Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, February 19, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
The area’s biggest and best radiothon takes place on Friday at Oakland Mall in Troy as oldies WOMC-FM’s (104.3) Dick Purtan and Purtan’s people hold their annual live 16-hour radiothon to benefit the Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread Club. Every year, the community rallies behind Purtan and crew to help raise a record amount of money for single-day radio fundraisers. Last year’s tally of $1,723,088 will be hard to top — but that’s the goal. Don’t underestimate the power and loyalty of Purtan’s radio audience, sponsors, and co-workers — if anyone can set a new record this year, they can.
Friday’s event, from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., will include live performances by local musicians, comedians and local school kids. There’ll also be live interviews with local celebrities, sports figures, politicians, business leaders and metro area children who came up with creative ways to collect money for the drive. All the money raised will benefit the Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread program, which provides hot meals, shelter, and compassion to the homeless, hungry, and destitute in metro Detroit. As a result of Purtan’s efforts since 1988, the Army now provides more than 6,000 meals each day to the homeless in shelters and on the streets of metro Detroit — and every bit of the more than $10.5 million raised so far has remained in town as part of the local Bed and Bread program.
If you’ve never witnessed great radio in person, head to Oakland Mall on Friday. You can observe a great radio program do good work and make a donation — it’ll be time and money well spent. The event is a labor of love for Purtan and his co-workers and a great tribute to former cast members Gene Taylor and Mark Andrews, both of whom were big supporters of the Bed and Bread program and died too young.
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It must be radiothon month. Last weekend’s effort for St. Jude’s Hospital by country WYCD-FM (99.5) netted $802,812 — an impressive increase over last year’s tally of just above $500,000. “I’m absolutely thrilled with the listeners’ response,” says WYCD program director Tim Roberts. “You can see how much people in Detroit truly care, when they pour out their hearts for children like they have.” And sister station news WWJ-AM (950) spent 30 hours on Friday and Saturday raising money for The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), which provides emergency winter energy assistance to households in 65 countries throughout Michigan. It’s the third year that WWJ has helped out.
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In a recent column, I mentioned that a possible reason for sports WDFN-AM (1130) falling behind sports WXYT-AM (1270) in the ratings was ’DFNs lack of focus on sports. A reader, Bob from Auburn Hills, challenged me on this, so I did some WDFN sampling this week — and unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised by what I heard. On Tuesday afternoon, WDFN afternoon host Mike Stone was discussing cybersex and self-gratification, while WXYT was discussing American skier Ted Ligety winning Olympic gold. Wednesday morning, WDFN was chatting about proper handwashing techniques. ’XYT was on the Pistons’ Darko Milicic trade. I was especially glad I didn’t have my young sons in the car with me during Stone’s cybersex bit. That’s not the kind of “sports” radio that should be on the air at 5 in the afternoon and why I won’t listen when my kids are present. While it may not be fair to compare stations by this type of unscientific sampling, I stand by my opinion — WXYT has become the stronger sports station because of better sports coverage.
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Carl Grapentine has been named as the play-by-play announcer at Michigan Stadium, replacing Howard King who has retired after holding the job since 1972. University of Michigan fans will recognize Grapentine as the voice of the Michigan Marching Band, a role he’ll keep in addition to calling plays via the stadium’s PA. Grapentine was once an on-air host at classical WQRS-FM (105.1) here in Detroit and is now the morning host at Chicago’s classical WFMT-FM (98.7). “I have loved being part of Michigan football for the last 36 years, but now to be the voice of Michigan Stadium is an unbelievable honor,” Grapentine says.
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It’s official — Oakland County just got a new radio station. The kids’ targeted WFDF-AM (910) is now licensed to Farmington Hills after being assigned to Flint since first signing on the air in May 1922. Station owner Disney moved the broadcast facilities from Genesee county to Monroe county last year to give the station coverage of the larger Detroit market.
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Set Your Dials: Hosts Tom Wilson and Heather Novak listen in on the pipe organ music of Leonard Leigh at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) ... Celeste Headlee will produce a new feature on local cultural events at 6:50 and 9:50 each Friday morning on WDET-FM (101.9) AM. She’ll also begin hosting a onehour weekly cultural-based program on WDET in April.
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.