January 8-15, 2004

Mansfield and Ashland, Ohio

No question about it - it's hard for anything to follow all those nifty Chicago sites we've been showing you for the last few weeks, but we'll follow up as best we can with a few images captured as we made our long, hard slog home from Indiana in early November.

Our usual route back to Rochester takes US 24 up to Toledo from our midwestern base in Fort Wayne, then I-90 the rest of the way home through Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo - but on this trip we stopped for lunch in Lima and followed US 30 east across the Buckeye State.

When you do that, you pass through an interesting small market where 30 meets I-71: Mansfield-Ashland, halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. We'd heard the market before, but never stopped to see what the towers looked like, and even though the sun was rapidly setting and the day was as gray as only a November afternoon in Ohio can be, we snagged a few photos for the collection.

As we approached Mansfield on US 30, we listened to a few stations that were on the verge of some big changes: the two stations in Bucyrus, classic hits WQEL (92.7) and oldies WBCO (1540), were in the process of being sold by Ohio owner Scantland Broadcasting to Saga Communications (though no format or call changes have taken place there yet), and Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting's WYXZ (98.7 Crestline) was in its last days with a rock format before its Dec. 1 flip to "K-Love" contemporary Christian (and, eventually, new calls WYKL.)

The first tower site we actually saw, on Park Avenue West just alongside the ramp from Ohio 309 to US 30, belongs to the locally-owned Johnny Appleseed Broadcasting Company and its interesting cluster of stations. WRGM (1440 Ontario) does sports, running 1000 watts by day and 28 watts by night from six towers, four of which were too short to be seen from the road this foggy afternoon. The other two are shared with WRGM's sister stations: "Mix 106" WVNO (106.1 Mansfield) is a full class B FM from the tower in the rear - and WMFD-TV (Channel 68)/WMFD-DT (Channel 12) is running 269 kW visual on the analog and 4.8 kW on the digital, also from that tower in back! WMFD is a most interesting local station, since it's the only source of TV news for this region that's on the far western fringe of the Cleveland TV market. They do local news from 5-7 PM and again from 10 PM until midnight on weekdays, and it's truly local news. WMFD boasts that it was the very first independent station to turn on DTV (and why not, with that prime high-VHF allocation!) and that it was one of the first to stream video of its newscasts, too. (There's also an LPTV here; WOHZ-LP carries America 1 programming.)

(Mansfield once had another AM out this way; WCLW (1140) was once a daytimer here but has been deleted for more than a decade now. And WMFD-TV is the successor to WCOM, which tried to rimshot Columbus in the early nineties from a now-dismantled tall tower south of town but never gained Columbus cable carriage and soon went dark.)

A mile or so to the east, just outside downtown Mansfield, the tower site of Clear Channel's WMAN (1400) and WYHT (105.3) sits on McPherson Street, just south of the US 30 expressway through town. That's hot AC ("Y-105") WYHT's six-bay antenna on the taller of the two towers, with news-talk WMAN on the shorter tower. The studios for both stations used to be in the building next door, but they've since been consolidated up the road in Ashland at the WNCO facility.

We find WNCO 10 miles or so north of Mansfield, where US 42 bends to create the bypass around Ashland to join I-71. The vintage building now houses studios for WMAN, WYHT, standards WNCO (1340 Ashland), country WNCO-FM (101.3 Ashland), oldies WSWR (100.1 Shelby) and classic rock "Fox" WFXN (102.3 Galion). Both WNCO and WNCO-FM use that tall tower (405 feet) at rear; it's unusual for a graveyard-channel AM like WNCO to have such an electrically tall (195 degree) tower, and WNCO gets out quite well at night as a result.

(Clear Channel also owns another cluster of stations in the market: the top 40 "Kiss" combo of WWBK 98.3 Fredericktown/WBZW 107.7 Loudonville, AC WQIO 93.7 Mount Vernon and standards WMVO 1300 Mount Vernon are run from a separate facility to the south in Mount Vernon.)

And - aside from a college station (WRDL 89.9 in Ashland), a public radio repeater (WOSV 91.7 in Mansfield) and a handful of religious stations (WVMC 90.7 in Mansfield and southern gospel WLRD 96.9 in Willard) - that's pretty much the market! (Now we just need to get back on a sunny day...)

Stay tuned to this space over the next few weeks as we head back out west and share some 2002 views of Oklahoma City!

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