Reprinted from the Daily Oakland Press, July 11, 2005
By: Art Vuolo
What’s happening to the news department at the Great Voice of the Great Lakes?
News-talk WJR-AM (760) has seen a changing of the guard in its newsroom of late. Let it be known that three of its most senior newsmen, most of whom have won countless awards for journalistic excellence, have opted to take what some are calling an “early retirement” and were not dismissed by WJR or parent company Disney/ABC. Gene Fogel, Rod Hansen and morning anchor Dan Streeter have each been with the station for 20 years or longer. Fogel will continue to fill in, as needed, on a “parttime” basis. News director Dick Haefner remains in place, and some readjusting of reporters may be forthcoming.
Station management wants listeners to know that WJR will continue to be first in covering local, national and world news that’s important to its large and loyal audience. Reports that WWJ-AM (950) managers were poised at the exits of the Fisher Building were untrue.
Your always traveling radio reporter has just returned from New Jersey, where, after paying the tolls, I participated in videotaping Sean Hannity’s annual Freedom Concert at Six Flags Great Adventure. Hannity is carried locally 7-10 p.m. on WJR.
The crowds that good talk stations can generate for such events is amazing. Despite torrential rains, country pop stars LeAnn Rimes, Aaron Tippin and others made it an extra hot event in the Garden State.
Seemingly every week, there’s more news about that new “Jack-FM” format that has been sweeping the nation. Locally, it’s classic hits WDRQ-FM (93.1), known as “Doug.” While Detroiters have been neutral on the local change, listeners in New York and Chicago are still screaming about the loss of their oldies stations. Chicago radio columnist Rob Feder was inundated with letters and e-mails regarding statements from Infinity VP Joel Hollander, who comes off sounding like an executive who cares little for the listeners.
If oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) were to make a similar change here in Motown, the outcry would probably be just as loud. And let’s stop all of this insane speculation about what’s going to happen to Dick Purtan when his five-year contact expires in December. Let’s just wish him a happy birthday today — and hoist a Slurpee in his honor. (Think about the date.)
As “regular” radio continues to seemingly program for no one older than 50, satellite radio is gaining in popularity with XM adding more than 640,000 new subscribers last quarter and aiming for 5.5 million by year’s end. In a related story, the Hyatt hotel chain announced it’ll be placing XM radios in rooms nationwide. That’s as smart as the deals XM and Sirius have with rental car companies, as it allows the public to experience this relatively new technology at no added cost.
If you’ve been down near Comerica Park as things get ready for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, you’ll see a lot of signage for XM, which carries all the major league baseball teams. But for those who prefer their sports on free radio, catch all of the action of the big game on sports WXYT-AM (1270) which is going all-out for the All-Stars.
Quick hits: WJR’s Paul W. Smith recently won the fourth annual Spirit of Philanthropy Award at the 2005 Vattikuti Invitational at Oakland Hills. Good goin’, PWS. ... Fred Jacobs, the Southfield-based radio consultant and father of the classic rock format, was voted Radio Industry Executive of the Year at the recent R&R Radio Convention in Cleveland. He deserves it. Kudos also to pop-urban WMXD-FM (92.3), as Jamillah Muhammad won program director of the year in her format category at the same confab on the north coast.
Set Your Dials: John Sang takes to the pipe organ with hot TV themes 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.