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January 15, 2007

...And Down They Came!


*With a full complement of station staff, local media, area engineers, itinerant tower photographers and TV news helicopters on hand, the second try at the demolition of the WOR (710) towers in Lyndhurst, NEW JERSEY came off without a hitch Thursday morning.

Tripods already lined the driveway of WOR's new tower site a half-mile away in East Rutherford when we pulled up to add ours to the crowd an hour or so before the scheduled 11:01 demolition. Just like the first attempt last September, the weather was flawless (if a bit chillier) - clear blue skies and a dynamite view across the river to the Manhattan skyline. But unlike that try, which was halted by local police after the proper permits hadn't been obtained, this one went right on schedule.


In fact, as WOR began its live remote broadcast of the event, the top of the first of the towers (tower 3, the closest to the old transmitter building) had already quietly begun to pitch over before many in the crowd even noticed that the demolition was underway. As the tower crews cut the top level of guys to towers 2 and 3 simultaneously, it took a little over 20 seconds for the two big pieces of steel to fold in on themselves and hit the ground. Tower 3 was first to fall, crumpling about a third of the way up, then landing the bottom of the tower in a sort of arch that would later fall (and which we'd later climb through to survey the wreckage), followed quickly by the twisting demise of tower 2, the southernmost in the array.

After a few minutes' delay as the tower crew emerged from hiding and moved its saws to tower 1, the easternmost in the array, the cameras again began clicking as the final tower began tipping, bent in half, implanted its top section in the ground to form an inverted "U," then disappeared from sight to cheers from the crowd and enormous sighs of relief from WOR chief engineer Tom Ray and the station's management.

Despite fears that the sight of the towers' collapse might cause panic among drivers on the adjacent New Jersey Turnpike, subsequent viewings of the aerial footage (in HD, no less, on WNBC Channel 4) showed that the Jersey drivers didn't even slow down when the towers began falling.

Within half an hour of the demolition, the old WOR site was already full of curious engineers, including several who'd been there when WOR built the Lyndhurst towers in 1967, picking their way through the wreckage (less twisted than we'd expected) to salvage bits of shattered base insulators as souvenirs and examining the cleaned-out shell of the transmitter building that carried the voices of Jean Shepherd, several generations of John Gamblings, and so many other legendary WOR talents for so many decades.

Perhaps our favorite moment from the day: the TV reports later on in the afternoon, including the one in which the earnest correspondent's standup concludes by saying "WOR tells us they'll build new digital towers at a site about half a mile from the old one," never quite noticing that those, er, "digital" towers are right next to her already, and that the backdrop of her standup is the new transmitter building. Sigh...

*Speaking of NEW YORK radio history (as Jean Shepherd might have said, segueing into a WOR station ID), the WNEW call letters packed up and flew south last week, after 73 years on the air in New York. The former WNEW (102.7) is now WWFS, for "Fresh FM," and the WNEW calls now live on the CBS Radio signal at 106.3 in Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) that was WJBW-FM. There's no attempt there to trade on the legacy of the WNEW calls - just a parking maneuver to make sure nobody else in New York tries to use them.

Univision split its New York FM simulcast Friday, keeping "La Kalle" and its reggaeton/hurban format on WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ) and flipping WZAA (92.7 Garden City) to regional Mexican as "Que Buena," with Los Angeles-based morning host Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo.

Noted as we drove down to New York for the WOR tower demolition: WDLC (1490 Port Jervis) has flipped from oldies to ESPN sports. We're not sure how recent that change was - but we can tell you that former simulcast partner WGNY (1220 Newburgh) is still using the "Oldies 1220 and 1490" liners.

Upstate, there's a new music director at the "K-Rock" stations in Syracuse (WKRL/WKRH) and Utica (WKLL), as middayer (and, until recently, morning jock) Ty gets a promotion. Up in Watertown, Chili Walker is out as PD at WOTT (100.7 Henderson). In Buffalo, Shannon Steele is the new midday jock and assistant music director at WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls).

