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June 25, 2007

WBZ's Sullivan Steps Down


*Add another to the list of job openings for talk hosts in MASSACHUSETTS - and this one's an especially sad one.

As he continues to recuperate from his fourth brain surgery in less than three years, WBZ (1030 Boston) evening talk host Paul Sullivan announced last week that he's giving up the shift, which he inherited after the death of David Brudnoy in 2004.

In a letter to his listeners and colleagues, Sullivan wrote, "The toll my surgeries and treatments have taken on me makes it unlikely that I will ever have the energy to return to a four-hour daily talk radio program."

He'll return to WBZ this Thursday night for a final "farewell" show, and he says he'll continue to be a presence on the station as much as he's able, whether through commentaries, website postings or occasional guest-hosting stints when he's feeling up to it.

We wish Sullivan all the best as he focuses on his fight against brain cancer, of course - and we wonder who WBZ will turn to as it tries, once again, to fill its 8 PM to midnight shift. For the moment, weekender Jordan Rich and WBZ-TV reporter Dan Rea have been covering his shift, but there's nothing to suggest Rea wants the shift full-time, and we'd suspect the station wants someone with deeper political roots than Rich.

The search comes at a challenging time for Boston talk radio: Greater Media's WTKK (96.9) is trying to fill both the morning shift vacated by Don Imus and the late-morning hour being vacated by Mike Barnicle, while Entercom's WRKO (680) is struggling, badly, with its attempt to turn disgraced politician Tom Finneran into a morning host. (Its latest attempt this week will pair Finneran with midmorning host Todd Feinburg.)

We'll be in Boston for Sullivan's last show Thursday night, and we sincerely hope (and believe) we haven't heard the last of him.


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A former WBZ talk host has found a new station in Worcester. Upton Bell, who was heard on Worcester's WTAG (580) from 1992-1999, is the latest addition to the growing airstaff at WCRN (830 Worcester). Initially, he'll be offering commentary on Peter Blute's morning show, three days a week.

Over at WGBH (89.7 Boston), the disappearance of "Open Source" from the 7-8 PM slot Monday-Thursday won't mean an extra hour of jazz after all, as we'd suspected last week. Instead, WGBH has scheduled an extra run of "The World," the news hour it originates in collaboration with the BBC. The 7 PM "World" will run on Fridays as well, displacing "On the Media," which will still be heard Sundays on crosstown WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston).

Out on Cape Cod, we hear WCDJ (102.3 Truro) is back on the air under its new owners, playing oldies as "Dunes 102."

And we're sorry to report the death of Duncan McArthur, GM3TNT, of Avalon, Peninver, Scotland. Why are we mentioning a Scottish ham radio operator here? Because McArthur was one of the prime movers behind last year's centennial celebration of Reginald Fessenden, taking part by phone in the WATD (95.9 Marshfield) commemorative broadcast last summer and working on educational programs to keep Fessenden's memory alive in the Scottish towns where he conducted the European end of his pioneering transmissions in 1906. McArthur died June 19, at 64. There's more on his life here.

*Why did Clear Channel transfer 142 of its stations, including most of the company's CONNECTICUT, VERMONT and NEW HAMPSHIRE holdings, to a new San Antonio-based trust late last week? There were plenty of questions making the rounds of the radio industry, but few answers.

Here's what we know: some of the stations that were transferred to the new Aloha Station Trust are among the clusters being sold to Dean Goodman's Goodradio.TV group - but of the stations Goodradio is buying in NERW-land, only WTSJ (1320) and WCVR (102.1) in Randolph, VERMONT enter the trust prior to the sale.

The trust is also getting the Upper Valley stations heading to Vox ownership - WTSL (1400 Hanover NH), WGXL (92.3 Hanover NH), WMXR (93.9 Woodstock), WTSM (93.5 Springfield VT), WMXR (93.9 Woodstock VT), WXXK (100.5 Lebanon NH) and WVRR (101.7 Newport NH).

