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My week with Nielsen Radio

Despite my years as a broadcast journalist and journalism professor, I listen to very little radio these days.

But when I received a letter from A.C. Nielsen last week, with a one-dollar bill to encourage me to keep a radio diary, I said, “What the heck. I’ve got time.”

The promise of an additional five dollars once I returned the diary clinched the deal. The solicitation claimed that the results of my week-long attention to radio was important to the radio stations.  I don’t buy that, but I decided to hear what I’ve been missing.

Not much it seems.

I turned the radio dial (on my laptop actually) from National Public Radio (NPR) to local Ames stations KASI and KHOI to WHO in Des Moines.  I also listened to the Voice of America (VOA) and Central Brasileira de Noticias (CBN).

These last two won’t help the Neilsen tabulators but I listened nevertheless for international news.

My experience was disappointing, and it confirmed why I no longer listen to American radio stations. 

The topics that WOI—the NPR affiliate in Central Iowa—covered were not interesting.  With the exception of an informative piece on reforming the U.S. postal Service, there were too many stories about Ukraine.   The war there is important but I’ve read and seen too many reports already.  Another NPR story about rituals had potential, but was both confusing and insignificant.

KHOI is a community radio station.  There are scores of community stations around the country supported by donations from loyal listeners..  Many—as with KHOI—are staffed by volunteers who have very little broadcast experience.  And you can tell.  The stories are too often poorly produced and the announcers are frequently inarticulate.  But in defense of KHOI and other community radio stations, they provide their listeners with eclectic programming you won’t find elsewhere.

KASI and WHO are two of the ubiquitous conservative radio stations.  If you are interested in right-wing talk shows hosted by announcers whose enunciation is annoying and who have done no homework before going on the air, you’ve got a home here.

I will listen to more stations again tomorrow—the last day of the required Nielsen radio diary period—because I can use the five dollars I’ll receive for returning the diary on Thursday.

But this week reinforced my perspective that I am missing very little by no longer listening to radio.  It’s disappointing since I spent so many years of my professional life in this profession.  However, the industry has devolved and I don’t miss it.


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