2020 will go down in the history book as the year the COVID virus upended our lives and our economy.
Here on the Outer Banks we’re missing our visitors. And they’re missing us.
Typically in the Spring the owners of local vacation rental homes, second homes and condos trickle in to celebrate Easter, prepare their properties for the upcoming rental season, or just to hang out at a time when most businesses are opening up but the crowds are manageable.
This year the beach is eerily quiet.
Locals are adhering to the same rules as the rest of the nation--venturing out to purchase groceries and enjoying the outdoors in solitary mode or small family groups.
But there is a way you can keep up with what’s happening on the Outer Banks and with a nod to modern technology, at least be able to close your eyes and imagine you are here! And these resources will serve one well whenever you want to experience some of the Outer Banks life while separated from this special place.
Below is our guide to ‘Living La Vida OBX…from a distance’—a listing of locally owned media sources and radio stations with online capabilities. They will keep you informed on how locals are coping with the crisis, what’s going on regarding our return to ‘normal’, and in the case of these local internet radio outlets—hyper-local news, live interviews and cultural bits from local personalities.
As an added bonus, these internet radio stations will be playing music with a “beachy” or regional flair, including local performers. You might not be sitting on our beaches, but as the weather warms, go outside, sit in a lawn chair in the sun, and tune into the OBX and tune out the rest of the world.
Our listings consist of media outlets that are totally locally owned and operated with a substantial online presence—if something was left out they failed to meet one or both criteria.
We’ll start with online news sites.
The Outer Banks Voice
The Voice has been around ten years and in 2019 it was sold from one group of locals to a new group that is a joint venture between the owner of East Carolina Radio and the owner of the Outer Banks Sentinel newspaper. The new editor, Mark Jurkowitz, folded the Sentinel into the Voice and the online news site boasts the largest audience of any such site in northeastern North Carolina.
The Voice features the usual news stories and press releases, including extensive coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, the Voice digs a bit deeper, with editorials and original news stories written by talented local journalists. And as the area begins to open up, this is the place to go for restaurant news, things-to-do, and spotlights on local businesses and events.
They have a huge Facebook following and a readership that tops 5 to 6 million page views a year.
Find their website here: https://www.outerbanksvoice.com/ and their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/OuterBanksVoice/
Hatteras Island is a favorite of many second homeowners and visitors. Development on this island has been significantly less than that along the northern beaches—striking a chord with visitors who remember the Outer Banks from the 1960’s and 1970’s and wish to relive that experience in the 21st century.
Founded by the late Irene Noland, the Island Free Press is dedicated to all things ‘Hatteras’ and has continued to be the best source for Hatteras-centric news and updates. The IFP was particularly important during the debates over ORV driving restrictions on their beaches and the fight to build a new bridge over Oregon Inlet. But it’s also the premier destination for news on island events throughout the year, spotlights on local businesses, human interest stories on local surfers, anglers and artists, as well as history and folklore. A talented team of Hatteras-bases writers keep things lively and provide fresh content daily under the guidance of editor Joy Crist and publisher Donna Barnett.
Find them on the web at https://islandfreepress.org/ or join their 26,000 Facebook followers here: https://www.facebook.com/IslandFreePress/
Moving to the realm of ‘hyperlocal’ news, Ocracoke Island may be small and isolated but it has an outsized presence in the constellation of Outer Banks destinations.
And there is no better ‘print’ news source than the Observer, edited by the talented and award-winning duo of Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach.
The island community had not fully recovered from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian when the COVID-19 crisis shut down the island again. None of this has stopped the Observer from keeping locals and fans of Ocracoke up to date on how the island is coping with the COVID-19 crisis, nor has it taken the publication’s eye off of the main reason to visit this site—complete coverage of the island’s unique culture, natural resources, unique businesses and its history. It’s an amazingly jammed packed publication for an island with a full-time population of around 950 residents.
Find them on the web at https://ocracokeobserver.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ocracokeobserver/
On The ‘Radio’
The word radio has taken on new meaning in the 21st century where much of our listening takes place over the internet. Our list of local radio stations includes over-the-air stations with internet feeds and internet-only broadcasters. The only criteria were that they be locally owned.