That much makes sense - but then we get to the rest of the list. It includes Clear Channel's Seacoast cluster of WGIN (930 Rochester NH), WMYF (1380 Portsmouth NH), WGIP (1540 Exeter NH), WUBB (95.3 York Center ME), WQSO (96.7 Rochester NH), WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth NH) and WERZ (107.1 Exeter NH). It also includes Clear Channel's Hartford cluster - WPOP (1410 Hartford), WWYZ (92.5 Waterbury), WKSS (95.7 Hartford), WPHH (104.1 Waterbury) and WHCN (105.9 Hartford), as well as one station out of the Springfield cluster, WPKX (97.9 Enfield CT).

Also entering the trust are WALK (1370 Patchogue) and WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue), Clear Channel's sole Long Island holdings, as well as three outlying signals in the way-over-the-cap Utica market: WIXT (1230 Little Falls), WSKU (105.5 Little Falls) and WSKS (97.9 Whitesboro).

So what gives? Here's how we understand things: as Clear Channel tries to prepare for possible privatization later this summer, this trust is designed to speed that transfer - if it's approved by shareholders - through the FCC and the Justice Department, by eliminating any possible market-cap considerations. (Because control of Clear Channel would pass to new ownership, the company would lose its grandfathered status in many markets.)

The Upper Valley stations will ultimately escape market-cap issues thanks to the pending moves of WTSM and WVRR. They were both granted CPs last week to move south into the Keene, New Hampshire market, with WTSM relicensing to Swanzey and WVRR to 101.9 in Westminster. We're guessing that the Randolph stations were added to the trust out of an overabundance of caution, just in case they end up counting against the Upper Valley station total before the sales to Vox and Goodradio close.

On the Seacoast and in Hartford, market-cap issues may force Clear Channel to spin one station in each market to stay within the limits, and it appears the company is trying to keep its options as open as possible. By moving all its stations in both markets into trust, Clear Channel can eventually sell whichever station it needs to sell and then move the remaining signals back into the corporate fold. (It's also possible that WPKX won't be deemed to count against the Hartford market - it operates completely separately from the Hartford stations, and transmits from Massachusetts - and that no spins will be needed there.)

Utica, as we've reported, is one of the markets Clear Channel is trying to unload in its entirety, though it's yet to find a buyer for its stations. We're actually mildly surprised that the entire Utica market didn't go into trust, to maximize the company's sale options should a buyer emerge.

As for Long Island and WALK, that move should come as no surprise to anyone who was reading NERW last December. In our Dec. 18, 2006 issue, we told you that Clear Channel was quietly shopping WALK to interested buyers. The reason? Its home market, Nassau-Suffolk, is embedded in the larger New York City market, where Clear Channel isn't parting with its five big-city FMs.

So, to summarize: message-board hyperbole to the contrary, there's no reason to think that Clear Channel's planning to make a complete exit from Hartford or the Seacoast - or from Cleveland, or Dayton, or the other markets where it's putting most of its signals in trust. (We don't expect any format or management changes, since the trust is expected to LMA the signals back to Clear Channel, at least until such time as the privatization becomes a reality.)

There's every reason to think that - if the privatization goes through - one or two signals may be spun off for good, eventually. There's no reason to think that this is anything other than a paperwork maneuver in the markets that are exiting Clear Channel, such as the Upper Valley and Burlington. And there's absolutely every reason to believe that a lot of lawyers are making a lot of money right now, no matter what happens in the end.

BEAT THE PASSWORD RUSH! We've been holding out against the inevitable for many years now, but the time has come. After six years of giving away NorthEast Radio Watch for free, and six more years of asking for voluntary subscriptions from our loyal readers, we can no longer deny reality: if NERW is to continue on as the authoritative source of Northeast radio and TV news that it's become, the burden has to be shared across all our readers, not just those who pay for it voluntarily. So this fall, current issues of NERW and most of the NERW archives from 2003 onward will become password-protected for access by paid subscribers only.

(A few recent issues will remain accessible without a password, and we have no intention of excluding anyone who's truly unable to pay from reading the site. You'll be hearing more about those plans in the months to come.)

If you're already a NERW subscriber, nothing will change for you. Before the transition takes place, you'll receive a password and you'll continue to have full access to the site.

