On the Radio: Will a new station help as politics take center stage?

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioNow that the field of Presidential candidates has been narrowed down to two, things will be heating up on talk radio as we get closer and closer to November. For the first time since the election of 1984, there isn't going to be a Clinton or Bush running for the highest office in the land. Could this be the biggest opportunity since political-based talk radio became popular during Bill Clinton's presidency?

While it's understandable that WCHB AM 1200 has shifted gears throughout much of its programming day towards Gospel music to help fill an underserved audience, that move might have created an enormous opening for someone else to step into. Urban-targeted music-based FM stations are already among the area's most popular - would someone dare create an FM talker to try and take away some of that audience during a time when politics is unquestionably on center stage? Discussions about the platforms of John McCain and Barak Obama along with the controversy over Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should offer plenty of programming ideas that could play well to a local audience.

Commerical news talkers WJR AM 760, WDTW AM 1310, and WDTK AM 1400 - along with public outlets WDET FM 101.9 and WUOM-FM 91.7 - hold the upper hand right now and stand poised to score some big ratings results into the fall unless someone else tries to steal some of the political thunder.

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The political world is still in shock over the sudden death of one of the media's leading voices in Tim Russert who died on Friday afternoon of a sudden heart attack at 58. The host of NBC TV's Meet the Press since 1991, Russert was always in high demand as a radio guest too. His analysis of political issues often turned out to be incredibly accurate and his ability to see both sides of issues earned him an unmatched level of respect from both sides of the aisle.

Russert's death creates a huge hole in political broadcasting; not only for NBC TV, but for radio personalities across the country that model themselves after his work.

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WDET's news department continues its look at cities across southeastern Michigan this week with a 10-part series on Livonia. The series is scheduled to include a live broadcast of Detroit Today from the Livonia Recreation Center on Wednesday, June 18 from 10am to noon.

"Livonia is one of the state's largest cities that is dealing with an interesting combination of issues," says Jerome Vaughn, WDET's News Director. "The city has an aging infrastructure in one part and is also experiencing rapid development in another part. The city continues to be a vital part of our region."

WDET's Livonia series will be broadcast during Morning Edition (5am-10am), Detroit Today (10am-noon) and All Things Considered (4pm-7pm).

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Michigan Radio, the public radio service of the University of Michigan that includes WUOM-FM 91.7 Ann Arbor, WFUM-FM 91.1 Flint and WVGR-FM 104.1 Grand Rapids, announced a gift in memory of Clarkston, Michigan resident Dean Gebo that has established a new endowment fund to support news reporting activities. Through a gift of $15,000, William and Bertha Gebo, residents of Sanford, MI (near Midland) are honoring Mr. Gebo's late brother, a long-time listener and supporter of the public radio station.

Distributions from the endowment will be used expressly for the purpose of supplementing the station's newsroom budget to financially address extraordinary news coverage opportunities when funds are not available. In addition to helping cover unplanned expenses such as reporter travel costs for breaking news, the fund also ensures that resources are in place to help fund professional development and training for reporters.

Station News Director Vincent Duffy says "the endowment will help the newsroom to do its best work without always worrying about the cost. Public radio journalists often find themselves frustrated by limited funding available for important training, or costly news coverage. The endowment will help us to cover the costs for travel expenses related to national political conventions and other opportunities not always accounted for in a budget."

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Oldies WOMC FM 104.3 wraps up its "Father's Day Top 300 Countdown" later today. It's still jarring to me though to turn in to WOMC and hear the term oldies going along with 80's songs like Irene Cara's "Flashdance". While songs that are more than 20 years old are certainly old (like me), I still can't get my head around that the songs from my high school years are officially oldies now. It's interesting that today's WOMC playlist is almost exactly like it was before the format change to oldies in 1989.

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While writing this on Saturday night, I was watching Tiger Woods take the lead in golf's U.S. Open in stunning fashion. While golf is unquestionably much easier to follow on television, it can also be interesting on the radio. If you're an XM subscriber and can't be near the TV for today's final round, tune in to XM 146 to hear if Woods can hold off the competition and continue to play through obvious pain in his surgically repaired left knee. If you're not a golf fan and wonder what all the excitement is about, today might just be your best chance to understand the attraction of Woods competing in a major championship.

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Thanks for your loyalty and the continued support for Art Vuolo and I as we produce this brief look at Metro Detroit radio each week.

Columnist Mike Austerman covered radio for the Oakland Press from September 2001 through April 2008 and can be reached at ontheradio@austerman.com or at PO Box 99392, Troy MI 48099.



Great Column guys. I'm in radio (on-air and promotions) and have moved from Detroit, to Texas, to Arizona, and now I'm back in Michigan (Midland). I'm at a 100,000 watt FM with the #2 morning show in the Tri-cities. And we are a Christian music station. That is not supposed to happen. During all of those moves I turned to your work to keep me up to date on radio in my home town.

Dave B.






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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on June 15, 2008 5:30 AM.

West Michigan: Newsmakers June 15, 2008 was the previous entry in this blog.

Television: Newsmakers June 16, 2008 is the next entry in this blog.

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