A voice from the upstate radio past made an appearance on New York's "Free FM" (WFNY-FM 92.3) - Larry Wachs, who was trying out for the last two weeks in the 10-midnight slot, was "Fast Larry Wax" on Rochester's WPXY (and Philly's WEGX) back in the eighties, before becoming one of the "Regular Guys" on WKLS in Atlanta. (And a voice from the upstate radio present made a quick cameo appearance on Free FM, too - yup, that was your editor in the studio with JV and Elvis on Wednesday morning...)

From the TV side: Cathy Younkin departs as news director at WSTM (Channel 3) in Syracuse to go to another Channel 3 - WWMT in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she joins former WSTM colleague Jim Lutton, the station's general manager.


What were the top 10 radio and TV news stories in the northeastern US and eastern Canada in 2006? We asked you - and we reviewed a year's worth of NERW reporting - for our special "Year in Review" 2006. If you missed it last week, click on the logo to read all about the year that was.

*It's no surprise, really - but the CRTC made CBA (1070 Moncton)'s move to FM official last week, granting the CBC's 50 kW signal permission to move to 106.1 MHz, where it will operate with 69 kW. The CRTC says it's assured that "the area currently covered by CBA" will continue to have service from the new 106.1 or other CBC transmitters - and while that's true of the local area around Moncton, it's not the case for all the skywave listeners CBA has south of the border, not that they're any of the CRTC's concern.

As part of the CBA approval, the CRTC also granted the CBC a new Radio One transmitter in St. Edward, PEI. The new 1.9 kW signal on 101.1 will fill in an area of western PEI that will lose service when CBA moves to FM.

Now that CJRC (1150 Gatineau QC) has been granted a move to FM on 104.7, Ottawa's tourist-information CIIO has to find a new home. It's applying to move from 104.7 to 99.7.

In Toronto, Canadian Hellenic Toronto Radio has withdrawn its application for a new site for its as-yet-unbuilt CHTO (1690).

*There's a tower down in PENNSYLVANIA, too - or there will be in a few days. Now that Entercom has completed the move of WBZU (910 Scranton) to the rooftop tower of WEJL (630) in downtown Scranton, it's pulling down the old Lehigh tower on Davis Street that was home to WGBI for so many years. (Thanks to Entercom Scranton CE Lamar Smith for a nice tour of both the new and old sites, which we'll be featuring on Tower Site of the Week one day soon.)

So much for oldies on FM in Erie: Connoisseur flipped WFGO (94.7) from "Froggy" to adult hits "Bob FM" last week, sending the "Froggy" oldies down to WFNN (1330), where they replace sports talk. Some of WFNN's sports play-by-play moves to WJET (1400), which remains mostly talk. Look for the calls on the FM to change to WXBB, while the WFGO calls move to 1330.

In Philadelphia, there's a new PD at Greater Media's WMGK (102.9). Charley Lake moves east from KOOL (94.5 Phoenix) to take over the reins at the classic rocker, effective February 1.

Inner City Broadcasting handed the keys of WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) over to new owner Marconi Broadcasting on Thursday, dismissing the station's entire staff as part of the sale. Marconi's not saying yet what it plans to program on WHAT, which had been doing talk for the black community under Inner City. For the moment, the station's running automated, with a variety of music.

Chris McCoy is out at WBEB (101.1 Philadelphia), where co-host Tiffany Hill is handling mornings solo for the moment. Also out in the suburbs: Joe Thomas, who was doing AM drive at WCOJ (1420 Coatesville).

Across the river in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, EMF Broadcasting took the keys to WSJI (89.5) last week, flipping the station to its satellite-delivered "K-Love" contemporary Christian format. (Expect a call change there soon, too.)

