The Oakland Press - On The Radio, March 25 2005
By: Art Vuolo
Your traveling radio columnist has logged enough miles to last awhile.
First was the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, followed by the retirement party for longtime Buffalo, N.Y., and Detroit radio personality Tom Shannon, best known for his stint on the old CKLW-AM (800). Yes, contrary to his old jingle, the sun finally sets on the Shannon Empire as Tommy does his final broadcast Thursday on Buffalo's oldies WHTT-FM.
From western New York, it was up to Lansing for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Great Lakes Radio-TV Expo, and off the very next day to L.A. for the Talk Radio Seminar orchestrated by industry trade publication Radio & Records.
At all of these events, I heard lots of eye-opening viewpoints on the state of radio today. Here's a quick review.
First, country radio is healthier than ever. Locally, WYCD-FM (99.5) is solid in the local ratings with the return of Dr. Don Carpenter, reteamed with well-respected newsman Bob Schuman. Both program director Chip Miller and assistant Ron Chapman were in Nashville for the confab, which featured lots of live music.
But the group that seemed to wow everyone was the energetic country pop band Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band. If you ever get the chance, don't miss 'em live.
The Talk Radio Seminar also was fantastic. Steve Stewart, the PD at news-talk WJR-AM (760), and Georgeanne Herbert, the operations manager at news WWJ-AM (950) and sports WXYT-AM (1270), were on the Left Coast, where it seemed as though 80 percent of the crowd was from conservative radio. Yet a keynote from liberal air host Al Franken was absolutely riveting.
I also had a chance to meet new radio talk host Jerry Springer, carried locally on progressive talk WDTW-AM (1310). He's an amazingly decent man and an engaging personality, who is negotiating with the liberal Air America network, which could add his show to nearly 50 more stations nationwide.
If you don't know what's going on in the radio business these days, then you don't know "Jack."
That's the nickname of a relatively new format that stations are switching to faster than you can hit the scan button. It features a wide variety of pop and rock music which, as their slogan boasts, "sounds like your iPod on shuffle" (to those without iPods, that means random order).
Metro Detroit doesn't yet have a "Jack FM" yet, but several big cities do, including Los Angeles and Indianapolis. In Philadelphia, a similar format has the name "Ben," as in Franklin.
Locally, we had an "Alice" format at FM 106.7, while XM Satellite Radio features channels named "Fred," "Ethel" and "Lucy." Can "Ricky" be far behind?
At the radio conventions, there was a great deal of concern about radio's most serious competitors - and it's not satellite radio, it's the Internet, especially as it becomes wireless, and the iPod, which the under-25 crowd is buying in staggering numbers.
Radio stations keep aiming for younger audiences, but the irony is that the kids don't seem to be listening to AM and FM stations as much anymore.
Still, they must hear that music somewhere that they're loading on their iPods ...
If you're a man, mark your calendar for the fourth annual WRIF-FM (101.1) Motor City Men's Expo in Novi on April 2. More details on this next week.
Two of our local NPR stations took home seven prestigious awards each from The Associated Press recently. The honors went to Wayne State's WDET-FM (101.9) and U-M's WUOM-FM (91.7). Kudos to both.
Known as "The Fan," sports WDFN-AM (1130) has signed Tiger pitcher Mike Maroth and Lions wide receiver Roy Williams to do weekly in-season, exclusive interviews with afternoon hosts Stoney & Wojo.
Nice move for PD Rona Danziger.
Set your dials: "Somewhere In Time" host Tom Wilson presents a huge tribute to big bands at 6 p.m. Sunday on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.