In this week’s issue… Remembering a legendary Boston jock – Ottawa broadcasters cover a big story – Boston noncomm FM for sale – New channel for NYC’s newest TV – NJ translator move shot down – AM tenant becomes station owner – Remembering a PA TV veteran
*In the last few years, we’ve had the sad duty in this space of eulogizing some of the region’s best-known broadcasters as they’ve left us. But there was something a little different about the news Sunday of the death of Dale Dorman. Legendary as the longtime WRKO (680), WXKS-FM (Kiss 108) and WODS (103.3) jock was on the Boston radio scene, so many of the remembrances of “Uncle Dale” were intensely personal.
“He was the man who I listened to as a kid & gave me my first radio gig,” wrote Shawn Tempesta, now at KMXB in Las Vegas. From Florida’s WNZF, Ron Gitschier remembered reaching out to Dorman for advice on his own first paying radio job. “His reply gave me that little extra push of confidence to go for it…. he explained how radio has been very good to him and recommended that I give it a go. I feel very honored to have had such advice from a beloved radio icon/my idol.”
As long as Dorman’s Boston career was – 40 years of daily radio gigs plus a long run as a TV announcer, too – the memories poured in of his earlier days in radio, too. Dorman started in the mid-1960s at WCHN (970/93.9) in central New York, then became part of the legendary Syracuse radio scene at WOLF (1490) before making a brief foray to the west coast at Bill Drake’s KYNO in Fresno and KFRC in San Francisco. It was Drake who brought Dorman to Boston and WRKO’s morning shift in 1968, but Dorman’s personality ended up growing far beyond the strictures of the tight Drake format.
All of Dorman’s wit, razor-sharp timing and trademark phrases – “Hi Mom!” – were in full flower during the next chapter in his career. With WRKO’s music days waning (Dorman later claimed he tried to recommend to RKO management that they move the music format to FM and take the AM talk in the 1970s), Dorman was fired in 1978, moving briefly to mornings at WVBF (105.7) in Framingham before joining Richie Balsbaugh’s insurgent Kiss 108, becoming a key part of what would become one of the most stable airstaffs in town. For more than two decades, the music stayed young on Kiss even as the jocks got older, and by the time Dorman’s Kiss run (nearly all of it in afternoon drive) ended in 2003, “Uncle Dale” really could have been an uncle or even a grandpa to many of his young listeners. (Many of them had grown up hearing and seeing him in another context: he had a long run in the 1970s and 1980s as a kiddie TV host on channel 56, WLVI.)
Dorman’s next chapter reunited him with the music he’d been playing early in his career: he took over in mornings at CBS Radio’s WODS (103.3) for what turned out to be the waning days of its “Oldies 103” era – and after five years in morning drive, Dorman left quietly and on his own terms in 2008, moving himself to weekends and eventually retiring completely a year or so later. Dorman was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010; he’d apparently been ill recently, and he was 71 when he died last Tuesday.
(That photo, by the way, is from a 2007 episode of WCVB’s “Chronicle” that was a love letter from producer Art Donahue to Boston radio; we’ve been remiss in failing to note here that Donahue, another Boston broadcasting treasure, recently retired after a very long run with that legendary show.)
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The Fybush Media podcast is back – for real! Listen to our latest episode right here!
Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re (finally!) back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.
Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!
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, ten, fifteen and – where available – twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that 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.
One Year Ago: October 28, 2013
*Over the course of nearly 20 years of writing this column, there’s one particular type of story your editor has come to dread writing. It’s the sort of story wherein we learn that radio people are humans, and not at all immune to human foibles and failings. We try, in the course of assembling this column week after week, not to dwell too much on sordid stories of radio and TV people getting arrested for drunk driving or bank fraud or what have you.
But sometimes, you just can’t ignore a story, and so it is with Dave Herman. If you listened to NEW YORK radio in the glory days of rock and roll FM – the days, let’s say, when Lou Reed got regular airplay – you know Dave Herman’s legacy. Starting at Metromedia’s WMMR (93.3 Philadelphia), where he created the “Marconi Experiment” freeform radio in the late 1960s, Herman moved to New York for a short stint at WABC-FM (95.5) before settling in at Metromedia’s WNEW-FM (102.7) by 1972, becoming a morning institution for almost two decades. As WNEW began its long, slow fade, Herman departed for WXRK (92.3) in 1991, returning to WNEW for another brief stint from 1997-1999.