New to mornings at WMHX (106.7 Hershey) in the Harrisburg market: Diane Grey, who arrives from WFBE (95.1) in Flint, Michigan to work with Rick Stern in mornings and to host solo from 9-noon.

The Baltimore Orioles have two new affiliates north of the Mason-Dixon line: WOYK (1350 York) returns to the fold after 21 years, and WPDC (1600 Elizabethtown) joins the network as well.

*In MASSACHUSETTS, Tom Finneran joins the ranks of politicians-turned-radio hosts. The former state House speaker, who's fresh from a guilty plea on obstruction of justice charges, signed on with WRKO (680) to take over the morning show, effective sometime next month.

The Finneran show will run from 6-10 AM, filling what had been the first hour of the former John DePetro midmorning slot, which still lacks a host. And the hiring of Finneran means the departure of Scott Allen Miller, who came to WRKO in the fall of 2003. Miller remains on the air until Finneran's show is ready to go, an unusual move in a business where few personalities get even a day to say goodbye. (He's looking for work outside the Boston market now.)

Charles River Broadcasting is selling its last two remaining broadcast properties: Sandab Communications, which already owns AC WQRC (99.9 Barnstable) and soft AC WOCN-FM (103.9 South Yarmouth), is picking up classical WFCC (107.5 Chatham) and rocker WKPE (104.7 Orleans) to add to the cluster. No price has been announced; Sandab says it intends to keep WFCC classical.

In Worcester, the New England Surge indoor football team has signed with WCRN (830) to carry its games in its debut season - and the Worcester Tornadoes' Independent League baseball games will be heard on WTAG (580) next season, with Jeremy Lechan doing play-by-play.

WXRV (92.5 Andover) has a new general manager, as Terry Lieberman moves south from the GM chair at WXRV's sister stations in Vermont.

*In CONNECTICUT, "Jordan" is the new morning guy at WKSS (95.7 Hartford), heading north from WFKS in Jacksonville.

Much more next week as we catch up from our busy time away in New York City - including a NERW Mini-Rant on consolidation and the return of the Minot Misconception...see you again right here next Monday!

From the NERW Archives

(Yup, we've been doing this a long time now, and so we're digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five and ten years ago this week, or thereabouts - the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as "New England Radio Watch," and didn't go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997. Thanks to for the idea - and thanks to you, our readers, for the support that's made all these years of NERW possible!)

January 16, 2006 -

  • One of MAINE's best-known sports voices was silenced early Friday morning in a fire that destroyed his Falmouth home. Frank Fixaris served as sports director of WGAN-TV/WGME (Channel 13) from 1967 until 1992, and had more recently been part of the "Morning Jab" team at WJAE (1440 Westbrook)/WJJB (900 Brunswick)/WJJB-FM (95.5 Topsham).Investigators say the fire was touched off by a cigarette that had not been properly disposed of. Fixaris' wife was able to escape the fire, but Fixaris, 71, died in the blaze. The "WJAB" stations ran syndicated programming in place of the "Morning Jab" show on Friday, after learning of the news; at press time Sunday night, their website had been converted into a tribute to Fixaris.
  • In MASSACHUSETTS, WAVM (91.7 Maynard) founder/advisor Joseph P. Magno appeared in court Friday for hearings on the charges that he raped an underage male student at Maynard High School. During the hearing, evidence emerged accusing Magno of molesting at least four other Maynard High students, some as long ago as 1980. Magno was taken to Emerson Hospital after the hearing, where he's being treated for ongoing medical problems. Meanwhile, WAVM itself returned to the air late last week, as school officials assembled a team of parents and community volunteers to oversee the operation of the station. Until further notice, two adults will be present at all times when students are at the station. There's no word on how the Magno arrest has affected Maynard's consideration of the settlement offer from Living Proof in the ongoing fight for the station's survival; we'll keep following this story closely.
  • A coastal NEW JERSEY FM station is working towards a better signal over Atlantic City and southern Ocean County. Press Communications' WKOE (106.3 Ocean City) has filed its application for its new 106.5 Bass River Township facilities, which will be on the WWSI (Channel 62) tower in Tuckerton. The class A station will operate with 1.45 kW/682' from that site, if the application is granted.
  • Bob Grant signed off from his afternoon shift at NEW YORK's WOR (710) on Friday, but he's not gone from the city's radio dial quite yet. This afternoon, he'll make a guest appearance with WABC (770)'s Sean Hannity, the first time Grant's been heard on that station since he was fired a decade ago for making what were perceived as racial comments. Will this lead to a more permanent slot for Grant on his old radio home? Stay tuned...
  • Sinclair is pulling the plug on its only PENNSYLVANIA newscast. The company announced last week that it will discontinue its 10 PM "News Central" broadcast on Pittsburgh Fox affiliate WPGH (Channel 53), replacing it beginning January 30 with an hour-long newscast produced by crosstown NBC affiliate WPXI (Channel 11). The move leaves 35 WPGH news staffers without jobs, and no promises that they'll be hired by WPXI, which already has a substantial infrastructure in place for additional news. (It's been producing a 10 PM newscast for its PCNC cable news channel for many years.)

