Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Even after twenty years of traveling back and forth to see the in-laws in Indiana, there are still corners of the Hoosier State where your intrepid correspondent hadn't ventured. In our continuing effort to fill in those blank spaces on our big map of Indiana, we partnered up in the summer of 2010 to do some traveling with two radio companions: Blaine Thompson of Indiana Radio Watch, who knows just about every broadcaster in the state, and Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us, who had never spent any time seeing Indiana towers.
Over the last few weeks here on Site of the Week, we showed you the first two days of this busy trip, which took us through Lima, Dayton and Cincinnati; this week, we show you the beginning of day three, which brought us up I-74 from Cincinnati into Indiana's southeast corner.
Entering Indiana on I-74 from suburban Cincinnati, the first radio town of any consequence is Batesville, but the station there (WRBI 103.9) is off the beaten path to the south of town, so we pressed on to our first appointment of the morning, another 15 miles westward in the town of Greensburg.
They call this the "Tree City" because of a tree that grows out of the tower on the courthouse, and that's why the local radio station is called WTRE, "Tree Country 1330."
We find WTRE's studio and two-tower transmitter facility less than a mile southwest of that arboreal courthouse, out on Park Road on the south side of Greensburg. It's a tidy small-market plant: a big office in front with a window looking into the air studio, where veteran mid-morning man Mark Gravely is on the air when we stop by. The studio adjoins a sales area, which in turn adjoins the transmitter room that's home to a solid-state BE transmitter and an older Collins phasor powering WTRE's 500 daytime watts and its 33 watts at night.
Back in the day (when a young Ball State student named Dave Letterman had a summer job here), there was a WTRE-FM, on 107.3; that station is still licensed to Greensburg, but by the early 1980s it had become WRZQ, focused on the larger city of Columbus, about 20 miles westward. In 1997, WRZQ took a downgrade from class B to B1 in order to move closer to Columbus, and we find its current site between Greensburg and Columbus just off State Route 46, which wends its way through the gentle hills between the two cities.
When we visited in 2010, WTRE was still co-owned with WRZQ as part of the Reising Radio family (it was sold to its local managers a few months later), and our first stop once in Columbus is at the Reising headquarters, a two-story office building at 825 Washington Street on the south end of the business district.
WRZQ and its sister stations are downstairs, and our arrival came just after the cluster had expanded to three stations. The flagship, in the big corner studio looking out to the lobby, is still WRZQ, which does hot AC as "Q-Mix," complete with a sung "Q-M-I-X, Columbus" jingle at the top of the hour. (The legal ID is there, too, just a little more subtly.)
Also using an ersatz set of calls is "KORN Country," just down the hall: this one is WYGB, licensed to nearby Edinburgh, and it had shifted its class A signal not long ago from 102.9 (with a directional antenna aimed west to protect adjacent-channel WXCH 103.1) to 100.3, a frequency vacated by the move-in of the former WIFE-FM (100.3) from Connersville, Indiana to the Cincinnati market, where it's now WMOJ.
WXCH, in turn, had just completed its move into the Columbus market, a multi-step process that took it from 103.1A in Versailles (down by the Ohio River west of Cincinnati) to 102.9A in Hope (using the WRZQ tower east of Columbus), and it had just signed on as a Columbus-licensed 102.9A with oldies as "Mojo 102.9" when we stopped by.
There's another station in the building, too - but WYGS (91.1 Hope), "Your Gospel Station," is a noncommercial outlet under the ownership of Good Shepherd Radio, which has Reising Radio's Keith Reising, Jr. and his father, Keith Reising, Sr., on its board. (WYGS transmits from the WRZQ tower; it's part of a multi-station simulcast that also includes WAUZ 89.1 over in Greensburg.)
A few months after our visit, the Good Shepherd group added a new Columbus signal, WKJD 90.3, which is doing Christian rock as "The Bridge."
In next week's installment, our Columbus visit continues, with a look at the WXCH/WKJD tower site - and a visit to the other big station group in town!
Thanks to engineer Bob Hawkins (WTRE/Reising Radio and much more) and Reising Radio's Keith Reising, Jr., Mike King, Jim Burgan and Dave Wineland for the tours!
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Next week: Columbus, Indiana, 2010 (part 2)