By Emily J. Weitz
In the summer months, it’s easy to see who your neighbors are. The person lounging next to you on the beach or the kid riding his bike down the block comprise your community. But as the thermometer drops, half the population flees and the rest of us take refuge in our respective homes. It’s now that community becomes a more vague concept.
Before the dawn of the internet, local television and radio (and newspapers) were the great connectors, the entities that could overcome snow and cold to report the news and keep communities tightly knit. These organizations have always been at the center of a wheel, with spokes that reach out into all areas of the population. Long Island Radio, which is the umbrella for WEHM, WBAZ, and Beach 101.7, serves a large percentage of the population on the East End, and they do so with a small-town sensibility that keeps the public domain alive on the airwaves.
“We’ve always seen ourselves as part of the community,” says Suzanne Wolfson, General Sales Manager for Long Island Radio.
That’s why they want to be at community events, like the upcoming tree lighting in Sag Harbor this Friday.
Long Island Radio was once an exclusively East End station, serving the area from Southampton to Montauk. But in 1997, when all three stations (WEHM, WBAZ, and Beach 101.7) merged together, their base expanded. Now they reach listeners from Montauk to Bay Shore, plus the North Fork and parts of southern Connecticut.
But even with that growth, the philosophy at the radio station has been to remember its local flavor, said Wolfson. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, from the local music played on the air to the local organizations the stations promote.
Wolfson believes that as a local radio station, supporting the community is “our responsibility. There’s no question about it. And it’s fun. We are a small station based in Water Mill and it keeps us personally connected. We promote local artists by having them come in and promote their work… One of our key features on EHM is the EHM Local every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7:20. There are many talented musicians in our area, and it’s a very competitive market out there.”
Of course, promoting local musicians is the most obvious way for a radio station to support the community. But in addition to that, Long Island Radio sponsors events that keep the public feeling a sense of cohesiveness even in the darkest winter months.
“We partner with Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center to try to get special concerts for emerging artists during the winter,” says Wolfson. “Tickets are $20, and everybody comes because they don’t have a million other things to do.”
One of the most important ways that the radio station supports the community, though, is by giving a forum for non-profits and charity organizations to get some exposure.
“We get frequent notices from communities from Brookhaven to Montauk asking for help,” says Wolfson. “So we’ve created the community calendar which is limited to only non-profits.”
On all three radio stations throughout the day, hosts will announce events on the community calendar. The radio personalities are also encouraged to choose causes that matter to them for coverage. For example, “Last weekend Antony put together a feature for small business Saturdays to support our local businesses. And Harry covers a charity to support autism research every year.”
Long Island Radio is a communication hub, a home base for a community sprawled out. Not only can the radio alert listeners to what’s going on, Wolfson said, but they can also work to bring advertisers and sponsors together.
“We connect our clients and ask if they can be a drop off spot for Long Island Cares boxes,” she said. “We have collaborations to help organizations such as Toys for Tots, Coat Drives, and individual families or people in need.”
Supporting the community is a pattern among radio stations out here, and Wolfson is quick to point out that WLNG, another major local station, has also been very active. “They’ve been around for a long time,” she says, “And they’ve done a tremendous amount for the community.”
WEHM will be broadcasting live from Long Wharf this Friday, December 2, from 4 to 7 p.m.