ECR is the only locally owned and operated over-the-air broadcaster on the Outer Banks. Founded by Rick Loesch, the group operates seven radio stations including five with their own websites and live streams: WRSF-Dixie 105.7 (country), WERX 102.5 ‘The Shark’-(oldies), WKJX-96.7 ‘The Block’ (hip hop) WOBR 95.3 ‘The Pirate (classic rock), and WOBX 98.1 ‘The Score’ (sports talk).
The group features live DJ’s during most of the daytime hours and news is provided in conjunction with the Outer Banks Voice. You’ll hear plenty of local ads, news and events, interviews on the morning shows with community leaders and on-air personalities providing live updates and comments on what is happening along the entire beach. Surfing and fishing reports are also a staple on these stations.
All of the station links are on the link above and you can find their Facebook page’s by typing in the call letters on the Facebook search tool.
We’ll start with the smallest station first—WOVV. This low-powered FM station is a non-profit community owned station located on Ocracoke Island. The station was taken off the air by Hurricane Dorian and was just beginning to crank up when the COVID 19 crisis shut down the island.
The station’s stated mission “is to provide the village of Ocracoke, and its visitors, with a community-enhancing medium of education, information, and discourse through access to the public airwaves for locally-focused, regional, and national programming produced by, and responsive to the needs of, our unique island community.”
You’ll hear everything from bluegrass to folk, rock, country and even world music from on-air personalities who live on Ocracoke and few others who broadcast from off-island locations. A significant portion of the programming is devoted to live interviews with local, state and even national artists, performers and politicians who visit the island. You’ll even hear music from bands that call Ocracoke home such as Molasses Creek, a nationally acclaimed folk music group.
Daily programming includes classical music from 3-6 am, Morning Jazz from 6-8 am and the Local Hour from 8-9 am. The rest of the day consists of numerous programs, some hosted live and others pre-recorded that change daily. Their feed can be heard on Tune In Radio or by clicking the programming link on the home page. You’ll find their programming schedule there also.
At present the station has reduced live programming due to social distancing requirements so expect an altered schedule until a semblance of normalcy returns to the island.
Updates can also be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WOVVFM/
Radio Hatteras WHDX-FM 99.9-Waves/WHDZ-FM-Buxton
Another non-profit community-owned station serves Hatteras Island with two low-power FM stations and internet broadcasts.
The station doesn’t typically use live on air personalities—choosing pre-recorded shows instead. But don’t let that stop you from tuning in. Similar to WOVV, Radio Hatteras offers a diverse playlist covering virtually every genre of music. You will find more beach music here than other Outer Banks radio station, including copious amounts of shag tunes, regional favorites such as Bill Deal & The Rondels and other beach-themed artists.
The pre-recorded music shows are hosted by local volunteers and when you tune in, you’ll feel as though you are sitting on a Hatteras beach. The station’s sponsors are primarily local businesses adding another element of local flavor to your listening experience.
Daily announcements about events, activities, history and other items are part of the listening experience as well as a weekly island news summary every Sunday at 5 p.m.
Their website contains the full schedule and a live broadcast stream. The station also has their own mobile app for Android and Apple platforms at their respective app stores. Their Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/radiohatteras/
This internet-only broadcaster is located on the northern beaches and is so new they haven’t fully developed their website as of this printing.
The station was founded by former on-air personalities from other radio stations and hopes to focus on small business features. According on on-air personality Jen Shenberger it grew out of the locally produced podcast Positively Outer Banks.
The playlist is ‘beachy’ according to Shenberger. Popular hits are interspersed with deeper cuts and regional artists like Mojo Collins and local bands. A stand-up comedy show is also featured on Saturday nights and listeners are encouraged via their Facebook page to suggest tunes and artist ‘block parties’. Features on local businesses are interspersed between music programming.
Right now the only way to listen is through the website and the Android/Google app store, but an iOS app for Apple platforms is coming soon.
Their Facebook page is highly interactive and entertaining: https://www.facebook.com/groups/650772559082373/