagine what this has been like for you and the talented team you worked with. Thank you - all of you - for your service. You *were* the best and brightest on Houston's airwaves and you will be missed. Praying for blessings, provision and bright futures for all of you.
~Shirley P

LoMo said...

Wonderful post & prose.

Anonymous said...

Corporate powers do not want real news. Now it is back to Snooze for all of us hungry for the truth.