Entries in Vuolo Commentary Category

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

Unlike most people, I read a LOT of radio industry trade publications. Most of them, just like this column was, are delivered via e-mail. I wish you could read some of this stuff. A few are truly unique like R.A.M.P. (Radio And Music Professionals) which is written in a creative manner that often makes fun of the silly press releases they get on a daily basis. In a recent issue when commenting on a format flip of a Tucson station from news-talk to country they wrote "the station will be trying a revolutionary new idea of playing 10,000 songs in a row." That technique has been used hundreds of times by dozens of stations nationwide. They further stated, "reach out to the new station by an amazing new technology called e-mail." I love it. Another trade, called Jockline Daily, targets morning DJ's and often includes actual video and/or audio links to stories they cover! Very cool.

VuoloIt's rare to read any press release pertaining to the radio industry without seeing words like "thrilled" or "excited" or "legendary" or "iconic." A typical story might say "I am thrilled to be starting at the legendary (name of station), and excited to be working with an iconic program director like (insert name)." The words legendary and iconic are now overused as much as amazing and awesome once were. Newsflash! One more new word is about to be "worn out" and it's epic. Now, you'll start to notice its over-use.

Other popular phrases include format flip rather than a format change. Flipping has become very in vogue. When referring to another competing station in the same market most publications use the term crosstown like "this flip leaves crosstown WXXX as the only AC station in Balookaville." This is especially humorous when the two radio stations happen to be owned by the same company and are located in the same building, often just down the hall from each other! By the way AC (in radio) does not stand for air conditioning, or alternating current. It's adult contemporary music.

 

Recently an interesting quote came from well-known iconic Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl, who once worked here in Detroit on the one-time legendary WABX (99.5). He stated, "Radio died the day they started using the Personal People Meter (PPM)."

I actually applauded PPM as being infinitely better than the old system of gathering rating information for radio stations. PPM electronically hears and measures everything you are listening to. The prior method relied on people's memory to write down which stations they listened to. The only problem is that PPM tends to track long-term listening, like in the work place, where the preferred fare is lots of music and little or no talking. Many of us in the radio industry are convinced that it is why PPM is killing personality radio, where entertainment is the key ingredient. Dahl made the statement because his show, while on terrestrial radio, played NO music, it was only talk. He now does an Internet podcast via a paid subscription and still plays no music. He has a huge number of people who pay to hear him talk. Interestingly, Dahl celebrated 35 years on Chicago radio February 23rd. I've always said that people will PAY for what they want, which explains the success satellite radio is currently enjoying.

 

Speaking of personality radio, there was surely an abundance of marquee names on hand for the 26th Salvation Army Radiothon on February 22nd at the Oakland Mall in Troy. This event began when Dick Purtan called a meeting in 1988 and said "let's do a Radiothon for a charitable organization", and The Salvation Army was selected.

WJR Radiothon Final Tally

Purtan's longtime producer and writer, Gene Taylor, got heavily involved and joined the Salvation Army and helped make it a successful annual event. It stayed on that station even after it's identity was "flipped" to WKQI (Q-95), it's now Channel 9-5-5. When the Dickster segued over to WOMC the event moved out of the studio and into the mall, but Purtan was always the main attraction of the event. After he retired in March of 2010, WOMC didn't want to do it anymore so it shifted over to WJR AM. After a year of absence in 2011, Purtan returned as a special guest star in 2012 and again this year, but, with a sluggish economy and a glut of other fund-raisers, this year the final tote was about $400,000 less than the previous year. All of that withstanding, the bottom line was still an impressive $1,364,122. Not too shabby.

