The shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has become a statewide, nationwide and even worldwide story over the course of the past eleven days. The shooting sparked protests and a massive police response, along with riots, looting and violence. Protesters and journalists have been arrested, and while local, state and national leaders appeal for calm, many are demanding answers as the investigation into what happened continues.
Journalists have scrambled to cover the story from many different angles, with most directing their coverage to the statewide or national audiences they serve. But for a pair of St. Louis radio stations, responding to the crisis is all about serving their local listeners and giving them a voice.
WFUN and WHHL serve urban African-American audiences, usually with R&B and Hip Hop music formats and celebrity pop culture news. But after the shooting as protests began to emerge, the stations decided to set aside the music and open the phone lines to their listeners, giving them a chance to talk about the shooting, the protests and what was happening around them. The result has been appreciation for giving people a platform during a difficult situation. The stations have also brought in celebrities with ties to the St. Louis area, like rapper Nelly, to give their perspective and talk to neighborhood residents.
We spoke with Operations Manager Jowcol "Boogie D" Dolby about how his stations responded as word spread about the shooting. Click here for the interview. Dolby says the radio has become a place to call for calm, a platform for community leaders to give their perspective, and to allow people to get things off their chest. He said while other media are not always able to allow people to speak their minds at length, the stations have a unique role as an outlet in the community. He added that he anticipates things will calm down in Ferguson when more key questions have been answered, such as whether the officer believed to have shot Brown will be arrested or face charges. Until then, he said, people will remain uneasy and protests will likely continue.