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Jewish World Review March 26, 2001 / 2 Nissan, 5761

Mike Flannagan

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Consumer Reports

Radio 'swap meet' shows plod on amid Internet copycats -- THE electronic superhighway provided by the Internet may be the path a lot of city slickers use to sell goods, but many in Southern Appalachia still prefer traveling the diminishing back roads of radio swap shows.

Weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. on WYSH 1380-AM in Clinton, Tenn., disc jockey and station owner Ron Meredith opens the phone lines for folks to get rid of cherished possessions - or just plain old junk.

"I got two sinks and a commode I wanna get rid of," one caller announces.

The phones never cease ringing, and Meredith scribbles items and phone numbers at a furious pace.

"We could keep the lines open for six hours, and it wouldn't be long enough," says Wendell Eads, general manager for WYSH.

Swap-shop programs, although fewer in number these days, continue to garner solid ratings. The programs give people a chance to sell, trade or give away unneeded items or animals as they get a brief moment on the air.

"The listeners are in charge of things," said Steve Burchell, disc jockey at WGAP in Maryville, Tenn. His "Swap N Shop," WGAP-AM 1400's call-in show, broadcasts from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The show has been broadcasting for 50 years, and still averages 60 calls every show.

In Lenoir City, Tenn., WLIL-AM 730 broadcasts the "Trade Post" from 9 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The show receives more than 70 calls a day, says Glenn McTish, station manager.

Michael Biel, professor of radio and television at Morehead State University, said local programs have been diminishing over the past 20 years as more radio stations opt for national programming piped in via satellite.

And much is lost in the cheaper fare.

"As I'm traveling, I like listening to them because it gives me a flavor for the communities I'm driving through," Biel said. "I don't recall ever hearing anything like a swap shop until I moved out of the New York suburbs."

Swappers deal in tires, car parts, chickens and trailers.

"We get things like pocket watches, living-room suites, appliances, jewelry, houses, saddles," said Trish Stacy, who does the "Free Market" for WSGS-FM in Hazard, Ky. "We get a lot of poultry and fowl. It's definitely an interesting program. A lot of people just like to be on the radio. It's their way of getting attention."

Stacy said some of the calls are memorable, like the man who wanted to sell 722 boxes of Kraft deluxe macaroni and cheese or "trade them for a good rooster."

In rural areas with no local daily newspapers, radio fills the gap.

Besides news, the stations also read obituaries, even school lunch menus.

And the swap-shop programs are the radio equivalent of classified ads.

"People get up in the mornings and have their coffee to this show," Stacy says. "It's a very important part of their morning. It's like their entertainment for the day. People are in amazement at all the things that are for sale."

They go away from the show fulfilled, Meredith contends, adding, "We're the cornbread and beans of radio."

Mike Flannagan writes for The Knoxville News-Sentinel Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, SHNS