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How Things Work At CBS News Radio

(CBS/AP)
If you were watching cable news earlier today, you probably heard the news that former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen had died. From that moment, the evening newscasts had until 6:30 this evening to figure out how they would handle it on their broadcasts. Elsewhere at CBS, however, someone was going on the air with a special report -- CBS News Radio. Along with CBSNews.com, the radio division essentially functions as the CBS's 24-hour news network. So how does it all work? We've discussed how things work at the Web site and on the television site, so for an overview of radio, I spoke with Constance Lloyd, general manager of CBS News Radio. Their mission, said Lloyd, is to provide an "information lifeline for radio stations."

CBS News Radio is essentially competing with cable news networks, said Lloyd. While people used to turn to radio for ongoing news coverage, cable and online news have crowded the field. That has led radio to branch out to providing coverage that affiliates can use on their Web sites and radio correspondents regularly file for the Web.

But their bread and butter is on the airwaves, where it works a little differently than television or the Web. Unlike cable news channels, CBS News Radio is distributed to more than 400 affiliates who use the content as they choose. It's distributed to all kinds of stations, including all-news stations such as WCBS in New York and WTOP in Washington, D.C., as well as music and talk-radio stations.

For example, CBS News radio produces four news updates an hour, as well as special reports and live, ongoing anchored coverage during breaking stories. Everything is distributed to affiliates that can use them whenever they want in their programming. A few minutes before our conversation began, Lloyd had received news that Bentsen had died – that meant radio would produce a special report immediately that affiliates would be able to use.

Unlike a single 24-hour news channel, radio delivers simultaneous programming through up to 10 satellite channels, and affiliates can choose what information from each channel they'd like to broadcast. For instance, during President Bush's speech on immigration last Monday, one satellite channel carried live coverage with a correspondent, another provided the hourly newscast, another provided one-minute special reports and another offered a live, unanchored feed of the speech.

Around the world, CBS News Radio has about 10 correspondents in major cities and relies on about 80 stringers elsewhere throughout the world. Staff correspondents are either dispatched to more remote locations or radio can rely on the stringers. They also have partnerships with other news organizations – including the Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor and Britain's Global Radio News (GRN) -- which grant them access to those outlets' reporters as well.

While news radio today competes with cable news and, increasingly, the Internet, it's clear that their reach is substantial – every week, says Lloyd, CBS News Radio has about 26 million listeners.

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