Keeping quiet about Entercom’s bad behavior

Strange Silence
By ADAM REILLY  |  February 21, 2007

070223_strange_main1
STRANGE DEATH: Jennifer Strange and her family (top), and the DJs who hosted the “Hold You Wee for a Wii” contest (bottom).
Ever heard of Jennifer Strange?

If you live in Boston and get your news from the local media, probably not. On January 12, Strange — a 28-year-old Californian — died of water poisoning after participating in an on-air contest staged by KDND Radio (107.9 FM), a/k/a “The End,” a Sacramento station owned by Entercom Communications. The contest involved drinking as much water as possible over three hours without going to the bathroom; the prize was a free Nintendo Wii game console — hence the contest’s name: “Hold Your Wee for a Wii.”

What makes the story especially horrifying is the fact that the contest’s organizers knew somebody could die. At one point during the contest, a listener who identified herself as a nurse issued an on-air warning that drinking too much water could be fatal, only to have the station’s DJs laugh off her objections. “Yeah, we’re aware of that,” said one. “Yeah, they signed releases,” said another. “So we’re not responsible. We’re okay.”

Strange’s family has since filed a wrongful-death suit, and asked the Federal Communications Commission to pull KDND off the air. The station has fired 10 employees. And Strange’s death has garnered loads of national publicity.

But not here. There’s an obvious local hook: in Boston, Entercom Communications — KDND’s parent company — owns radio stations WRKO (680 AM), WEEI (850 AM), MIKE (93.7 FM), and WAAF (97.7/107.3 FM). Even so, neither the Globe nor the Herald has assigned any reporters to cover the fallout from Strange’s death or consider the implications for Entercom. Local TV hasn’t been impressed either: while WHDH-TV ran a brief segment on Strange’s death, for example, it didn’t note that the station in question was Entercom-owned.

Maybe Boston’s editors and news directors just didn’t think the story merited much coverage. After all, it’s not explicitly local. But it’s hard not to wonder if the incestuous nature of Boston’s media landscape may have played a role, too. The Globe, for example, is owned by the New York Times Company, which has an ownership stake in the Red Sox, whose games will be broadcast on WRKO and WEEI this season. Meanwhile, local PR bigwig George Regan handles PR for the Herald as well as for WRKO and WEEI. And Regan’s firm, Regan Communications Group, is loaded with local media vets from the Herald, WHDH, WBZ, and WCVB.

Whatever’s to blame, it’s unfortunate that Boston’s press has kept quiet. There’s a host of stories to be done here, from Entercom’s corporate culture to what Strange’s death says about the state of radio today. (In an article titled “Deregulating Radio to Death,” Wired reporter Randy Dotinga said lax FCC oversight and industry-wide job cutbacks paved the way for Strange’s death.) For now, though, we’ll have to look for those stories elsewhere.

Related: Comcast plays dirty, This is Radio Clash, Sound words, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , AL East Division, American League (Baseball), Boston Red Sox,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY ADAM REILLY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BULLY FOR BU!  |  March 12, 2010
    After six years at the Phoenix , I recently got my first pre-emptive libel threat. It came, most unexpectedly, from an investigative reporter. And beyond the fact that this struck me as a blatant attempt at intimidation, it demonstrated how tricky journalism's new, collaboration-driven future could be.
  •   STOP THE QUINN-SANITY!  |  March 03, 2010
    The year is still young, but when the time comes to look back at 2010's media lowlights, the embarrassing demise of Sally Quinn's Washington Post column, "The Party," will almost certainly rank near the top of the list.
  •   RIGHT CLICK  |  February 19, 2010
    Back in February 2007, a few months after a political neophyte named Deval Patrick cruised to victory in the Massachusetts governor's race with help from a political blog named Blue Mass Group (BMG) — which whipped up pro-Patrick sentiment while aggressively rebutting the governor-to-be's critics — I sized up a recent conservative entry in the local blogosphere.
  •   RANSOM NOTES  |  February 12, 2010
    While reporting from Afghanistan two years ago, David Rohde became, for the second time in his career, an unwilling participant rather than an observer. On October 29, 1995, Rohde had been arrested by Bosnian Serbs. And then in November 2008, Rohde and two Afghan colleagues were en route to an interview with a Taliban commander when they were kidnapped.
  •   POOR RECEPTION  |  February 08, 2010
    The right loves to rant against the "liberal-media elite," but there's one key media sector where the conservative id reigns supreme: talk radio.

 See all articles by: ADAM REILLY