One of the things mainstream radio in America has all but abandoned is journalism. It's only been a half-century since the advent of television, and from then to now is the time it's taken for radio news to all but disappear.
Radio news departments were some of the first casualties in the industry's downward spiral into consolidation and cost-cutting sparked by the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It costs a lot of money (read: salaries) to produce local news, and offers some of the lowest return on investment (read: ad rates).
As an independent media movement took root at the end of the last century, activists rediscovered radio journalism. A portable minidisc recorder makes it possible for one person to archive a large amount of sound on a matchbook-sized medium; regular cassette tapes are cheaper still. And the MP3 file system makes coverage of events and interviews easy to produce and distribute online.
Microradio, as a part of the independent media movement, is well-poised to reinvigorate radio as an outlet for news. The content and tools are all at hand - all that's needed now is a small investment of time to produce and air the programming.
Collecting the news to air on a station isn't difficult; there's more than enough material being produced to suit any need. Thanks to "raw audio" sites like the A-Infos Radio Project, hours of news is archived in broadcast-quality MP3 for download or streaming.
This includes not only sound from breaking news events and recordings of full panels and lectures, but also long-form fully-produced news programs of a half-hour or longer chock full of stories and commentary.
Several regular independent radio newscasts have also been formed recently; the two best-known are probably Free Speech Radio News and Live Wire Independent News.
Best of all, these sources are free - all the broadcaster needs is a net connection and download time. For stations with a computer in the studio, they only need drag, drop, click and play.
It's easy enough to cobble to gather a stack of music CDs and get on the air, but it's important to both inform and entertain. Microradio stations hold the enviable position of having broadcast time to burn and an unfiltered mouthpiece with which to speak to the public at large.
The mainstream media has all but written off radio as a viable source for news; the cutthroat nature of today's media industry doesn't have room for journalism in radio's business model. That's why it's more important than ever that today's microradio broadcasters make news a higher priority.