Frank Beckmann and Kevin MethenyOne of the many highlights was WJR's Frank Beckmann (pictured on the left with new WJR Program Director Kevin Metheny to his right) submitting to having his head shaved after $10,000 in pledges. Remembering how fastidious the 33 year voice of the Michigan Wolverines is about his hair in years of having his photo on those annual WJR RADIOGUIDES, I was personally stunned by his adaptation of the Mr. Clean look. The last few months have seen many stations locally asking for your donation; WYCD is the home of the St. Jude Drive, WWJ with its efforts for T.H.A.W., and WOMC now tied in with Gleaners Food Drive just to mention a few. The metro Detroit area is known for its generosity, but with so many events asking for your support, it's understandable how goals are more difficult to attain. Finally hats off to Dave Scott and his crew from Woodward One digital for the outstanding job in video streaming the WJR Radiothon on the Internet. He will be at it again on March 15th for Paul W. Smith's annual St. Patrick's Day Party from the D.A.C. So, in case your invitation gets lost in the mail, you can attend on-line!

 

WWJ NewsRadio 950 is set to welcome a new morning anchor who will join the legendary Roberta Jasina, Tom Jordan from KUSI-TV 51 in San Diego. Who is the brilliant sales person that convinced him to leave "America's Finest City" to come here for a 3 a.m. wake-up call? WWJ boss Pete Kowalski better place a TV camera in their new studio so Mr. Jordan will feel comfortable in our wonderful picture-free medium.

 

On a personal note, I just got a Slingbox, a device which allows me the ability to watch any program that's on my home DVR and even record shows all by remote control on my iPad from anywhere in the world where I can get an Internet connection! I'm certain that I will be thrilled with its capabilities. I'm excited to see how it works and will give you a full report soon in this space. Such technology is absolutely epic. Thanks for your valuable time to better understand "Words," and I'm not talking about the song by that iconic group known as The Bee Gee's. Meanwhile keep the radio on, because the Bee Gee's might be coming up next!

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Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

It would be difficult to recall a time when so many people were talking about radio, but lately the listeners have been very vocal about what's been going across the dial. Years ago I stated that there was once a question people would ask, "Honey, can I change the station?" Now the station changes for you. The worst part is that it's being done by "corporate decision makers" and without any concern for you, the listener. They don't care. The giant companies which control nearly all of the major market stations across America care only about the profit and loss columns. Period.

VuoloMuch has been written about the Drew & Mike departure from Detroit's Home of Rock and Roll...WRIF. A lot of it has been speculation and perhaps my thoughts will be as well, but I hope that my words will at least resemble the truth..

Those of you who read my rants, know that I've always said that the answer to ALL questions regarding the goings on of the radio business is MONEY. It's always about the money. Drew & Mike were very popular on The Riff, but they were also expensive. Steve Kosbeau was the general manager of WDVD and WDRQ (Doug-FM) and probably saw the writing on the wall when Cumulus Media took over Citadel Communications, the previous owner of the stations in the Fisher Building. So he assumed a similar position at Greater Media of Detroit, which owns WRIF, as well as WCSX (94.7) and WMGC (105.1) the later of which has seemingly lost its identity after the departure of Jim Harper. The Magic name was dropped and so has its audience. While WCSX maintains a solid presence as Detroit's classic rocker with longtime market fixture Ken Calvert as its morning anchor, WMGC has not. The morning show at 105.1 is hosted by the very talented Chris Edmonds, but you'd have to listen closely to even realize that since its highly restrictive format only permits his speaking about four times an hour. Sad.

Kosbeau was recently replaced by a new boss, Steve Chessare who was brought in from New York. His job is to increase the R&R (ratings and revenue) and the best way to do both is by trimming expenses. Upon reviewing the books and history of the Greater Media trio of stations locally he probably saw that the largest salaries were going to WRIF's Drew & Mike, and before his arrival, Magic's Jim Harper. Well, Harper "retired" in December of 2011 saving a lot of money, but at what cost? That station is pretty much a non-entity at this point. It's running cheap, but who is listening?

It does not take a legal mind to ascertain which large paycheck would be the next one to trim....the boys at Riff. Add to the fact that after 22 years, they (and their audience) was getting older and things starting looking grim. The same could be said of The Bob & Tom Show syndicated nationally from Clear Channel flagship WFBQ in Indianapolis. The youngest member of that show is over 50. They still attract a large audience, are still funny have won more Marconi Awards (Radio's Oscar) than any morning show in America. But, aside from the awards, the same can be said of Drew & Mike.

