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Alexander Broadcasting Honors Selma First Responder

Unusual times call for innovative community service

Paul Alexander is president of Scott Communications and Alexander Broadcasting. Their stations are WALX(FM), WALX(HD2), WALX(HD3), WJAM(FM/AM) and WMRK(FM).

Alexander told Radio World about how local broadcasters stepped up to honor Robert Skelton, a first responder with CARE Ambulance, who died last week at age 47. Due to social distancing requirements, they were unable to host a traditional memorial service for him, however the Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home contacted Alexander’s company to broadcast the service for a drive up funeral. Alexander donated air time from WALX for the service, which featured a eulogy recorded by Kenneth Martin using a voice memo app.

Alexander participated in a Q&A with RW to explain how they pulled it off.

Radio World: Am I correct that the program could be heard both on 101.5 analog, as well as thd HD-2 of 100.9? 

Paul Alexander: Yes, W268BQ is the 101.5 translator for WALX(HD-2). The coverage on HD-2 allowed for a much larger footprint in coverage for anyone wishing to tune in from anywhere in the region with their HD Radio, while the analog translator served the Selma/Dallas County area for listeners without HD Radio. 

Having invested in HD Radio for the communities we serve has offered a true advantage for listeners in the market by allowing us to have additional programming streams on both the supplemental HD audio channels for WALX, as well as the associated FM translators. We have two additional stations that otherwise would not be here without HD Radio.

RW: What was the audio setup to feed the service to the station for airing?

Alexander: In the spirit of keeping station personnel as safe as possible during the pandemic, we elected to try something unconventional that kept our team at the station to do our part. We ended up connecting via FaceTime audio between my iPhone connected to the studio console and the funeral director’s iPhone connected to the podium microphone mix at the funeral. 

At first, I was fairly nervous about not having our Comrex Access at this event, but believe it or not, the audio was better than one might expect… and most importantly, we maintained connectivity the entire 30-minute service.

RW: I see online that the police department was on hand to deal with any traffic issues. How did that go?

Alexander: Many officers from the Selma Police Department and Dallas County Sheriff’s Department were very good friends with Mr. Skelton, so a good many of them were in attendance for the funeral for that reason. The officers actually assigned to the event assisted in making sure that all of the vehicles were parked with at least six feet of distance between them. They also assisted in ensuring that everyone remained inside of their vehicles for the entirety of the service, following Gov. Kay Ivey’s orders, as well as recommendations by state health officials and the CDC. Local law enforcement did a fantastic job in their role.

RW: What kind of reaction from listeners did you get?

Alexander: We received dozens of positive calls, emails, social media messages of gratitude for providing this service. One particular message stands out where a listener said: “It’s so encouraging in these especially difficult times that we can count on our local radio group to pull the community together. Please let your family and all employees of the station know that it is appreciated more than all of you may know.”

We appreciate every “pair of ears” that have tuned in to any of our stations across Alabama and Mississippi, and we also want them to know it’s always about them, and not us. I hope we do a good job expressing that in everything we do.

RW: Did Mr. Skelton die as a result of the coronavirus? 

Alexander: He passed away unexpectedly, but we are told it was not from coronavirus. The cause of death has not been disclosed to us other than it was not due to the virus.

RW: What else should we know?

Alexander: Sue Keenom, with NAB, sent the following message when she received word this had been done for Mr. Skelton and the community: “Thank you so much for sending. What a wonderful way to honor a hero when folks cannot gather for a service. I am in awe of the myriad of ways broadcasters are finding to help during this crisis.

Attendees of the funeral were asked to stay in their vehicles, and tune their radio to 101.5/100.9 HD-2 in order to hear the funeral service message from the minister as well as other notable people delivering a message such as the owner of the Ambulance company Mr. Skelton worked for as well as one of the dispatchers who voiced her last dispatch to him, which said:“Blackhawk down — rest easy, Mr. Robert Skelton, we have got it from here.” 

Coordination of this event was made between the City of Selma, Care Ambulance, The Selma Police Department, Air Evac Life-Team, Scott Communications/KIX 101.5, Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.