Cases like Simpson’s help sports talk radio thrive




By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioLess than a month after the infamous O.J. Simpson low-speed Bronco chase unfolded in the summer of 1994, sports WDFN-AM (1130) took to the airwaves for the first time. As that melodrama unfolded throughout the next year, there was plenty of Simpson trial fodder on WDFN that almost certainly helped draw attention, advertisers and ratings success for the area’s first full-time sports station. The tabloid-like sports concept grew so popular that at one time the area had three full-time sports stations in WDFN, WXYT-AM (1270) and what was WXDX-AM (1310).

Now that Simpson has returned to the headlines for all the wrong reasons, he’s again become a hot topic for discussion, at least temporarily pushing former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick off the hot-topic list. In the past 13 years, sports talk radio has proved to be as much about “pure” sports talk as it is about the controversies created by the stars and former stars of the game.

Hearing the Simpson chatter this past week reminds me of just how much the success of radio relies on its ability to quickly connect with the audience about intriguing issues — even if they resemble train wrecks. I also wonder if the all-sports format would exist today if there hadn’t been a Simpson trial back in 1994-1995.

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Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) enjoyed the biggest ratings increase in the latest summer ratings trend among all listeners. Although it was only a relatively small bump, it moved the station into the top 5 overall, behind adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3), urban WJLB-FM (97.9), news-talk WJR-AM (760) and top-40 WKQI-FM (95.5).

No word yet from WOMC on who might be taking over the midday program permanently; in the meantime, Rick Hunter has been doing a fine job holding down the fort.

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It’s not often that a radio personality gets to say goodbye on his own terms, but Tom Baker, heard most recently doing weekend work for soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3), posted a farewell note on the Michigan Buzzboard,, saying he was leaving radio in favor of a more stable job with the U.S. Postal Service. Baker spent 22 years in radio and was probably most known for his work at country WYCD-FM (99.5) through 2005. His voice will certainly be missed on the radio, as commented on by other Buzzboard posters.

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While WRIF-FM (101.1) has long been known as the “Home of Rock ’n’ Roll,” sister station Classic Rock WCSX-FM (94.7) is becoming known as the “Home of Dogs and Cats” because of all the events it hosts geared toward our furry friends. The station is offering up two more events for pet lovers, starting with a “tail”-gating event to celebrate the grand opening of a new pet resort.

Attendees and their canine companions are invited to tour Pet Ritz America’s new Roseville location next Saturday to see how the area’s most pampered pooches will be treated to luxury lodging, day care, training and grooming. WCSX midday personality Karen Savelli will host and FOX 2’s Vladae, the Dog Czar, will be onsite to provide training advice and answer tough pet questions.

Then Oct. 20-21, ’CSX will present “Howl-O-Ween” at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens, a new indoor pet adoption event that hopes to find good homes for hundreds of homeless kittens, cats, puppies, dogs, rabbits and ferrets. The event will include family and pet-oriented activities and attendees are encouraged to bring their pets to the event. Admission is free, parking is $2. Visit for more information.

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Best-selling author and syndicated talk radio host Laura Ingraham will make a stop in Birmingham this evening as part of her current book tour across America. The Power to the People Tour bus is scheduled to arrive at Borders, 34300 Woodward south of Maple, for a free 5 p.m. book signing. News-talk WDTK-AM (1400), which carries Ingraham’s show locally at 9 a.m. weekdays, will give listeners a chance to meet Ingraham and get an autographed copy of her latest book, “Power to the People.”

“We’re very excited to welcome Laura for her first public appearance in metro Detroit since becoming part of the WDTK lineup nearly three years ago,” says Chris MacCourtney, general manager of Salem Communications for Detroit. “Laura’s Detroit-area audience is very loyal and excited to meet her.” Details at

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Jay Butler, host of religious WLQV-AM’s (1500) “FaithTalk Afternoons” program, heard noon-6 p.m. weekdays, celebrated 50 years in broadcasting this week. His career started at the age of 15 in Jackson, Tenn., and he moved to Nashville several years later. In 1966, Butler came to Detroit joining WJLB-AM and then quickly moved to WCHB-AM. In 1971, Butler returned to WJLB and established himself as a major player in the radio industry by leading the station from 14th place to become the second highest-rated music station in town, just behind the Big 8, CKLW-AM (800).

After a hiatus from radio, Butler returned to Detroit in 1982 and joined WQBH-AM, where he eventually became that station’s program director.

Butler says he is “fortunate to be able to make a living in an industry I grew up in and love, and to have played a part in people’s lives. I’ve met some great people working in this business.”

When asked about the changes he has seen in his five decades of broadcasting, the future of the medium and advice he would give to young broadcasters today, Butler ties it all together with the following wisdom: “Technology is always changing. New forms of competition will come and go. The greatest challenge to broadcasters today is the same as it has always been, and it’s also their greatest opportunity: Recognizing that great broadcasting has always been about creative, passionate people who understand their audience, and deliver the most compelling, relevant, programming content to that audience.”

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Set your dial: Tom Wilson plays the music of the Air Force Band under the direction of Glenn Miller on this week’s Somewhere In Time at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5) and WRDT-AM (560).

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Mike Austerman is the founder of and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, September 23, 2007







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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on September 23, 2007 11:12 AM.

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Sales and Transactions: Week of Sep 21, 2007 is the next entry in this blog.

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