Dave, Lisa, Chuck The FreakSteve Chessare's job is to improve the bottom line. Although management was being very reluctant until this afternoon to confirm the reports that former 89X morning jocks Dave and Chuck the Freak would soon occupy the morning shift at WRIF, they have finally made official what had to be the worst kept secret in local radio. The new show starts the day after Memorial Day, Tuesday May 28th.

It's also been said that you never want to be the person(s) who follows a legend. Just ask Paul W. Smith. Even though he had nearly a full year of Jimmy Barrett filling in after the passing of JP McCarthy, he still fights for acceptance as the heir to the WJR AM drive throne. Today, Smith is doing very well, as is Jimmy Barrett at Richmond's 50,000 watt powerhouse WRVA (1140).

Remember Deminski & Doyle at 97.1 FM? They didn't mesh well with the change to sports and the relocation to mornings from an excellent and lengthy run in afternoons. After a failed attempt at WCSX and sitting out about two years of not working, they jumped at an opportunity to return to New Jersey 101.5. That's the same station they came here from about 13 years ago. So, I guess you can go home again after all. Interestingly for a whole year they fielded calls that began with "Welcome back guys!"

So the speculation is running wild as to where Drew Lane, Mike Clark, and Trudi Daniels, will wind up. Will they have to remain off the air for the traditional six months before another station can hire them? Not sure. Theories that WCSX or WMGC will pick them up are slim to none. Companies don't let people go and then re-hire them for another job within the same building. Yet, it's rare to let radio talent do a final week on the air and host a final show as well. I was able to be in-studio with my HD camcorder for their final show, but management had me leave prior to the actual sign-off. Bummer.

Let me finish with my feeling as to what could happen to the ousted Riff crew. Out in San Diego there was a similar high-priced popular morning show known as DSC (Dave, Shelly & Chainsaw) at KGB-FM (101.5) close frequency too. In a similar fashion, their contract was not renewed (mostly over money) imagine that. The show was in limbo from January 2012 through August. KFMB AM-FM-TV (another rare combination) picked up the trio for KFMB-FM, known these days as Jack-FM. It's a station very similar to Detroit's WDRQ-FM (93.1) known as "Doug-FM." Ironically KFMB-AM is at 760. Do you see a pattern here? WDRQ's AM sister station is WJR. A shift to 93.1 would not displace any existing morning show since the entire station runs out of a hard-drive in a computer. The station already has a spacious hardly used studio, right next to sister FM station WDVD-FM (96.3) which hasn't been used since Jay Towers hosted the WDRQ morning show over six years ago. It seems so logical that it will probably never happen, but we can hope.

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Finally, in switching gears, I want to drop in a shameless plug for a new toy that I acquired about three months ago called a Sling-Box. If you don't know what it is, let me give it to you in a few simple sentences. With this device you can, on your tablet or smart phone watch anything on your Digital Video Recorder (DVR) in your home, anywhere in the world. All you need is an Internet Wi-Fi connection! While recently out in the Las Vegas area visiting my folks, there I was at their kitchen table with my iPad watching, in HD the news on Local 4 Detroit crystal-clear in real time with incredible video quality. It even works in an airplane, but not in the HD mode. Even if you don't travel extensively, it gives you great control because you can record or playback anything in your home DVR from anywhere. The unit costs $299, but there is a $149 version too and no monthly subscription. On the west coast I could watch my favorite DJ's on Fox 2's Dish Nation at 9 pm without having to wait till midnight. Ain't technology grand? Happy Summertime!

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr. and Jon Quick

Jon Quick worked at WCCO in Minneapolis when I first met him. He spent a decade as program director of the Indianapolis radio station where my radio career began, WIBC. He is today a respected radio consultant and wrote a piece to broadcasters after the horrible tragedy in Moore, OK on May 20th. Here are his words...Quick and to-the-point.

