Local Broadcasters: A Lifeline in Florida

Day in and day out across America local broadcasters are a trusted source of critical news and information.  Never is that role more important than in times of emergency and severe weather when broadcasters become a lifeline to communities in need.

Less than a week after Hurricane Harvey struck the east coast of Texas, Hurricane Irma barreled down on the Caribbean Islands before hitting Florida’s west coast, prompting massive evacuations and leaving more than 6 million people without power.  Florida broadcasters were steadfast in their mission to keep viewers and listeners safe.  News crews hunkered down – battling the elements, tracking the storm, galvanizing communities and providing lifesaving information.

NAB and the Broadcast Education Association storm chasers set out once again to document the indispensable role that local radio and television stations serve as “first informers” during times of emergency.  We are pleased to present the fifth installment in this powerful video series.

 

Interviews with dozens of Florida broadcasters reveal their dedication to journalism and commitment to serving communities:

“In a crisis, it’s time to communicate to your community because you might be the only thing they have.” Jeff Zito, Program Director/Host, Beasley Media Group’s WRXK “96 K-Rock” – Ft. Myers

“As reporters, we were standing at the phonelines, and we were telling people, ‘this is available if you need help and you don’t know what to do.’” Jess Doudrick, Multimedia Journalist, Raycom Media’s WWSB ABC 7 – Sarasota

 “Our program director, Nio Fernandez, stepped up tremendously to help the Hispanic audience (providing in-language programing).” Tee Gentry, Operations Manager, Beasley Media Group – Tampa

“We had more than 20 of our reporters and meteorologists, even sports people, out in the field to give people an idea of where this storm was, how it was going to affect their lives, and when it would arrive.” Steve Jerve, Chief Meteorologist, Nexstar Media Group’s WFLA NBC News 8 – Tampa

“If I can show myself out there (in the storm), there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than covering a hurricane to let our viewers know what’s happening.” Michael Paluska, Reporter, Scripps’ WFTS ABC Action News – Tampa

“In the Keys, radio was king. It was everything.” Julie Guy, Show Host, Entercom’s “Lite FM 101.5” WLYF – Miami

“I think that this storm was proof, to a lot of people in our community that we’re here for them and that we’re trying to give them an accurate portrayal of what is going on.” Whitney Burbank, Reporter, Hearst’s WPBF ABC 25 – West Palm Beach

Many thanks once again to Media Arts Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma and Chandra Clark, professor of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Scott and Chandra, along with their students, compiled extensive footage and conducted dozens of interviews for a video account of broadcasters’ heroic efforts in covering Hurricane Irma.

The 2017 hurricane season caused major devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands, while wildfires and mudslides decimated parts of California. Through it all, broadcasters have been on the front lines. As cell phone service went down and cable was rendered obsolete, broadcasters remained on the air, going above and beyond to keep viewers and listeners safe and informed.