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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

The Importance of Responding to your Listeners

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

My first day in radio was a Sunday morning in a 50,000 person market. I was nervous but excited to get on the air and crank out those Sunday morning non-hits on FM radio. (You need to live in Ottawa or Quebec or be over 45 to know what "non-hits" are. Seriously, that's a blog for another time) On weekends, and after hours, it was our job to answer the station's main switchboard, along with two contest lines we carried. By 9:00am, the station had shifted into Foreground programming and I went next door to the AM country station and asked, "Is it like this every Sunday?" (See, I did it again with Foreground programming)

Every third call was to ask what the 6/49 numbers were, if Bingo was still on, or to vent about the afternoon announcer. I had a lot of fun on my first shift, but the phone left me a little exhausted. I mean, if you wanted the 6/49 numbers it's in the newscasts which run at the top and bottom of the hour, and in your paper which has arrived or will arrive.

Over the years, I grew to know, love and understand that people had this immense connection with the station because it's alive. I met everyone and listened to people tell stories about themselves. I have made at least 5 valuable friendships through the radio station phone that continue today. You can read my favourite one here about my friend Chris who is really going through a hard time right now.

With the devasting news of Gord Downie's diagnosis, people are sharing their Tragically Hip stories. Today, I was tagged in a post on Instagram: It recounts that other age old struggle of lining up to buy concert ticket. It appeared as follows:

This marks the only time I have been called a legend outside of the program director who said I was, "a legend your own spare time."

I remember that it defied convention that someone could be first in line at a local mall and wind up in the second tier. If only we could fast forward two decades and see how much better it is now. (Yes that was sarcasm) It turns out that this was the future.

Today, it's a more (emotionally) disconnected world. People e-mail more, phone less and get their bitching done in 140 characters or less. They also put up with way more bullshit than 20 years ago. Imagine if it were 1995 and your land line "lost connectivity" as much as your cell phone does today. You would be hitting "0" and telling the operator to get it together.

Calling people out of the blue basically freaks people out now. When I read about someone's plight on Facebook and called to ask them how I could help, they asked me two questions: "How did you get this number?" and "How did you hear the story?" The answers were, "the phonebook" and "you posted it on Facebook". And yes, to my surprise, yesterday an actual phonebook arrived at my door. Sadly, I didn't make the cut and am not listed.

Go ahead.

Freak people out.

Call them.

Put them on the air.

Get them to tell their story.

And if you really want to know what foreground programming is and what non-hits are all about just call me at 204-414-5541. And yes - I'll call you back.


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