 

The General Manager from one of my client radio stations asked a very timely and important question of me today. Should we have a disaster plan? The answer is absolutely! An EF-5 tornado in a densely populated area makes you rethink things.

So, in light of the latest tragedy in Oklahoma City, it is again another example of where radio is providing a lifeline to the victims for critical information. But, if you're not on the air, obviously you cannot perform this potentially life-saving public service.

The FCC has a ready made set of guidelines for radio preparedness. See the links below. The first is more general; the second a guide specific to radio stations, and very comprehensive. One thing for sure, be prepared first and foremost with an alternate broadcast location that is working. They recommend running test drills with your staff switching to and broadcasting from that location. The listener doesn't even need to know. I know that stations I was involved with after 9-11 took this seriously and made plans. But it's been a long time and it's one of those things we sometimes neglect to think of -- until the next tragedy strikes. It's time for a refresher course.

You'll need maybe one turntable, a microphone, a way to air the commercials (when appropriate), and connection to news networks. Maybe even food and water. I know many stations have it rigged so you just pull a switch and everything switches over to the "new studio." Let's hope none of us ever need it but we'll thank God that it's there if we do.

I would also recommend running promos encouraging people to add the "Tune-In Radio" app to their smart phones so they can hear you anywhere (if you don't have your own app). If you have an iPhone, try the "Streams hi fi" app. One day soon FM chips will be in the phones too, thanks to the dedication of Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan and the FCC. A no-brainer. Many times if people have to flee, they don't think to grab a radio, but will have their smart phones. Fifty percent of your listeners have smart phones these days. I wish I could remember who said it recently, but the smart phone has become the "remote control" of our lives.

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Mr. Quick nailed it! Just a couple of days prior to the destruction in Moore, OK, Jon responded to my column about what is happening to the radio industry in here the 21st century:

 

Broadcasters must realize that they need to become a brand, with their radio content being available in a choice of ways. Not just on-air, but online, and on smart phones. I believe it's still all about content. If it's great and unique they will find you. This also points to the importance of the personality. I can get the music anywhere. But, I can't get a John Landecker or a Joey Reynolds. I work with several Midwest stations that are big with farm and agri-business news. Today the farmer gets the markets instantaneously on their ... yes, smart phones.

The brands that are making it, offer additional commentary and grass roots connections with the farmer (who are more sophisticated than many give them credit for). So maybe listening ON-AIR will go down ... but if your content and branding is great and compelling.... they will still EXPERIENCE you ... but on different platforms. Let's not disregard the recent survey saying the vast majority of people, including the younger ones still want a radio in their cars.

 

Final thoughts from Art Vuolo

Really well put, and probably one of the reasons Jon Quick is such a respected radio executive. It's just so sad that as I monitored Oklahoma City's primary news-talk station, KTOK-AM, owned by mega-owner Clear Channel, budget and staff cuts deprive the listeners, of the type of coverage they deserve. KTOK, like so many stations in cities outside of the top ten, runs syndicated network programming after 6 pm, so all they could do was provide the audio track of NBC affiliate KFOR-TV. I hope that would not happen in Detroit.

This is the peak severe weather season for southeast Michigan. The 2012 Dexter tornado was strangely in the winter, on March 15, six days before the official start of spring. March 20, 1976 was when a twister took aim at the intersection of Maple and Orchard Lake Road. God forbid if that was to be repeated today. However, tornadoes in Flint hit on June 8, 1953, in Novi on June 21, 1987, also June 21 in 1996 hit Frankenmuth and just beyond June on July 2, 1997 there were multiple hits in the metro Detroit area and radio here responded in a big way. We are blessed to have two well-staffed AM news-talk and information stations in WJR-AM 760 and WWJ-AM 950. As we head into a critical time for tornadoes in our part of the country you can rest assured that these stations will not simply plug into TV audio to serve our community. Have a safe summer!

