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Radio Free Montone: Modern Day Storm Coverage

John Montone John Montone
You never know where John Montone will spend his morning. It may be...
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — The first snowflake of the season touched down the other day and 1010 WINS was ready for it.

As newsman Lee Harris said in his intro to my report from the Jersey Turnpike….”John lives for this.” We all “live for this” here at 1010 WINS. When snow falls, lightning strikes or rain turns roads into rivers — our ratings spike.

I learned that in my early days as the New Jersey Correspondent. As we waited for the birth of what was to become, “The Blizzard of ‘83,” I was told by news managers and editors to be ready for duty all day and all night. And so I went to bed early and woke up at 4 A.M. with laryngitis.  I spent most of the day with my head buried in a pot filled with a steaming, mentholated concoction that loosened whatever was clogging my throat just enough to allow me to rasp my way through the three-day dig out.

Even now, thirty years later, when information is instantaneous and  people can simply glance down at their smart phones for the forecast, millions of folks living in the metropolitan area turn to 1010 WINS when the weather turns wicked.  I think there are three reasons why. We invented modern day storm coverage.

Back in the eighties and early nineties other more “serious” news organizations made light of our fascination with the weather.  Based on traditional journalistic standards unless the drifts piled three feet high what fell from the sky was not deemed newsworthy. But at WINS we understood that even a couple of inches of snow would prompt casual listeners to tune in for hours. Then there is our emphasis on “story-telling.”

It’s one thing for an Accu-Weather meteorologist to say it’s snowing or for a traffic reporter to say the snow is causing delays on the BQE.  It’s a vastly more fulfilling listening experience to hear reporters out in the storm with plows scraping the pavement, drivers stopping to chisel ice off their windshields, the tires of stuck cars screeching and children shouting on downhill sleigh rides. And finally and most importantly, there is honesty.  I have on occasion referred to what was supposed to be a snowstorm as a “no-storm.”  Or said, “Lee, I’m buried…up to my ankles.”

And because of that when the weather demands it, I can also tell our listeners, “Unless you have to perform open-heart surgery, stay home. This is not a day to be on the road or even on a sidewalk.”  Over the decades this type of reporting has deepened the bond between our radio station and the people here in the New York City area. Well, most of the people.

One winter morning with the wind-chill well below zero, I came upon a woman  in Upper Manhattan with her head under the hood of her car.

The engine whined and wheezed but refused to turn over.  As I approached the car the woman looked up at me and said, “Oh no,  you’re that idiot who asks people if they’re cold when it’s cold out.”

“That’s me,” I admitted.

“Can you help start my car?” she asked.

“No, I can’t.”

Turning her attention back to the engine she said, “Then what good are you?”

John Montone. 

1010 WINS News.