Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, May 28, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Normally when there is a major change on the radio dial, there is a lot of excitement that goes along with it. And normally I write with a positive outlook on a business that sorely needs people to be excited about its product. Not this time.
When “The Drive” WDTW-FM (106.7) pulled the plug on its struggling rock format, I readily admit I was rooting for a change to country. At one time, W4 Country was my favorite radio station, and I’d always hoped for a return at 106.7. But this week’s format change has left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I chuckled at WDTW’s attempt at fooling you into thinking that by voting on the Internet, you’d be choosing the station’s new format while it was playing songs that ranged from Frank Sinatra to Big & Rich and Twisted Sister. It was pretty humorous to think the folks at Clear Channel would allow a radio station worth millions of dollars to be programmed solely by a short “survey”- especially during last weekend's huge Country Hoedown sponsored by now-rival WYCD-FM (99.5).
But what really has me upset is how disingenuous the station was during the naming “contest”. Listeners were asked to vote for their favorite name on the Web up through last weekend, then instructed to check back Monday morning, when you could vote for one of the top three vote-getters. When I checked online early Monday morning, the 3 choices to vote for were ‘W4’, ‘The Wolf’, and ‘The Fox’. Knowing that WYCD was already using “The Wolf” for a feed on its digital side channel, it was pretty clear that there would be no Wolf howling on 106.7. So imagine my surprise at 9:30 a.m. when I saw the WDTW Web site had already posted that the name we “selected” was The Fox, complete with logos — even while the radio station was still asking people to vote! It took over an hour before that mistake was removed, but by then it was too late. I’d seen it and told several others about it too. At noon Monday the official announcement came that we had a new Fox in town.
It was obvious to me that local radio executives were playing us for fools. I believed it when I read a quote from one of these execs stating that the W4 Country name was “one of the options you can vote for.” Too bad they apparently ignored that vote and did what they obviously had pre-planned. They do not care what you and I think, because they are the experts and we’re just the listeners. I sent e-mail and tried to contact Market Manager Til Levesque and Vice President of Programming Dom Theodore via telephone, hoping for some kind of explanation for what I observed, but I didn’t receive any replies before this column had to be finalized.
The irony of all this? The name selected for the new station is the same one used on the 99.5 frequency in the 1990’s before it became country as WYCD. In one of the best radio stunts in this town’s history, current WYCD morning man Dr. Don “killed” the Fox on Christmas Eve 1992 as Cowboy Hugh, with the help of “Dr. Kervorkian”. (If you’re interested in hearing that monumental event, visit www.detroitradioflashbacks.net and click on the 99.5 dial position.)
Apparently, the people who run 106.7 don’t think Detroit listeners pay attention to things like this and can’t remember the Fox on 99.5 or W4 Country at 106.7. They also probably don’t believe there are a number of us who still have fond memories of The Big 8, Keener 13, Honey Radio, even The Big D on AM 1500. The folks at Clear Channel Detroit had a huge opportunity to score a ton of points with country music fans by actually listening to what we were saying and bringing back W4 Country. Instead, they chose to expose themselves and their dishonest promotions.
This potential listener is disenfranchised.
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Adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9), hip-hop WHTD-FM (102.7), and talk WCHB-AM (1200), along with Art Van Furniture, will be hosting a “Drive Thru Job Fair” on Wednesday at the Art Van Stores on Greenfield Road in Southfield and on 8 Mile in Warren. Anyone looking to find new employment are encouraged to stop by the stores, where on-air personalities from the stations will be giving out information and applications for employment opportunities at many area companies — including Art Van. The Southfield event will run 11 a.m-2 p.m. and the Warren one from 5-8 p.m.
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And getting back to WYCD, congratulations go out to evening host Jyl Forsyth on her recent marriage and decision to adopt a baby from China. Says Jyl, “We are so excited. Being a mom, is the one thing I haven’t done yet in life that I really want to do.” With Jyl’s passion for life, I’m certain she’ll be a great mom.
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Channel 9 (the former CKLW-TV) will run “Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8,” a documentary on CKLW-AM, at 10 p.m. Tuesday, and the show will be repeated twice that night, at 1 and 4 a.m. The show also will air at 10 p.m. Saturday and again at 1 a.m. ... “Somewhere in Time” celebrates “Decoration Day” at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.