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

Contact Jon Quick via e-mail at jonqconsulting@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

It's a fair statement to describe me a person who, for over fifty years, has loved radio passionately. Certainly there are others who fit that description as well. People like Bruce Morrow, Randy Michaels, Ed Christian, John Records Landecker, Shotgun Tom Kelly and Scott Shannon.

But, let's look closer. When CBS Radio in New York changed the format of America's top oldies station, WCBS-FM on June 3, 2005, Cousin Brucie was one of a plethora of top-notch personalities who were all let go. So, he left terrestrial radio and joined Sirius (now SiriusXM) Satellite Radio. Randy Michaels, is considered one of radios true mavericks. Not everything he's done worked. Some were massive and expensive failures, but he is one of the most daring and outspoken members of our radio fraternity. Ed Christian ran Detroit's WNIC in the late 1970's. Today he owns one of America's best non- corporate radio companies, Saga Communications, but owns no stations here in Michigan. Chicago radio legend, John Records Landecker, is an Ann Arbor native who just penned a hot-selling book entitled "Records Truly is My Middle Name." He has inspired countless "wanna-be's" to become radio DJ's, but today, this Michigan State alum has been reduced to playing over-exposed music, reading liner cards and only speaking about four times per hour. Southern California's Shotgun Tom Kelly made it big in both San Diego and Los Angeles by never forgetting how to have fun on the air and letting that translate through the microphone, the radio tower and finally the speaker of the end user, the listener. He rightfully received his own star on April 30th along Hollywood's Walk of Fame! Scott Shannon is the co-creator of the Morning Zoo format which swept the dial nationwide in the 1980's. He's perceived to be among the most creative broadcasters in America, and some thirty years ago gave me the moniker "Radio's Best Friend."

VuoloThese are just a few of my personal favorites, but there are dozens more, like Dick Purtan, Joey Reynolds and Bob & Tom. Some are retired, some are considered no longer relatable to today's audiences, and others are seemingly always ahead of their time on just about every level. What radio seems to be suffering from in 2013 can best be described in an old limerick "the tried and the true and nothing new." There is still good radio, but like good television, you need to search deep through a lot of weeds to find the flowers. My emphasis here will be on talk radio and the agonizing death of the AM band.

Jerry del Colliano is a radio guy who is concerned about what is happening to the industry and writes a daily blog warning us how large corporations are destroying the medium so many of us love dearly. I know Jerry, and I like him, but don't want this piece to be perceived as a "doom and gloom" manifesto that paints a picture of no hope for the wireless. My personal goal is simply to make people aware of where things are heading before we lose what's left of the audience.

At the September 2011 National Association of Broadcasters Radio Convention in Chicago, I stood at a microphone and asked six of radio's biggest CEO's a simple question. "In the year 2020 commercial radio will be one hundred years old. What will be on the AM dial by that time? Conventional-wisdom feels the AM band would be mostly brokered shows, foreign language or religious-oriented programming. Do you agree?" Only Dan Mason, president of CBS Radio (who brought back 'CBS-FM in New York) offered a truly plausible solution suggesting that AM radio be converted to a digital platform similar to what happen with TV, but what about all those radios out there? Radio is still more portable than TV, but smart phones, tablets and the Sling-Box is changing all of that as well. My personal lean is for AM stations, with FM's in their cluster, simulcast their AM programming on an FM-HD channel. It would give listeners a reason to purchase still struggling HD Radio and offer a clearer method of listening to "Rice Crispy Radio" [AM] with its snap, crackle and pop! AM stand-alone stations face a more difficult option.

What's going to happen next? The very fact that every professional sports team in the Motor City is now carried on The Ticket is proof positive as to what the trend is. CBS Radio in Detroit, which holds to the broadcast rights to University of Michigan football and basketball, clears all those games on their all-news station WWJ-AM (950). Interestingly, U of M sports cannot be heard on FM anywhere in southeast Michigan, yet they can in East Lansing. Go figure. For thirty years prior, the Wolverines were a staple on Michigan's biggest signal, WJR-AM (760) but, that's another long story which can be read on my web site www.vuolovideo.com/umfootball.

