On June 17, a gunman opened fire on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., shooting 10 and killing nine in what the shooter admitted was racially-motivated.
Broadcasters across America aired breaking news and provided listeners with an outlet for emotional expression following the tragedy. They altered programming, changed playlists and took calls from listeners, allowing them to express shock and anger.
Cumulus Charleston Vice President and Market Manager Sherry Dollar told Radio Ink that after the shooter was caught, stations made a conscious effort to promote the "Charleston Strong" message. Dollar praised program directors for connecting with listeners, by expressing genuine, raw emotion and cutting into syndicated shows to add a local element. All five stations WMGL-FM, WWWZ-FM, WNSH-FM, WTMA-AM and WSM-FM highlighted the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which supports the victims’ families.
Other stations, including Apex Broadcasting’s WMXZ-FM Isle of Palms and WXST-FM Hollywood; CBS Radio’s WVEE-FM Atlanta; WHUR-FM Washington, D.C. and Cumulus Media’s WWWQ-FM Atlanta, interrupted nationally syndicated programs in favor of local programming, interviewed local political and religious leaders and aired President Obama’s news conference live.