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Gridlock Guy: What our Traffic Troopers mean to us

One intrinsic part of our jobs as reporters for WSB Triple Team Traffic is the human connection. Captain Herb Emory, the leader of this team for 23 years, owned that ability to relate to the driver or to the first responder. This bond drove his and drives our commitment to doing the job the right way. And this bond grows even stronger because of our relationship with our Traffic Troopers.

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Radio has been a keenly empathic medium for well over a century. Maybe, at the ground level, this is because a radio announcer really has to paint a picture and a listener has to pay close attention to the words to be able to form the picture in their mind. In this age of fleeting attention spans, the spoken-word medium is actually quite strong. Podcasts are hugely popular, and radio stations with memorable local personalities still remain relevant.

Our Traffic Team gets the pleasure of building strong relationships with our most helpful listeners. Our WSB Traffic Troopers are gracious, enthusiastic listeners who call in their trip times, crashes they see, and any other road conditions to us. We have had this network of callers for over 20 years, long before popular traffic apps encouraged people to do this. This group is our secret sauce that gives us the traffic edge with instant and exact updates around the clock.

The generosity and care from this core group of News 95.5/AM750 WSB listeners and Channel 2 Action News viewers are the first cords to the long relationships we have built with them.

The daily calls we receive from the likes of “Spongebob,” “Irish Blue,” “Skipper,” “Jester,” and “Snowman,” create a deep personal rapport. Social media in the last decade especially has allowed us to get to know their families, trips, and life events.

We have attended some Troopers’ weddings and some others’ funerals. One member of our team actually paid for a Trooper’s funeral. Another member of our team raised money and bought toys for a late Trooper’s daughter for Christmas. None of this happens without the daily interaction and the empathy built far beyond the airwaves.

Captain Herb started a tradition with our Traffic Troopers over 15 years ago. Our annual luncheon allows us to open the doors to the station and celebrate the people that put our traffic coverage over the top. Several dozen Troopers show up for food, prizes, and a tour that we lead. Some have come for nearly 20 years.

WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Malani Kai poses with Traffic Troopers “Jeff from Hall County” and “Mags” and the 2019 WSB Traffic Trooper lunch. April 10, 2019.

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Traffic Trooper “Three C’s” has been part of this team from the beginning. He used to just go by the name “Rich,” but changed it in honor of Captain Herb’s Three C’s: caution, courtesy, and common sense.

At this year’s lunch, which took place last Wednesday, we reflected on Captain Herb and his relationships with everyone in the room. We also remembered his heart for community service and several Troopers shared how they serve the community with platelet donations, a suicide prevention organization, the American Legion, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Alternative Baseball, a baseball league for those with autism.

Traffic Trooper “Herschel” has been instrumental in promoting road safety with his fellow truckers, raising money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and helping orchestrate the Convoy of Care for storm victims. Traffic Trooper “Disc Golf Driver” has helped organize a disc golf tournament fundraiser that goes directly to the Toys for Tots fund WSB supports.

We get the same malaise at our jobs that many of you may. We can get stuck in the grind and forget how our product affects people. We also feel the pressure of our changing industry and the fight against digital media. But every spring our Traffic Troopers come in force and with passion to the lunch. And every day they call not just with information, but sometimes with a simple, “How ya’ doin’?” or “Good job.”

Our Traffic Troopers help us attach humanity to our reports. Their enthusiasm for helping others and for our team puts wind behind our backs. We know they look mighty forward to the yearly WSB Traffic Trooper Lunch. And we hope they know that we do, too. 

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Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

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