If you're not already a NERW subscriber, now's the time to do something about it. By becoming a charter subscriber now, you'll get the benefit of our current low subscription rates, and you'll have no worries about waiting for a password when the changeover happens this fall. And did we mention that you'll be first in line for the Tower Site Calendar 2008, free to our premium subscribers?

We've tried for many years to hold off this financial reality, but it's become hard to ignore. Not long ago, our pal Dave Hughes put part of his excellent site behind a pay wall, and mandatory subscriptions are an established way of life at and, too, just to name a few. And even with a subscription model, we've just received word that the respected and venerable FMedia! newsletter has gone on what's likely a permanent hiatus.

We have every intention of keeping NERW going strong as we head for our 15th anniversary in 2009, and for many years thereafter, and we're deeply grateful to the many readers who've already come forward with their support in recent years, as well as to the advertisers who've learned how advertising on NERW can reach one of the best audiences in broadcasting at a very economical rate.

If you still haven't subscribed yet for 2007, do it right now at our Support page - and enjoy another exciting year of NERW, guilt-free. And if you have become one of our many subscribers, thank you!

*In MAINE, the movement of Citadel's WCYI (93.9 Lewiston) and WCLZ (98.9 Brunswick) into a trust pending sale meant a change of simulcasts last week: WCYI is now rebroadcasting the AAA sounds of WCLZ, instead of the modern rock of WCYY (94.3 Biddeford), which remained with Citadel. One exception to the simulcast: WCYI is carrying the Opie & Anthony morning show, while WCLZ isn't.

*The Law of Program Director Conservation was in full play last week in NEW YORK.

At CBS Radio's revived WXRK (92.3), the PD chair last occupied by John Mainelli (before the abrupt demise of "Free FM") was filled by Tracy Cloherty, a familiar name in Big Apple programming circles. Cloherty was PD of Emmis' WQHT (97.1) for many years, before retreating to a consulting role, and now she'll trade rap for rock as she moves uptown to K-Rock.

Meanwhile downtown at Emmis, WRKS (98.7) lost its PD. Toya Beasley, who's been with Kiss since 1989, and its PD since 1997, is - you guessed it - dropping back to a consultancy with the station. No replacement has been named yet.

Radio People on the Move, NYC edition: Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, late of WXDJ (95.7) in the Miami market, have returned to New York as the new morning team on Univision's WCAA (105.9 Newark NJ). They're a pretty high-profile team (remember the prank call on Fidel Castro a couple of years back?), which leads to an interesting question - since Univision paid big bucks to lure Luis Jimenez over from SBS' WSKQ (97.9) earlier this year, presumably to do mornings on WCAA once his non-compete expires next year, where will all that talent end up? Meanwhile, here's a New York "Where Are They Now?" - Al Brady Law, former PD at WABC, WNBC and WXLO, among other stations, has landed a new gig as PD of Clear Channel's Birmingham, Alabama talker, WERC (960).

Radio People on the Move, Upstate edition: Tim Noble moves east along the Thruway, trading APD/nights at Syracuse's "K-Rock" (WKRL/WKRH) for PD/afternoons at Clear Channel's WHRL (103.1) in Albany. Back here in Rochester, Dem Jones has been promoted to the PD chair at Entercom's WBZA (98.9 Rochester).

On the TV side of the Albany market, the impending retirement of veteran WRGB (Channel 6) anchor Jack Aernecke means a promotion for Jerry Gretzinger. He'll take over the 5 and 5:30 PM shows on channel 6 when Aernecke steps down July 24, and he'll be co-anchoring at 5:30 until then.

And there's a new set of calls - again - on Clear Channel's Rochester-market 107.3. The former WSNP South Bristol Township, which flipped last month from rhythmic AC to country, is now WCRR.

*There's a morning opening in northwest NEW JERSEY, as Jay Wulff exits morning drive at WNNJ-FM (103.7 Newton). No replacement has been named so far.

*The big news from PENNSYLVANIA is all about signal upgrades, starting with Greater Media's WJJZ (97.5 Burlington NJ), which flipped the switch last week on its new class B signal from the Wyndmoor tower just north of Philadelphia. It's now a 26 kW/682' signal with a directional notch to the northwest protecting WRVV (97.3 Harrisburg), and early reports suggest a much better signal in center city Philadelphia than 97.5 enjoyed from its old site in Trenton.

