Radio isn’t as compelling as it used to be

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By: Art Vuolo

On The RadioIs it me or is radio just not the same anymore? As those of you who are regular readers of this column know, I’ve been on the road quite a bit this year, and as I travel I listen to the radio — a lot of radio — and much of it sounds the same.

At a recent radio convention (I seem to go to nearly all of them), consultant Mike McVay hosted a panel called “Keeping Adults on the Radio.” He spoke about growing up near Pittsburgh and listening to a talk show by the name of Party Line on KDKA-AM (1020). It was hosted by a husband and wife team, Ed King and wife Wendy, and no delay was necessary because you never heard the callers on the air.

Oddly enough, as a kid, I used to listen to that same program while growing up in Indianapolis, a city in which I spent my “wonder years.”

McVay said it was truly a compelling radio show, and it was that type of programming that made him want to get into the business. How much of what’s on the air today is truly compelling, and does anything you hear today make you feel like getting into the radio industry?

Last week while I was in Pittsburgh, and after more than 40 years, I had the chance to meet Wendy King. She saw the video of McVay and heard his comments about Party Line, and she was impressed with his insightfulness.

For me, it was a thrill to meet the true first lady of talk radio.

 • • • • • • • • 

Speaking of KDKA, this past Friday marked the 87th birthday of the first commercial radio broadcast. Interestingly, radio will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Nov. 2, 2020, but what it’s going to sound like in another 13 years?

Personally, I think it’s strange that our own news WWJ-AM (950), which also claims to be the oldest station in the United States, and KDKA are currently both owned by CBS. As a further tie-in, ace morning news reporter Rob Milford at KDKA will be one of the more distinguished alumni returning to Plymouth High next Saturday for a 35-year reunion celebration of the school’s WSDP-FM (88.1), known as “The Escape.” Milford was one of the students who helped put the station on the air. He’s also been heard numerous times on WWJ and over on 97.1 FM with Deminski and Doyle.

 • • • • • • • • 

There are a couple of new books hitting the shelves that will be of interest to radio and music lovers, and by the next time we meet, I will give you a full (book) report.

One is from legendary DJ Cousin Bruce Morrow in New York and the other is from former WKRK-FM programmer John Gorman, now based in Cleveland.

 • • • • • • • • 

Quick Hits: More home improvement news. Adam Helfman’s “Hire It Done” on sports-talk WXYT-AM (1270) and FM 97.1, plus oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), is now history. But because Helfman owns the show’s name, he’s taking it to another station. WXYT has replaced it with a program called “Remodel It Right.” Helfman vows to return to the airwaves soon. It might be on a music station, and it could be on FM. Stay tuned.

MoJo and his whole crew have been renewed at WKQIFM (Channel 955), so we should ready ourselves for several more years of phone scams and some of the wilder stunts on local radio. Congratulations to the MoJo in Morning Show. They love Detroit.

Yesterday, the University of Michigan vs. Michigan State University game was back on WJR-AM (760). Since ’JR is now the Home of the Spartans, who took on the Wolverines, the game was on The Big Stick again, but with George Blaha instead of their own Frank Beckmann. Strange.

Former country WYCD-FM (99.5) general manager Maureen Lausord transferred out to Los Angeles about three years ago to run heritage CBS oldies station KRTH, known as K-Earth 101. In a budgetary move, she is now without a job looking for her next opportunity. Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” best described the radio business with one line: “My, people come and go so quickly around here.”

A reader last week wondered “what is the oldest FM station in Detroit.” Oddly enough, it was the FM counterpart to WWJ at 97.1 FM, which today is sports WXYT-FM. The second oldest is urban WJLB-FM (97.9). The first independent FM, not affiliated with an AM station, was WLDM-FM (95.5) which featured instrumental beautiful music for many years in the ’50s and ’60s.

General manager Tom Bender of Greater Media, which owns WRIF, WCSX and WMGC, is a local native who was named GM of the Year by Radio Ink magazine. Bender is unquestionably one of the most respected in the business.

Tom Wilson plays the music of the Ink Spots on his Somewhere in Time program over WMUZ-FM (103.5) and WRDT-AM (560). Oh yeah, did you set your clocks back an hour last night?