It was only a dozen years ago that radio stations nationwide were concerned about the advent of satellite radio. Then it was quickly realized that programming covering the entire nation from 22,000 miles out in space could not be LOCAL. Today, the vast majority of talk stations take more than 75% of their programming from syndication networks which, oddly enough, deliver their shows via satellite and it's NOT local fare.

Personally, the two stations that I find most palatable come from Ohio and New Jersey. Cincinnati's 50,000 watt blow-torch 700 WLW is known as "The Big One." Because its owner, Clear Channel has three other AM properties in that city, two can feature ESPN and Fox Sports respectively and the third has space to clear a large roster of syndicated programs offered by their internally owned Premiere Radio Networks. This leaves WLW, once known as "The Nations Station," free of network obligations keeping it 100% LOCAL and it shows in the ratings and revenue it generates. Most stations are not afforded such a luxury.

From The Garden State, my favorite is an FM talk station, known as New Jersey 101.5 and similar to the Cincinnati station is all local around the clock. Best of all, the great majority of their programming centers around what is commonly referred to as pop-culture topics. High-profile personalities, with excellent on-air chemistry, results in a radio station that is exceedingly entertaining. Entertainment is the missing ingredient in most of today's radio regardless of format. Even though NJ Governor Chris Christie guests on the FM talker each month, the topics are mostly non-political.

On June 12th, 2013 one of radio's true good guys, Bill Bailey, died of a heart attack while participating in a golf outing sponsored by Grand Valley State University's WGVU-AM, where Bailey did the morning show and was program director. The huge turn-out of major radio people and friends at his Celebration of Life ceremony on June 23rd was testimony to how appreciated personalities, who care about their audience, are in this day and age. Some of you may recall when Bill's rich deep voice did wake-up duties at Detroit's 93.1 WDRQ back in the 1970's. He will be missed.

Last fall during the months which led up to the presidential election, I seriously wondered if radio could talk about anything other than politics. So, it was hardly a stunning revelation when a recent radio research project stated that listeners seem to be "burning out" on political talk. Wow, hold the front page!

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With the recent departure of popular morning duo, Drew & Mike, at Detroit's rocker WRIF, radio keeps striving for a younger and younger audience, seemingly unaware it's a demographic that's straying from radio in droves. Many Riff-listeners were very displeased. Only time will tell if Dave and Chuck the Freak will be well received by Detroit's "Home of Rock & Roll," as the company that owns WRIF attempts to reach a younger audience while spending less money on talent.

Ever since 2009 just about every single automobile has been equipped with an auxiliary jack on the car radio. Many vehicles even feature USB ports so that you can easily plug in your iPod, iPhone, satellite radio or anything you prefer other than traditional AM or FM offerings. Radio no longer has the stage (known as the dashboard) all to itself and as the years go by, the competition for your attention, while driving, will continue to intensify.

What concerns me the most is where are we headed? So much of what is on the air today sounds the same. We have truly witnessed the "McDonald's-ization" of our medium. Spin the dial overnight and notice how many times you will hear Detroit-native George Noory discussing the paranormal. Listen to the anger and hate spewed by the right versus the left from Republicans and Democrats with speculation already as to who will replace President Obama in the 2016 election. It has made us more like the Divided States of America. Please show us some mercy.

Innovation and creativity seem to no longer be in the equation of what makes for stimulating content. At every radio conference I attend, and I go to a lot of them, all I hear is LIVE and LOCAL, yet the majority of what gets transmitted by AM and FM stations these days is NOT local and much of it is voice-tracked rather than live. In times of truly important news or an emergency situation, how can radio serve its community if there are no human beings in the building. Remember the mantra "the lights are on...but nobody's home?"