(There's one small group of WJJZ listeners who aren't enjoying the new signal: we heard from a few smooth jazz fans way up in Hazleton, who put in rooftop antennas just to hear the station, only to have a new translator, W248AK, sign on right in town and right on 97.5 last week.)

Over on the AM dial, KYW (1060 Philadelphia) took a break from the all-news wheel overnight this week, running a combination of promos and dead air as it tuned up its new HD Radio signal. From our somewhat skeptical vantage point where the AM HD system is concerned, we'll be following this particular sign-on with great interest, and here's why: KYW is tucked in to some of the tightest spacing of any big major-market AM signals in the country, 79 miles from first-adjacent WEPN (1050 New York) and just over 31 miles from second-adjacent WCHR (1040 Flemington NJ). The KYW null protecting WEPN falls over a big chunk of territory that's indubitably within the boundaries of the Philadelphia market (think Bucks County, for instance) - and we've long held that a good real-world test of the AM HD system would involve taking KYW, WEPN and WCHR all to digital.

Even without WEPN or WCHR adopting the digital system, we'll still be interested to see whether the sidebands from KYW have any effect on its neighbors' analog signals (including WKMB 1070 in Stirling, NJ, too, come to think of it). And given that KYW is routinely one of the strongest distant signals here in upstate New York at night - and that there won't be anyone running HD right away on its first-adjacent channels - we'll be trying to pick up its digital signal once nighttime AM HD becomes a reality.

The third big piece of signal news from the Keystone State also involves a Philadelphia station, but not the Philly market. WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) has reached a deal with Four Rivers Community Broadcasting to swap sticks in the Harrisburg area. Four Rivers will get WXPH (88.1 Harrisburg), the 540-watt signal that's been bringing WXPN programming to the state capital since 1995. In exchange, WXPN will get Four Rivers' WZXM (88.7 Middletown), which is presently a 200-watt signal that serves the York area when it's even on the air, which it hasn't been. But WXPN will build out WZXM's construction permit for 7 kW/709' from a new tower near the WGAL-TV stick in Hallam, which will make its new 88.7 a potent signal into Lancaster and Lebanon, as well. (WXPN will also get Four Rivers' CP for translator W259AU on 99.7 in Harrisburg.)

*In CANADA, the CRTC is opening calls for new radio signals in Ottawa-Gatineau and in Peterborough, Ontario. These calls for applications are triggered by the receipt of a single application in each market, and they don't always result in the granting of any new licenses. Ottawa's seen a number of new FM signals in recent years, and Peterborough just saw a grant for CKPT (1420) to move to FM, so we'd be surprised if the CRTC grants any big commercial signals as part of these calls. Applications, in any event, are due August 21.

The sale of CHUM Ltd. to CTVglobemedia wrapped up in near-record time late last week, but it's going through without CHUM president Jay Switzer. He announced his resignation, and he says he'll stick around for only a week or two under the new ownership to tie up any remaining loose ends.

In Sherbrooke, Quebec, Corus is buying CIGR (104.5) from Groupe Generation Rock, creating a two-station cluster with Corus' existing CHLT (which is moving to 102.1 from 630). Corus will pay C$1.1 million for the station.

And on Prince Edward Island, the CBC is applying for a new signal in Elmira, on the extreme eastern tip of the island. The area received CBC Radio One service from CBA (1070 Moncton NB), but will lose that service when CBA moves to FM shortly. The new Elmira signal would relay CBCT (96.1 Charlottetown PEI), running 3.15 kW DA/114 m on 92.3.

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!)

