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Radio Stations Act Quickly to Cover the COVID-19 Pandemic

Radio Stations Act Quickly to Cover the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, radio stations across the country moved quickly to focus their programming on news, emergency information and resources related to the crisis. We spoke to Renee Nash, director of News and Public Affairs at WHUR-FM Washington, D.C., about how daily life at a local radio station has changed in the wake of the coronavirus.


When you realized the novel coronavirus was spreading to the U.S., what actions did you take to pivot your news coverage?

We began putting together a list of newsmakers we knew who could help us shape the conversation nightly for our talk show at 7 p.m. We also reached out to the top local elected officials across D.C, Maryland and Virginia to ascertain their respective plan of action. We made sure that we had direct contacts to reach them even in off hours. Our entire radio station, with the leadership of our general manager, then went into planning mode to ensure the safety of the staff. We equipped each news team member with the materials and resources to be able to work remotely and developed a plan to ramp up news coverage. We increased our allotted newscasts time in AM Drive that occurs each hour from 6 - 9 a.m. We added four additional newscasts hourly from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. We also joined forces with our news partner, WTOP, to share stories and information.

How has day-to-day work changed for you and your staff since stay at home orders were put in place?

We have daily Zoom/conference call meetings and the workflow has increased nearly three-fold. Since we are focused on the DMV and national news, we cover the daily press briefings for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Additionally, we cover the White House coronavirus press briefings. Two of our key localities are also Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, and since those areas have been dramatically impacted, we have zeroed in on those jurisdictions to also speak directly to their respective county executives. We develop daily plans to provide a differently angle nightly to talk about the pandemic from varying perspectives.

As the host of several shows on WHUR, how have your interactions with callers changed?

We open our phone lines throughout the day to allow our listeners to share their thoughts and experiences in the midst of the pandemic. We have also increased our digital platforms hosting Instagram Live interviews four nights per week with celebrities, entertainers and newsmakers.

How do you think local radio stations can best support their communities during this crisis?

Radio stations remain a powerful and direct medium for listeners with the ability to be hyper local. Radio is still very much relevant and connected to its audience and can provide news, information and engagement 24/7 from trusted professionals rooted in the communities they serve.

For more than 100 years, local radio stations have delivered the news and information communities need to keep safe and informed during times of crisis. Responding quickly to emergency situations, stations like WHUR-FM ensure they provide a vital connection to their communities.






November 2, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast. To celebrate this special anniversary, we’re shining a spotlight on 100 key moments in radio's history.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating your favorite radio memories throughout 2020. Use the hashtag #Radio100 across social media to share these moments with the world. Here’s to 100 wonderful years of radio, and to at least 100 more!


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