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Electronic media become middlemen for people in need

October 18, 1991

By Tom Sowa
The Spokesman-Review
and Spokane Chronicle

Sometimes branded by critics for being the bearer of bad news, the electronic media in Spokane enjoyed intense viewership and radio listenership during Wednesday’s series of wind-whipped fires.

More than just a source of information, television and some radio stations became active participants in delivering requests for help or offers of assistance to those in need.

Green Bluff resident Joy Siemers discovered how fast and far-flung the media makes its messages known after calling KXLY-AM radio Wednesday evening.

She was one of several hundred people who called the station’s news-talk telephone line during a long day of emergencies and quick response.

Fearing her three horses would die if a fire two miles away got closer, Siemers asked if listeners nearby could help move her animals.

She gave her phone number and more than a dozen people called.

“People offered horse trailers or even pasture for my animals,” she said Thursday.

Arriving first with help were her daughter Vicky and her son-in-law, Joel Steward. The Spokane couple got in their car and drove to Green Bluff, shortly after hearing Siemers’ radio request.

The three local television news stations had similar stories.

A volunteer from a Moran Prairie church called KHQ-TV, asking the station to tell people overnight shelter was available for those left homeless. A short announcement led to a later call, saying the church was filled. But the need turned to donated food.

The word went out and in little time the church called again, saying no more food was needed, explained KHQ News Director Paul Dughi.

Dughi said he realized viewers were desperate for information when a raft of callers complained after KHQ switched from news to a game show from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

“That told us there’s a real appetite out there… People were involved in a very personal way,” he added.

The heaviest load of telephone calls was directed at KXLY radio, where callers gave first-hand observations or revealed how close to danger they were.

One caller, a 76-year-old woman north of town, telephoned KXLY Program Director Jim Bickel, frightened she had no way of escaping if she had to leave her home.

That call, and a later one from a woman who lost her home that evening, caused Bickel to go silent, unable to offer immediate help.

“When the woman who lost everything started to cry on the phone, I had to pause. I was right at the point of tears, too,” Bickel said.

Friday, October 18, 1991

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From → KHQ

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