June 26, 2006 -

  • It was originally slated to go to Pamal, but the Albany move-in signal of WNYQ (105.7 Malta) will instead go to Regent Communications, which announced Monday that it's buying the station from Vox. No purchase price has been announced yet for the deal, which will put now-silent WNYQ in a cluster with sports WTMM (1300 Rensselaer), rock simulcast WQBJ (103.5 Cobleskill)/WQBK (103.9 Albany), hot AC WABT (104.5 Mechanicville) and country WGNA (107.7 Albany).
  • In Boston, Nassau has confirmed that it's negotiating with Greater Media to acquire the signal of WKLB (99.5 Lowell) and the intellectual property of WCRB (102.5 Waltham). The company tells the Globe that it intends to keep the classical music going on 99.5 once the deal is completed. Stay tuned...
  • If you go looking for the most crowded FM dial in the country, the odds are you'll end up in NEW JERSEY. So it's always pretty big news when a station in the Garden State manages to make a significant signal upgrade, as Press Communications did last week when it turned on the new 106.5 Bass River Township signal for WKOE, the station that was formerly at 106.3 in Ocean City. In place of the "Breeze" soft AC simulcast that had been on WKOE at 106.3, Press is using 106.5 to simulcast "G Rock Radio" from WHTG-FM (106.3 Eatontown), creating a two-signal adjacent-channel simulcast that blankets nearly the entire shore. G Rock had been heard on WBBO (98.5 Ocean Acres) in Ocean County, and the WBBO calls will soon be swapped with WKOE.
  • What next for 98.5, once it gets the WKOE calls? It's unlikely to become "Breeze," since that format's already heard in the area on WBHX (99.7 Tuckerton) - so stay tuned for another new format in the market in the weeks to come.
  • The Albany TV market is about to get its first formal duopoly, as Tribune exits the market and sells its WB (soon to be CW) affiliate, WCWN (Channel 45, formerly WEWB), to Freedom Communications. Freedom owns CBS affiliate WRGB (Channel 6), and for the last few years it's provided some programming, promotions and sales services to UPN (soon to be My Network TV) affiliate WNYA (Channel 51), which is owned by Venture Technologies. Freedom will pay $17 million for Channel 45, which is actually $1.5 million less than Tribune paid for the signal in 1999, when it purchased what was then noncommercial WMHQ. The station began as a commercial operation, under the calls WUSV, before becoming a secondary public TV outlet in the late eighties. Under Freedom, it's likely to add a 10 PM newscast this fall - and we wouldn't be at all surprised if it picks up the WRGB-produced 7 AM newscast that now airs on WNYA. (In fact, we won't be a bit surprised if management of WNYA ends up passing to another Capital District broadcaster to avoid market-concentration issues.)

June 17, 2002 -

  • We didn't even know it was for sale, but WALE (990 Greenville) in the Providence, RHODE ISLAND market is changing hands, for a reported $1.2 million. It's not often that we say "good riddance" to a broadcast owner, but we'll step on the editorial soapbox and note that we're probably not the only ones glad to see the last of Francis Battaglia's North American Broadcasting in New England. For years now, we've been seeing fraudulent coverage maps that claim the 50,000 watt daytime signal reaches Boston and Worcester, when in fact it shoots just a narrow beam over Providence and out to the ocean - and we've been hearing stories from non-radio folks who have been offered a chance to "host" their own radio shows on WALE. More often than not, those shows turn out to be leased-time broadcasts fed in on bad phone lines to no listeners - and do you think those folks will ever consider radio as a serious advertising medium after being burned that way?
  • Arthur Liu's Multicultural Broadcasting is entering MASSACHUSETTS, paying $1.78 million for brokered ethnic WLYN (1360 Lynn), which has got to be some sort of record for a 700-watt former daytimer. The sale takes Peter Arpin's ADD Media group out of the Boston market, an exit that began last year with the sale of WRCA (1330 Waltham) to Beasley.
  • After some bouts with dead air over the weekend, CNet Radio is back on the airwaves of WBPS (890 Dedham), but not for very long. The leased-time programming disappears at month's end, and we hear Mega will begin leasing 890 to an outfit called "Air Time Media," which will program a talk lineup that includes a localized version of the syndicated Doug Stephan wakeup show as well as Neil Boortz, Rusty Humphries and Michael Savage. (NERW says: Is there any niche at all for syndicated talk - syndicated right-wing talk, at that - in a market that's never warmed up to most national talkers?)
  • Down in NEW JERSEY, Scott and Casey are gone again from talker WKXW-FM (101.5 Trenton)/WKXW (1450 Atlantic City). "New Jersey 101.5" had pulled the duo off the air earlier in the spring; now they're headed to afternoons at Infinity's WKRK (97.1 Detroit), where they'll rejoin their NJ 101.5 predecessors, Deminski and Doyle. Replacing them in Jersey is former WFAN sportscaster Craig Carton, who'd filled in on the shift during their suspension.
  • In PENNSYLVANIA, Bruce Bond has returned to the airwaves of Harrisburg - or at least nearby Carlisle, where the former WNNK (104.1) afternoon talk-jock resurfaced this week doing mornings on 80s "Z102.3" WRKZ. The Citadel station also hired Bond's WNNK sidekick "Stretch" to join him in mornings...and no sooner had the duo launched Monday than a lawsuit arrived from WNNK owner Cumulus accusing Bond of breaching his noncompete agreement and stealing WNNK's trade secrets. More on this to come, we're certain.

