From the Corner Office: November 2012

November 12, 2012

Sandy. The name always made me think of Springsteen’s song, properly titled “4th of July, Asbury Park”. Not anymore. It’s tragically ironic; I still think of the Jersey Shore, but like all of us, the image has profoundly changed. Now I see destruction far beyond any imagined, and I grieve for those lost and displaced from their homes and much-loved beaches and boardwalks.

But the people I see in my mind are not strangers. They are the listeners, advertisers and staff of our Greater Media New Jersey radio stations. I try to imagine what I would say and do if Sandy had tracked differently and brought that type of destruction to my neighborhood in Boston; I simply cannot. The disbelief, dismay and danger cannot be imagined by those of us watching events unfold from a distance.

I salute Dan Finn and his staff at all six of our New Jersey stations for swinging into action to provide information, service and support to their listeners as they needed it. Even now, the radio playbook is out the window and Dan and his lieutenants are calling the shots. Employees set up shop and stayed at the stations for two or three days straight, just to collect and broadcast life-saving information. One of our stations, WRAT, has its studios in Pt. Pleasant/Belmar, NJ, which took a direct hit from Sandy. Only with an effort over and above the call did the station remain on the air throughout the storm and its aftermath. Carl Craft, PD and morning host for The Rat, used his broadcast and Facebook to gather and answer vital concerns from his listeners. When will help arrive? When will the power come back? What roads are closed? Where can I find a meal? Where can I find a gas station open? In Ocean County, Magic 100.1 even made sure that the Jersey Shore Animal Center could get information out to the public.

In the northern part of the state, our WDHA and WMTR in Morristown created and updated online listings of stations with gasoline available as shortages hit the entire greater New York area. Once again, we have a sterling example of radio stepping to the forefront. Not only our stations, but all New York and New Jersey broadcasters proved once again that, when the lights go off and the storms howl, we are there for our communities.

Interviews with officials from mayors to FEMA representatives, information, news updates, advice….vital? Yes. But I want to focus on what I believe to be a far more important service that we provide. I listened extensively to our stations in the storm area, both in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and repeatedly heard “We’ll get through this together”. Connectedness. Empathy. Sympathy. A human connection. These are the intangibles that restore hope, community, pride and determination. And throughout the storm, radio held out that hope. Not something you can get in a text message when 30% of the cellphone towers are destroyed and you’re without power.

And what makes all of this even more remarkable was the fact that our station personnel were themselves living through the very same nightmare. In fact, eleven Greater Media employees from our radio stations and our newspapers lost their homes completely, and others are reeling from damage to theirs. And yet, they found a way to get to the station, found fuel to keep the generators running, pitched in and did whatever they were called on to do, and, by sheer force of will, kept their communities together. It was, is, and will continue to be an extraordinary effort as they now turn to help their advertisers get the word out about their businesses and how they are moving forward after the storm.

To honor and respond to the staff’s courage, we are focusing our “Greater Good” initiative on our New Jersey staff who need help. Throughout the company, we have solicited employees to help out by purchasing items from a customized list on Amazon.com, which will be shipped directly to New Jersey. Items range from MREs (meals ready to eat) to chainsaws, from Lysol to power generators. Necessary stuff to help out during an extraordinary time. I’m reminded of a more recent Springsteen anthem, “We Take Care of Our Own”. At Greater Media, we take this message to heart.

I do not want to minimize the need and the tragedy that has fallen upon other areas like New York’s Staten Island or Atlantic City, but the human face of this tragedy at our stations and in our towns is just too vivid. These are Greater Media’s heroes and they deserve to be recognized and respected for their leadership, and supported in their time of need.

Jersey Strong is no longer just a slogan to me.