 • • • • • • • • 

Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com. Contact him at artvuolo@aol.com.


Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, November 4, 2007

 

3 Comments

ART..
WAS THIS WRITTEN RECENTLY...OR 20 YEARS AGO? At least in terms of MUSIC radio can you REALLY say there's been anything compelling in that time?

BG

Is there anything truely compelling and inspiring today? Well, no. Back when you and I were young(er), radio WAS unique and inspiring, and each station....be it major or small market...had its own "sound". With the rise of satcasters, it's reached the point where a station in Petoskey, MI can sound exactly the same as one in Cle Elum, WA, right down to the spots.

My last radio "job" was a VT gig on a loosely formated country station in a small North Central Washington town. The jocks had the freedom to do pretty much what they wanted. It was fun. Alas, as a cost measure, they went with a sattelite feed. Sounded much more "professional". And predictable. And boring.....

Are we kidding? Art has me stirred up!
Radio has dropped at a high rate of speed and traveled light years from compelling. Radio has now tanked at an all time low, well below boring.
My God it is sheer torture to listen. For someone who was once exposed to hay day WJR, WWJ, WCAR,CKLW, Keener 13 etc it is even worse. We now have digital and AM sounds like a CD but we have people like Saga Communications, Clear Channel and Cumulus running radio stations.
The folks at Saga are people who were exposed to the best in the industry years ago yet one would never suspect it today.
If you travel the country and listen to their stations they are no different and not much worse than the rest of the pack.
Radio has become slave to the mandatory stock holders increase each quarter.
Not only do the companies have to inflate their books and deliver Enron like numbers but they have to use more smoke and mirrors than Harry Houdini to keep the stock holders happy.
There is no more focus on the product.
Thus the product suffers.
It's a race as to who can buy more stations.
It's expand one boring station into multiple mundane digital feeds.
The seasoned radio people are gone and the ones that remain are conscienceless at this point.
They are caught up in owning more just for the sake of ownership.
They are blind to their plight however and a haze covers their radio memories as it does their first reading of Atlas Shrugged.
In the quest of acquiring the world they have lost and sold their own soul.
So how can you fight this boredom?
If you travel then buy an Ipod or Zune along with an XM or Sirius receiver they are cheap!
My choice was XM and Ipod.
If you are on the road locally or away from home get a small cheap CB radio.
Why? Because you can't even depend on a local broadcast for traffic information any more.
I am told costs have been cut so bad most of the traffic is dreamed up from an office with a minimum of mostly outdated information.
Forget emergency weather information, if you get caught in a severe storm keep in mind most of the radio stations are abandoned at night and on weekends.
Companies like Saga have purchased and placed a number of local stations in one building and thats right, not a human in the place after hours. If you happen to find a human present after hours they have no information or knowhow as to how to put it on the air.
Look at these radio conglomerates annual financial reports and tell me they can't afford to provide vital information to their community?
Good radio is gone and probably forever.
No wonder the corporate chiefs were fighting satellite radio. They wake up in cold sweats at the thought of an LPFM launching in their market.
So Michigan Guide be sure and give us any new LP FM listings as they happen.
The LP FM's are like an oasis in the middle of a dry desert even with their limited coverage.
I must say if you love radio then you can find solace in the Michigan Guide site.
Thank heavens there are still some good things around that relate to radio.
It would be nice if you posted some listings that mentioned some of the special broadcasts on XM and Sirius.
Recently XM did a recreation of CKLW I must say it was slightly lame but none the less so very refreshing to see someone putting forth an effort.
I am not in the radio business but I am a CEO of a company that has not had to engage in the inflate the stock game.
It is comforting to be able to focus on our primary product.
That is what will keep us in business will keep our company fit to be handed down to another generation.
That should be an requirement for those who hold an FCC license.

A radio stations legacy is part of a communities history. To abandon it's history is to insult the community. That in itself goes beyond and adds to the lack of service.

When in Detroit the station I miss most is WQRS.

Thanks for this site!
Tom Hayes
NY, NY

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on November 4, 2007 9:25 AM.

West Michigan: Newsmakers Nov 4, 2007 was the previous entry in this blog.

Mid-Michigan: Newsmakers Nov 5, 2007 is the next entry in this blog.

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