January 14, 2002 -

  • Quick - what's the most powerful AM station in MAINE? The answer to that seemingly simple question has changed in just the last few weeks, thanks to a big facility upgrade at a little station in Rumford, up north of Portland. The 1000-watt daytimer on 790 (later adding 21 watts at night) spent most of its quiet life as WRUM, changing calls a few years ago to WLLB when it was purchased by J.J. Jeffrey. Late last year, Jeffrey sold WLLB to Richard Gleason's Mountain Valley Broadcasting, which moved some calls around, giving Rumford the WTME calls from 1240 in Lewiston, which became WCNM. But Jeffrey did something else while he owned 790: he filed an application to move the station down the dial to 780 and boost power to 10 kilowatts daytime, still non-directional. And that's just what WTME did on Christmas Eve, surprising DXers, and half of Portland, with a signal that's now tied for the most powerful in the Pine Tree State, at least by day. (Only Skowhegan's WSKW and Gorham's WMTW were already using 10 kW daytime, and WMTW is directional.) WTME still drops down to flea-power (18 watts) at night, which is problematic this time of year, when the sun's down before 5 PM, but during the day, it's now being heard as far away as Boston (and by DXers as far as Ontario!) with religion and talk programming, simulcast with WCNM (1240 Lewiston) and WKTQ (1450 South Paris).
  • Over in NEW HAMPSHIRE, we can tell you what the call change at WBNC-FM in Conway accomplished: the station now known as WVMJ (104.5) is running an AC format as "Magic," and we hear it's being simulcast on the former WBNC (1050), now WXMT.
  • Down in southern NEW JERSEY, we finally know who's paying $20 million for Bridgeton's WSNJ (1240/107.7). "New Jersey Radio Partners, LLC" is a new name in the market, but its partners are familiar names in the radio world: Ed Seeger and Andrew Guest head up American Media Services of Charleston, S.C., the brokerage that's made its name with innovative FM move-ins. And indeed, the contract to buy the station includes a provision for a move of the FM allocation, presumably to get it closer to Philadelphia and Wilmington (and to clear the way for a power increase at Atlantic City's WPUR 107.3 as well, perhaps...)
  • And up on the North Shore, WUMB has been testing its new signal. WNEF (91.7 Newburyport) will have its inaugural broadcast at 3 PM, Sunday, January 13, with special guests Cheryl Hoenemeyer, Cormac McCarthy and Taylor and Jake Armerding. The transmitter is located at the Adelphia Cable tower in Amesbury; it'll bring WUMB's folk signal to an area north of Cape Ann that's never heard the station before, while protecting co-channel WMWM (91.7 Salem) to the south. The calls, by the way, stand for "We're New England Folk."

