Kathy Denman's career reporting traffic was accidental - when she started in the radio business 22 years ago, she was reporting sports, then news, on Niagara Falls radio. "Radio is a transient business - it's hard to find a job," said Denman. So when she found herself unemployed after years in the field, she took a job reporting traffic for the meantime.
Now, after nine years in Syracuse she says she has found her niche as Director of Operations for Clear Channel Traffic.
"I really enjoy doing it - who knew traffic could be so important?"
Ten years ago, traffic was an afterthought, for both drivers and news media, Denman said. Now, traffic reports are regular elements to both television and radio broadcasts and are kept up-to-date on the internet to meet demands.
Denman and her team are responsible for keeping Syracuse motorists informed, but drivers may be surprised to learn their hometown team is responsible for several other cities:
"If you're getting traffic in upstate New York, it's coming from here," said Denman, from the traffic center in Franklin Square. The center also covers Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, Albany and all points in between, serving nearly 50 radio, (including WSYR 570 and B104.7), and several television stations.
More importantly, said Denman, is the contract Clear Channel has signed with GPS systems like Garmin, plugging the traffic center database into personal GPS systems for constantly updated traffic information.
From the road to the radio
When Denman and her crew arrive at the office in the morning, around 4:30 a.m., they first call relevant police departments, check ongoing construction projects, view real-time traffic on major highways via video cameras, and update the traffic database, part of the Clear Channel nation-wide traffic network.
Then, they figure alternative routes for the unlucky commuters whose routes lead them into traffic concerns.