WAMD – Where all Mpls Dances

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We started our day at a broadcasting company. It was originally a 500 watt station in 1923, founded by Stanley E Hubbard. It was the world’s first advertiser supported radio station. In the 1920s, WAMD morphed into KSTP – AM. Eventually it has turned into KSTP – TV and a multitude of other broadcasting businesses, all under Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. We were given a brochure with all of the milestones in the Hubbard history. There are lots of firsts. It’s kind of cool to learn that it’s home to the first live coverage of a US Open golf tournament, form a national radio news service, they purchased the first TV camera, introduced thousands of people to television, first color program in the Midwest, first full color TV station in the world, etc. The list continues with various developments in the satellite technology transmitting world, developing satellite TV, new networks, and most recently, acquiring 17 radio stations. Hubbard is one of the few privately held media companies. It’s impressive to learn about everything that they have done. But as impressive as it all is, why don’t I watch that station?

I think that they realize that their viewership isn’t as high as a few other stations in town. It was interesting to hear their pitch. This station has more news programming than I realized. Their news is an hour instead of 30 minutes. So if you’re a news junkie, it might be worth trying them out. The programming director told us that they changed direction about five years ago. When covering stories, they ask themselves how they can get someone in a far off suburb to care about what’s happening to a person in the inner city? They need to figure out an angle to make it so many people are interested in the story. The sports guy was good at narrowing down the job. What gets a non-fan to watch? It’s all about the story and finding the angle.

So why don’t I watch this station? My impression prior to the day was that they are more sensationalist than the others. We heard various accounts of them trying to get away from the “ambulance chaser” mode and focus on the news and weather. Hey, this is MN – weather is a big deal here and we take it seriously. Tonight when I got home, I did turn them on. I think I’ll try to vary my newscasts and try to form an opinion taking into account what I learned today. I like the personalities on the other stations and as it turns out, that is a big deal in this market. Who you have anchoring your news means a lot in this community.

The other factor to keep in mind when thinking about media is how much the way people consume media has changed recently. Television, radio and print media have all had to adapt to the age where people don’t get their news from a 6pm newscast or a daily newspaper. The timeline for delivering their stories has been ramped up to be that much faster. Students going into the industry will need to have a firm grasp of various technological advances and all that is to come. And on top of that, they’ll need to have the skills to tell a good story, curiosity, writing skills and a good work ethic.

At the end of our time we went on a tour of the station. It was very interesting to see the newsroom and how much of a delay occurred during their midday news broadcast. Also, the amount of commercials is amazing. The next time you’re watching the news, notice how many car commercials you see. Apparently 33% of the ads are from the auto industry. And after the market crash of 2008 and the auto industry was in the toilet, the advertising revenue of stations like these plummeted. While we listened to the speakers we were on the set of Twin Cities Live – a news magazine that they show in the afternoons.

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