New England Radio Watch, January 10, 1997

  • Things are finally starting to shake out over at Boston's talk signal, WRKO (680). After two days of dancing around the subject (presumably accompanied by frantic backstage negotiations), veteran talker Jerry Williams has agreed to stay with WRKO doing a weekend shift, 1 to 4 pm Saturdays and Sundays, starting this Saturday, January 11. Williams endeared himself to NERW forever by spending much of Wednesday's and Thursday's shows lambasting Boston Globe radio critic Susan Bickelhaupt for the Globe's sketchy coverage of the situation. Bickelhaupt and Williams have locked swords before, and with very little to lose, Williams let loose on the air, criticizing Bickelhaupt for failing to call him for information, and knocking her for the bland way in which the Globe's one-paragraph story was written. Also heard on Thursday's show were many of Williams' former producers, going back to his start at WRKO back in 1981. Still very much up in the air is the future of WRKO's morning slot. The feud between co-host Marjorie Clapprood and the station appears to be very real, and it's now been more than a week since Clapprood walked off. Saturday morning host Mo Lauzier filled in on Thursday, relieving Jeff Katz, who's getting ready to start in the 10 pm - 2 am slot next week. Katz was uneven at best during his morning debut, spending the first segment of Wednesday's show in a pointless discussion with other station staffers about who lost the keys to the station van, and later fielding some pretty nasty calls from the listeners. Meantime, Clapprood is reportedly deep in discussions with her lawyers about what to do next, and her co-host Pat Whitley is simply off the air in the meantime.
  • Notes from all over: The lone AM station in Saratoga Springs NY has returned to local programming, after several years of simulcasting oldies WCKM-FM (98.5 Lake George NY). WKAJ (900) is back to its original calls (from WBGG and then WCKM), and has been heard with big band programming. In New Milford CT, Sound of Life Inc. has applied for a translator on 88.5 for its WFGB (89.7 Kingston NY). The FCC has granted the sale of talker WSNV (103.9 Howland-Bangor ME) from Bay Communications to Moon Song Communications. It's also approved a change to noncommercial status for WUOK (1240 West Yarmouth MA), as that station is transferred from Boch Broadcasting to the Trustees of Boston University.
  • Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, We're on the Pirate Bandwagon: Yet another unlicensed broadcaster is getting ready to set up shop in the Boston area. An article in the Allston-Brighton Tab newspaper this week quotes former WGBH producer Stephen Provizer as saying he'll start "Radio Free Allston" next month, running 20 watts on 88.5 from his home on Reedsdale Road in Boston's Allston neighborhood. Provizer says he'll operate five hours a day, seven days a week, serving a five-mile radius and airing commercials from neighborhood businesses.

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*It's here! As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Chicago Sun-Times, and soon on WCVB's "Chronicle," Tower Site Calendar 2007 is not only now shipping - it's close to a sellout! If you're waiting for the 2007 edition to go on clearance sale, don't keep waiting - the word from the shipping department is that fewer than 200 copies remain, and we expect to sell them all in the next month or two.

This year's edition features what we think are the finest tower images yet - from the cover image of WCCO Minneapolis all the way to the back-cover centerfold of WBZ in Boston, and from KGO San Francisco to KOIL Omaha to Philadelphia's famed Roxborough tower farm, captured in a dramatic dusk shot with the lights all aglow.

This sixth annual edition once again contains plenty of historic dates from radio and television history in the Northeast and beyond, and as always, it comes to you shrink-wrapped and shipped first class mail for safe arrival.

You can even get your 2007 calendar free with your new or renewal subscription to NERW at the $60 level.

Visit the Store and place your order today - and be among the first to get the Tower Site Calendar 2007!

NorthEast Radio Watch is made possible by the generous contributions of our regular readers. If you enjoy NERW, please click here to learn how you can help make continued publication possible. NERW is copyright 2007 by Scott Fybush.