End of an era: KYW no longer broadcasting snow-day school closing numbers
Ending an era, KYW radio has stopped broadcasting school closing numbers on snow days, a source of anticipation for children in the Philadelphia area for a half century.
Blame the Internet, cell phones, and robo calls for finishing off a childhood ritual.
KYW and other radio stations had broadcast the numbers since the 1960s, when Philadelphia's City Hall became the regional clearing house for school closings around the region.
But in 1989, the city got out of the business and KYW took it over, prompting many stations to abandon the practice and making KYW the exclusive source of news that could make or break a kid's day.
The station has been phasing out the service for a couple of years and decided in the off season to stop the on-air report, said Steve Butler, director of news and programming for KYW.
The station will still provide the information on KYWschools.com, and the data they collect from 1400 school districts, colleges and other schools will be used by CBS3 TV, he said.
The decision was an easy one to make. With schools delivering the news via their own websites, texts, Twitter, or phone trees, many students and parents already know if they have a snow day or not without turning on the radio.
"We still get a tremendous amount of traffic on our website," he said, which is also mobile friendly and easy to search.
Reading the school numbers took up to 14 minutes of air time each hour. That time will be devoted to more information on traffic, airport conditions and even reports from neighborhoods, Butler said.
Listeners thought of the school numbers as a "comfort food" of sorts. Station reporters would often ask local celebrities if they remembered the number for their alma mater.
"I know we asked Carli Lloyd and she knew," he said. Bradley Cooper needed to be reminded by one of his friends at Germantown Academy, he added.
Long time Inquirer weather writer Anthony R. Wood offers this reminiscence of growing up with the numbers and his own role in giving students in a school district a snow day they were not supposed to get.