WPEC West Palm Beach, Fla., weathered Hurricane Frances with 102½ hours of continuous broadcasting. Don’t tell Executive News Director Steve Hunsicker it was beyond the call of duty.
“Clearly, it was important, life-saving information that we were able to provide,” he says matter-of-factly. “So it really was not a hard call. I think the harder call was, 'OK, it’s time to take a break.’”
In May, the NAB’s Education Foundation presented the Service to America Television Friend in Need Award to Freedom Broadcasting’s WPEC for its “extraordinary” effort. Ironically, few saw the effort; most people heard WPEC on 15 radio stations that carried its reports.
“The most gratifying thing about the experience was the cards and e-mail that came in,” Hunsicker says. “Hundreds and hundreds of these cards and e-mails. People went out and bought $3-$4 Hallmark cards that just said, 'Thank you for keeping us safe.’ Our newsroom walls were lined with these things. It’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever seen in this business.”
He admits, “We spent a fortune, and we lost a fortune because we didn’t play commercials.” But, he says, “I guess what I really am is an old-school broadcaster. You put your community first. You have a job to do as a broadcaster.”