Radio people should NOT rush to drink the Kool-Aid. Sure it may look good and easy to swallow, but today it can have a bitter after-taste because it's laced with bad things. Radio is being run by big businesses, for stockholders on Wall Street and the bean counters who cannot see beyond the bottom line. Let's keep what's ON the air fresher than what's IN the air before we choke the life out of the beloved wireless medium we know as RADIO.

 

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Vuolo: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

The GOOD: It took a little adjusting of the format back to its adult contemporary roots to prompt Clear Channel to see the light, but today (11-07-13) local Detroit area VP of programming, Tony Travatto flipped the identity of 100.3 FM from "Fresh" back to 100.3 WNIC at the same time the station launched its annual All-Christmas marathon. Changing back to the name that most listeners still used anyhow was a brilliant move! Tony is among the best in this business and it's nice (no pun intended) to see the company let him actually do his job.

VuoloIt was not that long ago that we got together for lunch and I remarked that nobody knows the name "Fresh." Most people think it's a description of Subway sandwiches or the Markets at Meijer. Everyone knows 100.3/WNIC which easily flows off the lips as well. So, my hat is off to Tony and his staff.

 

The BAD: Speaking of cut-throat, I know it's no big secret that the AM talk station that I feel is the best in America is the one also known as "The Nation's Station" and that is 700 WLW from down in Cincinnati. Well the man who set up that format of original and local news and talk programming has been let go. His name is Darryl Parks. Those of you who have driven down I-75 to Florida have perhaps noticed the huge diamond-shaped 900 foot tower off to the east in Mason, OH just north of Cincinnati and tuned in the station known as "The Big One."

For 11 years WLW was programmed by Parks who finally got frustrated by the direction that Clear Channel wanted to take the station that he resigned. Afraid that he might sign up with a competitive company, CC-VP Tom Ownes (originally from Cincy) resurrected a position that had been eliminated to keep Parks on board; VP of News-Talk Stations for all of Clear Channel. That is a job that had previously been held by industry vet Gabe Hobbs at WFLA in Tampa.

Everything was good until, as is the case each year, the holidays are coming and so are the cut-backs at Clear Channel. Someone with a Scrooge-like attitude at the company seems to feel it's best to cut jobs before the year ends and just ahead of the Holiday Season...and that leads us to...

 

The UGLY: Find me a city where an AM station still maintains double-digit ratings. They are very rare and yet 700 WLW is there! Gabe Hobbs, who has a very keen insight on the news-talk format, said "WLW has the best talent in the world (even better than KFI) but they DO need to be managed."

He's right.

KFI in Los Angeles, WIOD in Miami and WTAM in Cleveland are all good CC news-talk stations, but much of their schedule is syndicated fare provided by The Premiere Radio Networks. Premiere is owned by Clear Channel and is an excellent provider of top-notch talent like: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. However, because CC in Cincinnati owns FOUR AM stations, they place the network shows on 55 WKRC, the FOX and ESPN sports on 1530 and 1360, leaving WLW free to boast a schedule of ALL live and local programming.

Industry insiders feel the real reason Parks was cut was (like it always is) money. His job will be rolled into the responsibilities of Executive VP of Talk Programming at Premiere, Carl Anderson and the company reduces its pay-roll. Unfortunately, it also cuts an excellent programmer and terrific talk host from 50,000 watt 700 WLW.

Sad.

My prediction as we near the end of 2013, is that when WJR loses Sean Hannity in exchange for Michael Savage after January 1st, that Clear Channel may very well pick up the popular host and convert AM 1130, now known as The Fan, from sports to news-talk. It would be a smart move. Detroit now has TWO FM sports stations with 97.1 The Ticket and newcomer Sports 105.1. Add to this, WXYT-AM 1270, WCAR AM 1090 in Livonia and WTKA-AM 1050 from Ann Arbor and that's a lot of Jock-Talk!

