When AM Radio Used To Be Fun
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When AM Radio Used To Be Fun
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By Corey Atkinson / Estevan Mercury

It’s getting harder and harder to find reasons to listen to AM radio in 2017 but if the right set of circumstances hit, it’s like finding that YouTube channel with a direct line to your own nostalgia.

Back in the day, the big American AM radio stations would have their signals pumping out for hundreds of miles, reaching audiences that the never were fully aware of what they had. On a good day, you can still get Denver and St. Louis from here. But the Canadian ones were less powerful, through CRTC regulations, and even then you could get a radio station from a couple of provinces over. I remember a family trip to Ontario on the early 90s when we were able to get Moose Jaw’s 800 on the radio in Kenora, Ont. Suddenly, home didn’t seem that far away.

Fast forward to today when I have a not-very-modern car and a need to drive a few hours every couple of weeks. I’ve tried FM during the trips but the stations just parrot each other, the same-sounding commercials pile up and the interest wanes. I’m not listening to audio books, Brian Zinchuk, because I have no doubt they’d put me to sleep and podcasts are much the same way.

Then I rediscovered AM. 

There are exceptions of course, but for the most part AM radio in 2017 is a quaint reminder of another day. In some cases it’s also staffed by those from a bygone era. The stings really hit you right int he memory button.

The only place you’ll find an old timey preacher telling you the world is going straight into the dumper is on AM radio. It’s amusing when one realizes those are just replays from decades ago and that preacher who died in the early 1990s is likely currently repeating those same things in heaven.

It wasn’t too long ago when AM was the place to find things like what was happening when, the only place where you could hear a brief audio clip of a local news person and the only place where an emergency weather bulletin could be heard by anyone outside of a news room. I mean, I still remember it so it can’t be that long ago, right?

But the same playlist that could have been dusted off from 1992 plays in a near-constant state on AM. Perhaps the programmers don’t care to update because they don’t know who wants to listen to a new song with weak audio in 2017. I might, just for the laughs, but who else?

And I know I’m saying these things about radio being a delightful anachronism in a newspaper, speaking of reminders to a better day for news gathering. Media organizations have to evolve and I understand that. One of the biggest stories locally this week will be that people made the Huffington Post Canada website. Try explaining that story to your grandfather.

And I’m saying it while my hometown of Moose Jaw will no longer have a daily paper but the AM station chugs along, mostly automated with occasional people here and there being heard.

I like the fact that I can hear The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby on AM in 2017. There’s something reassuring that no matter how much else changes in my life, when I have my kids in the car they can have somewhat the same experience that I did on longer road trips. If they can put down their devices long enough.

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