Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.
RADIO URBAN LEGEND: A daily Washington D.C. radio show accidentally played a re-run episode complete with a breaking news bulletin from the past.
In 1998, Kojo Nnamdi took over a long-running daily morning talk show called Public Interest on WAMU in Washington D.C. that first began as The Fred Finke show in 1977 (when it was a nighttime public interest show). After a couple of host (and name) changes, WAMU went with “Public Interest” rather than naming it after the new host, Nnamdi.
In 2002, they ended up naming it The Kojo Nnamdi Show anyways, which is what it remains called to this day.
In November of 2002, Nnamdi woke up sick one day and did not feel that he would be able to come in and work.
Without adequate time to find a guest host, the producers decided to re-run a recent show.
They grabbed a show from October and popped it in.
The show went on as it normally did, with Nnamdi discussing various topics. However, while discussing dreams and nightmares with neurologist Richard Cytowik, a bulletin interrupted the show.
Five people had been shot in Montgomery County!!
Yes, the producers had unwittingly chosen the October 3rd episode of the program, the day that the infamous “beltway sniper,” John Allen Muhammed first broke into the news with his early morning sniping murders of four random strangers in Montgomery County, Maryland (just north of Washington D.C.) which was coupled with a shooting from the previous day (Muhammed would go on to murder a sixth victim later that night).
(Here’s Muhammed from his later trial for mulitiple counts of murder – he was convicted and executed in 2009…
While the sniper had been caught a few weeks earlier when the rebroadcast aired, you can still imagine the panic such news started, as the idea of a copycat sniper would be far from unheard of.
The show actually continued for another three minutes before the deluge of phone calls prompted WAMU to pull the plug on the re-run. The network apologized profusely, even sending personal apologies to anyone who wrote into the show.
I can only imagine what Nnamdi was thinking when he woke up from his illness later that day! He had inadvertently been caught up in a sort of War of the Worlds for the 21st Century!
The legend is…
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