After Covering Tornadoes, Journalist Joins Fight For AM Radio


Despite recent criticisms of the AM For Every Vehicle Act from print media, renowned national journalist and native Kansan Max McCoy rose to defend AM radio from his personal experiences in times of emergency, saying the band protects and informs like no other.

McCoy wrote in the Kansas Reflector, praising the Kansas state House for passing a non-binding resolution calling for US Congress to mandate the inclusion of AM radios in new vehicles. This resolution was spurred by the vital role AM radio has played during emergencies, highlighted by its crucial use during past tornado disasters in Kansas and Missouri.

AM radio proved indispensable when the EF5 tornado struck Greensburg, KS, in 2007, resulting in significant loss of life and property. Similarly, in 2011, an EF5 tornado devastated Joplin, MO, claiming 161 lives in the deadliest twister since records began in 1950. These events underscored the limitations of modern communication tools during severe emergencies, where AM radio’s ability to function without power and provide continuous updates proved life-saving.

“Having covered the wake of three major storms — Greensburg, Joplin, and Katrina in 2005 — I can tell you that expecting to rely on everyday things is foolish,” McCoy writes. “There’s likely to be no electric power for lights or Wi-Fi routers or internet, and what you rely on for information are battery-powered radios, especially a NOAA Weather Radio, or the AM/FM deck in your car.”

Despite the advancement of digital technologies, Max McCoy stands behind the Kansas House resolution, for the sake of rural and vulnerable regions. The resolution points out that modern vehicles are increasingly excluding AM radio due to its vulnerability to interference and reduced consumer demand. However, the enduring value of AM radio in emergency communication justifies its continued inclusion in vehicles.

He further writes how the push to maintain AM radio is not without its critics. Some automakers argue that the technology is outdated, and the static-filled broadcasts are less appealing in the age of digital streaming and satellite services. McCoy also addresses those who think it goes against the free market to have a product mandated by government:

“If we give the free market free rein, we’d still be driving around in fiery Ford Pintos or allowing 8-year-olds to smoke Camels.”

The AM For Every Vehicle Act is awaiting action in the US House and in the Senate, with a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress.


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