An Angry Phone Call or E-Mail Would Have Sufficed

Brett Moss is gear and technology editor.

Larry Nixon, a contract engineer for Cumulus Media’s WJAD(FM) down in Albany, Ga., received an automated remote control e-mail message on Feb. 7 that the transmitter was running a bit low.

Upon arriving at the rural transmitter hut he fixed the problem but noticed something else: a few pockmarks in the transmitter’s metal box, and four small holes perforating the wall of the building. Bullet holes, that is.

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Perhaps a listener was unhappy with the song rotation? Too many ads? Format change suggestion?

In all seriousness it’s rather surprising that we don’t hear more stories like this. The WJAD transmitter building is in a relatively rural location for the southern Georgia station. Anyone who has travelled on rural roads has probably noted shot-up road signs, mailboxes and “tin” barns. Anything within range can become a target of a (sometimes inebriated) “hunter,” preternaturally angry malcontent or just some kids.

Fortunately, remote transmitter buildings often are unoccupied. Then again, sometimes they’re not. Nixon had just been at the site a few days earlier.

The low-power situation was unrelated to the bullet holes. The shack siding was the main victim; the transmitter received a few dings from the small-caliber bullets, but no serious damage. Not quite a red badge of courage, but maybe something to show the boss the next time the topic of hazard pay comes up.

Local police are looking into it. Cumulus Regional Manager of Engineering/IT Robert Combs said: “Thankfully none of us were working at the site when this happened and everyone is safe. We take safety very seriously at Cumulus Media, but I do not have a budget line for Kevlar.”

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