Radio: The original social medium
Being a source of information for its local listeners is a role that radio has enthusiastically embraced. But in many of America’s smaller communities, radio serves as the only provider of news and entertainment. One of those towns is Newberry, Michigan, a picturesque village of just under 1,500 residents located along the state’s Upper Peninsula, where folks consider radio station WNBY AM to be a vital part of their daily life.
According to a feature in the Detroit Free Press, WNBY has been keeping its listeners apprised of what’s happening locally since the mid-1960s. People still call about lost dogs and found tools, or phone in to request a song.
“I think it’s the focal point, at least of our local community,” said Travis Freeman, who serves as the station’s general manager, its marketing manager and national sales director, while also working a shift each day as an on-air personality. “There’s no daily newspaper and no local TV station here, so we kind of serve as the media.”
Among the most popular features of WNBY is the daily “Trading Post” show, a form of on-air swap meet in which listeners call in to sell or trade something, or just talk about what’s going on around the community. It’s been on the air for 50 years, and is immensely popular. There’s also “Deer Hunters Round-Up,” another 50-year-old station staple in which callers report how hunting is going for them this season. Another WNBY feature is the “Good Buy Shopping Hour,” a radio version of QVC where listeners buy items and come to the station to pick them up.
“I think it’s essential to have a local radio station that serves the community,” Freeman told the Free Press. “It may sound scripted, but it’s true. It’s being able to help people out and connect people. It’s the original social media.”
Radio veteran Casey Cook hosts the “Casey and the Coffee Crew” show in the mornings, with the “crew” consisting of him and various characters he voices. He also does play-by-play for the local high school sports teams and contributes to the “Deer Hunters Round-Up.” Cook described the station’s information-filled programs as the best of small-town life broadcast over the airwaves – just what residents have always wanted from their local radio station.
“They want to know what’s going on in their community,” Cook explained. “They listen to the obituaries and what kind of events are happening in the area -- meals and benefits and things like that. I just think there’s kind of an old school need for that up in this area.”