A tree takes out WJMW(FM). Photo courtesy of Tom Lawler.
Twitter is increasingly recognized as an effective medium for gauging public reaction to events and trending topics.
Judging by Twitter alone, it was apparent that radio was very much a part of the Hurricane Sandy experience. For many in the northeast, the medium provided contact with the outside world and a source of up-to-the-minute news. For some, it was a fun part of the blackout. Other tweets were from broadcast professionals doing their best to serve their community.
According to Tweetreach.com, 50 different tweets used the combined hashtags “Sandy” and “radio,” reaching 47,799 different accounts.
Communications experts Holland Cooke (@HollandCooke) and Geri Jarvis (@GeriJarvis) both tweeted about the best ways for radio stations to cover natural disasters and their aftermath. West Coast-based Warner Bros. (@WarnerBrosPromo) also tweeted “A BIG shout out to our friends in #radio on the east coast keeping people informed and entertained. #Sandy #staysafe.”
Boston on-air personality @dougmeehan tweeted “Getting ready for #sandy coverage on the #dougmeehanshow #wtkk #radio http://instagr.am/p/RXm4twpbKa/ ,” including an Instagram photo of his studio setup.
WOBM (FM/AM)’s Shawn Michaels (@ShawnieMikes) proved that he would be at the station for the duration of the storm when he tweeted a picture of his sleeping bag with the caption “Hotel.”
Some stations and listeners used Twitter to communicate the status” of stations in the areas affected by the storm. @WilsonShow tweeted “News Director of NYC’s @WCBS880 is explaining why they may go off-air & why 102.7FM is now simulcasting their audio #radio #Sandy.”
User @CoitoErgo tweeted “WCBS AM 880 kHz signal becoming uneven as dawn approaches. [Less than 10 min. to sunrise in NYC.] #radio #Sandy #NYC #dawn #sunrise #WCBS” and later, “Following the #NYC situation live, over-the-air on radio via WCBS AM. 880 kHz. Much of the city still shut down. Eerie. #Sandy #WCBS #radio.”
Suzanne du Charme (@SuzanneDuCharme) tweeted “1010AM, brdcstng on 101.1 FM just knocked off air in mid sentence. @CBSTVStudios #radio #sandy #nyc #news.”
New Jersey on-air personality @bigtomonair tweeted “WJMW FM is off the air #radio #sandy http://instagr.am/p/RaXDXTGaxX/ ” including an Instagram picture of the storm damage responsible for the dead air (see picture).
Ham radio was also mentioned by users concerned about what would happen when cellphones and laptops failed. Megan Fenton (@meganrfenton) tweeted “Kind of wishing I acquired a #HAM #radio (and the license) in preparation for #Sandy. Any HAMs at #ASIST2012 ?????”
Many listeners shared that their plans for riding out the storm included listening to the radio, (often accompanied by candlelight or wine). Some also tweeted pictures of their radios, which ranged from old-fashioned hand-cranks to one battery-powered radio embedded in a stuffed rabbit.