 

The GREAT: Saturday night in Chicago, WJR morning man Paul W. Smith will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago! I will be there and will report on how it went. Paul, who was J.P. McCarthy's personal choice to succeed him, has done an outstanding job over the past 16 years and is most worthy of this coveted honor on November 9th. Regards, Paul W. Smith, you deserve it all.

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Vuolo: Big Al & Ed Kelly sub for Mitch

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Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.

While Mitch Albom is on a heavy schedule of promoting his new book "The First Call From Heaven," listeners are in for a treat once again as Big Al and Ed Kelly sit in for the author/talk host. Big Al Muskovito, as he was called for many years on the Dick Purtan Show at WOMC, is wildly entertaining and very funny. When you add in the multi-voiced Ed Kelly it gets even better. Then toss in Kevin O'Neill on traffic and STOP THE MUSIC! Oh, that's right there is no music on WJR. It's a talk show for God's sake!

A few weeks ago when Kevin and Big Al (who's not as big as he once was...weight-wise) did a show together, I phoned WJR program director Kevin Metheny and told him to sign these two guys to a long-term contract immediately. It was, hands-down, the most entertaining radio I have heard on the 760 AM frequency in a very long time.

What a joy it is to listen to a program where I hear nothing about Obama-Care or democrats versus republicans and hatred being spewed all over the giant 50,000 watts of the Great Voice of the Great Lakes. If you read this in time, Big Al & Ed plus Kevin will be available on WJR-AM 5 pm till 7 pm Monday and Tuesday November 18th and 19th. DO NOT MISS IT!

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

 

Written by Art Vuolo, Jr.

Just last Thursday I was honored to join a table-full of iconic Ann Arbor area sports broadcasters for their weekly lunch at Banfield's Sports Bar on the east side of town. It was good to see Tom Johnston, who I've known since the late 1960's. He was a true sports innovator. I had no idea it would be the last time that I would see Tom. Another longtime friend and chronicler of media in Washtenaw County, Dale R. Leslie, was also at that lunch and provided the following account of Tom Johnston's amazing career:

"Tom Johnston was an Ann Arbor Hometown Boy who grew to earn utmost respect in the collegiate and professional sports world and was paid to do what he loved best- Broadcast Sports. Johnston passed away on Saturday, November 16, 2013 in his residence in Ann Arbor. Memorial Services are slated for mid-December."

Tom Johnston Tom, pictured at right, was an innovator over the course of his career with WAAM AM 1600 Ann Arbor and WKBD-TV Channel 50, one of the nation's first all-sports channels. He encouraged the novelty of a tape delay broadcast when the station's schedule became full. With the blessing of University of Michigan Athletic Director Fritz Crisler in the 1960s, he initiated the Coaches Corner show on WAAM that was broadcast during the U-M football, hockey and basketball seasons and was built around the format of a public luncheon. The current U-M Monday noon public meetings with coaches are not broadcast but evolved from Johnston's Coaches Corner.

Tom Johnston was a charter member of Kaiser Broadcasting's WKBD-TV, Channel 50 in Detroit which was a forerunner of today's ESPN when WKBD launched with all-sports format in 1965. Johnston brought television cameras into the dusty, high corners of Big Ten field houses and did play-by-play of Michigan's Cazzie Russell-era exciting basketball teams. I remember seeing Johnston- sitting on a stool, smoking a cigar, alone in a Channel 50 studio- and delivering a detailed sportscast without a stitch of notes.

But his lasting legacy is in the hearts of those he trained and gave a chance to begin a broadcasting career. As a middle-school student, I was his shadow at WAAM radio. "Can you type?" he asked. When I said I could he gave me a story to rewrite. What faith! What a thrill! I can see him rushing down the hall to the broadcast studio completely encased with wire sports copy and smoking a big cigar. He would deliver a polished broadcast and no listener could guess that much of what he was reading was for the first time.

A consummate professional sports broadcaster- that was Tom Johnston. Arrangements are being made through Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor.

Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at artvuolo@aol.com

 

Michiguide.com 2013 News Archive

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