UTICA-ROME — One week ago: six people shot, four fatally, at two locations in Herkimer in Mohawk. For several hours, the suspect remains at large. Utica newsrooms scramble to cover the unfolding situation. Even news crews from Albany, Syracuse and Rochester hightailed it to Thruway Exit 30. A week later, one newsroom is getting some national press for its coverage of the standoff, which ultimately wound up running overnight and into the next morning.
The efforts of Townsquare Media news/talker WIBX 950 are the focus of an article which appeared today on the website of Radio Ink, a national radio trade magazine.
The article is headlined, “Is Your Team Ready When Tragedy Strikes?” Radio Ink Editor-in-Chief Ed Ryan writes, “WIBX 950-AM was ready, providing the community with the type of compelling coverage only local radio can produce. The station, lead by General Manager Karen Carey, had a plan in place for a situation just like this.”
The article goes on to recount how WIBX morning host Bill Keeler got right onto the scene was able to quickly begin feeding information back to the station. Although WIBX stayed with regularly-scheduled syndicated talk host Rush Limbaugh for the noon hour, the station was well aware of what was happening. Crews were gearing up for wall-to-wall coverage that would take over at 1:00pm and continue through most of the afternoon. With Jeff Monaski, Jim Rondenelli and Kristine Bellino taking turns anchoring in the studio, Keeler used his cell phone to provide a play-by-play of the events as he witnessed them.
At points, Keeler compared downtown Herkimer to a war zone, as specially-equipped police officers found their way into strategic locations, hoping to surround the suspect. Keeler described snipers appearing on rooftops and even an armored tank patrolling the streets. He watched as police officers escorted people out of buildings — apparently evacuating residents who might otherwise have wound up in harm’s way. On more than one occasion, gunfire could be heard, live on the air, through Keeler’s cell phone.
During the coverage, Keeler was asked more than once to move to a safer location. At one point, a police officer could be heard in the background, telling Keeler he was “in the line of fire,” as officers attempted to zero in on suspected gunman Kurt Meyers. Keeler’s live eyewitness reporting was so specific, he said police officers had also asked him to be mindful of the fact that the suspect might have access to Keeler’s broadcast, and could have been using the information to evade police. Keeler was more selective of his exact wording after that point, sometimes holding word of certain observations for a few minutes before reporting them on-air.
In the Radio Ink article, Ryan reports that WIBX’s website had more than 18,500 page views from 12,000 unique visitors, and more than 13,000 people listened to WIBX’s live stream during the 48 hours surrounding the standoff. The incident came to a close last Thursday, when officers and an FBI dog stormed the abandoned building where Meyers was hiding. When Meyers shot and killed the dog, officers returned fire, killing the suspect. During and following the coverage, WIBX posted plenty of audio and video clips on a special page of its website.
In addition to the article, Ryan posted a lengthy audio interview with Keeler and Carey. There are also clips from Keeler’s broadcasts on Wednesday afternoon, and a Thursday morning report from longtime WIBX veteran Jim Rondenelli, upon learning the suspect had been taken out by police.
What did you think of WIBX’s coverage, compared to other media outlets in town? Post your comments below using Facebook, or your CNYRadio.com login.
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