In 2017, WLRH launched its Community Newsroom as a way to expand local content production and enhance the public’s understanding of how radio is created. In its earliest days, participants in our Community Newsroom exposed our staff to local initiatives, ideas, and stories that were previously unknown to us. We quickly recognized a chance to do something that no one else was doing, but many people wanted to hear — coverage of Huntsville’s vibrant local music scene. Having already built some initial connections with local content creators, we felt the best way to highlight the diversity of original music in North Alabama was to create a collaborative effort, which became Valley Sounds.
To create the show, WLRH pooled a team of volunteer producers consisting of local podcasters, independent journalists, and music industry professionals. Each volunteer brings their own perspective and voice to the collective and helps create a unique sonic tapestry with a focus on musicians. For each week’s episode, the production team signs up to create a segment, generally including a local interview, music from upcoming shows, and a set of local favorites.
We imagined our new show as a gathering place of these localized efforts on a platform that would help shine a bigger spotlight on everyone. What we didn’t expect was to discover so many individual efforts and such a wide diversity in cultural reach. Valley Sounds almost immediately became a creative outlet that fostered connectivity and collaboration, and broke down barriers between social groups and musical genres.
WLRH was proud to have been awarded with the Alabama Broadcasters’ Association award in 2019 for Best Large Market Radio Podcast.
This has been wonderful for our station’s growth and is reshaping how we think about our service area. Other stations should not be afraid to open their doors and train raw talent, especially local podcasters. Our Community Newsroom and its project have helped us expand the hyper-local sound and outreach we strive to achieve. Some of our most compelling content was created through this effort.
The success of Valley Sounds has been very organic, and we are grateful for how well it has been received. We wish we had aggressively promoted it from its inception because we’d be even farther along than we are now. Moving forward, we continue to expand our pool of contributors to include more music business professionals and producers, and other interested parties.