June 26, 1997-

  • Broadcasters around the Northeast are reacting to last week's FCC complaint against Brian Dodge with a mixture of surprise, anger, and resignation. NERW spoke this week with Paul Lotters, the general manager of WHAZ (1330) Troy NY, the station that's currently being used as the primary for Dodge's "Love Radio" translators in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The complaint filed by Carter Broadcasting claims Dodge has illegally taken financial support from WHAZ for the translators, as well as illegally taking control of those translators in the first place.
  • While Lotters hasn't seen the actual complaint yet, he tells NERW he had no idea there were any problems with the operation. "I'm very perturbed. I'm very concerned about the whole situation, naturally," Lotters said.
  • Lotters says WHAZ's sole purpose is to bring religious programming to its listeners in the Albany area, as well as in the adjacent areas served by relays WMYY (97.3 Schoharie) and WBAR (94.7 Lake Luzerne), and while he was happy to have Dodge's translators expanding that audience, he doesn't want to do anything to get in the way of WHAZ's main mission. And he tells NERW that WHAZ won't continue its relationship with Dodge if he finds Dodge has broken FCC rules. "If there's anything we shouldn't have done, the connection [with Dodge] will be disconnected," Lotters told NERW in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. Brian Dodge has not returned NERW's phone calls; we'll bring you his response as soon as he does. (2007 update: he never did.)
  • We'll begin the rest of this week's news in NEW YORK, where four of Buffalo's biggest radio stations have a new owner. Charlie Banta's Mercury Broadcasting gets $62 million for oldies WHTT-AM/FM (1120/104.1), modern rock WEDG (103.3), and classic rock WGRF (96.9), and Banta stays on board under new owner Buffalo Broadcasting Partners II. The company also has broadcasting interests just down the Thruway in Syracuse, where it's the owner of Pilot Communications, which has rocker WAQX (95.7 Manlius), CHR WNTQ (93.1), AC WLTI (105.9), and news WNSS (1260) in its stable.
  • We have an answer to last issue's questions about the dual-frequency operation of WCGR in Canandaigua NY, thanks to Tom Taylor and our friends at the M Street Journal. It seems WCGR owner George Kimble went back to the FCC after putting the new full-time 1310 kHz WCGR signal on the air, to see if there was any way of keeping the old daytime-only 1550 facility to fill in some holes to the east in the 1310 directional pattern. The FCC obliged by "recharacterizing" WCGR's application to change frequency, as an application for a new station on 1310, thus allowing Kimble to keep both the "new station" on 1310 and the original station on 1550.

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*If you were waiting for Tower Site Calendar 2007 to go on clearance sale - sorry! As of June 1, the shipping department (which would be Mrs. Fybush, with an occasional assist from Ariel) informs us that the 2007 edition is now SOLD OUT.

Many thanks to all of you who've supported the calendar over the past six years, and stay tuned for details on the even better Tower Site Calendar 2008, for which ordering will begin later this summer. (You can be first on the list for the new edition, which will be back from the printer in early August, by subscribing or renewing at the $60 professional level!) And in the meantime, visit the Store for information on remaining back issues of the Tower Site Calendar.

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.