And then came the news Thursday that federal prosecutors had busted Herman at his vacation home in the U.S. Virgin Islands after spending nearly a year building a case against him for trying to arrange a tryst with a six-year-old girl. You can read more about it in the Daily News if you’d like all the sordid details; we’ve been trying not to think about them too much since they became public.
Suffice it to say that assuming Herman is convicted – and the case seems awfully solid – the 77-year-old jock is likely headed to federal prison for much of the rest of his life. For now, he’s been returned from the Virgin Islands to New Jersey to await trial, and we’ll keep you posted as the case unfolds.
*When Bill Mazer died Wednesday at age 92, two markets mourned: not just New York City, where he was a fixture on radio and TV for decades, but also upstate in Buffalo, where a young Mazer is still fondly remembered for his time at WGR (550) and WGR-TV (Channel 2). Born in Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn, Mazer actually came to Buffalo in 1948 to work at WKBW (1520), but his move to WGR four years later solidified his place in Queen City broadcast history. At WGR, Mazer was part of the crew that launched the TV station in 1954. On both radio and TV, Mazer became WGR’s top sports voice, calling Bisons baseball games, minor-league hockey, college football and much more.
In 1964, Mazer came home to New York to become part of the talk radio experiment at WNBC (660), talking sports on weekday afternoons in an early preview of the format that would eventually take over 660 four decades in the future. In that turbulent era for WNBC, Mazer lasted only a few years before moving over to WOR (710), doing some network sports and even game-show work, and then, in 1971, taking over the sports desk at independent WNEW-TV (Channel 5). His regular trivia segments on the air earned him the “Amazin” nickname that stayed with him for decades, and he parlayed them into a series of sports trivia books.
Mazer was part of Rangers and Islanders hockey broadcasts and Knicks and Nets basketball broadcasts, and was part of the early airstaff at WFAN (1050) in 1988, hosting a lunchtime interview show from Mickey Mantle’s restaurant that continued into WFAN’s years on 660. (He returned to WFAN for a one-off shift in 2007 to mark the station’s 20th anniversary.)
Mazer closed out his New York City career with a decade in morning drive at WEVD (1050), where he expanded beyond sports to general-interest talk. After leaving WEVD in 2001, Mazer, by then almost 80, stayed on the air up in Westchester County with a regular shift on WVOX (1460 New Rochelle) that lasted until his retirement in 2009. He died in Danbury, Connecticut, where he’d been in an assisted-living facility for the last two years.
*Not many people in northern NEW JERSEY even know there’s a TV channel 66 in the area – but for those who do pay attention to the West Milford-licensed station, there’s a big change coming at the end of this week.
After 17 years of operation under California-based Family Stations, WFME-TV will change its calls to WNYJ-TV on Friday, switching its programming from Family’s religious fare to the international news and documentary offerings from Virginia-based MHz Networks. No sale of the station has been filed yet at the FCC, but over the weekend the WFME website carried a headline (without a story) announcing the “Sale of WFME-TV.”
Regular readers of this column know, of course, about the financial woes Family has been suffering since expending huge sums last year promoting the end-of-the-world prophecy of its longtime leader, Harold Camping. Family’s need to raise cash to sustain its operations led to the selloff of many of its biggest signals, including the $40 million sale to Cumulus of the former WFME (94.7 Newark), now country WNSH.
That left WFME-TV as something of an orphan, still operating from the old WFME building on First Mountain in West Orange (on RF channel 29) with a hodgepodge of programming that includes some older Family-produced material on 66.1, simulcasts of Family’s current WFME-FM (106.3 Mount Kisco) and San Francisco flagship KEAR (610) on 66.2 and 66.3 respectively, foreign language programs on 66.5, Radio Taiwan audio on 66.6 and National Weather Service audio on 66.7. On 66.4, WFME-TV has been carrying MiND TV independent public television from Philadelphia, a reciprocal deal in exchange for WFME-TV’s programming running in Philadelphia on MiND’s WYBE (Channel 35) on the 35.66 subchannel.
It’s not clear yet whether any of the subchannel programming, or the relay in Philadelphia, will go away when MHz Networks takes over the main channel and the calls change on Friday. For MHz, the new WNYJ-TV will be a foothold in the New York market, though only a partial one: the over-the-air signal lacks the reach of the Empire State Building signals, and Family has been slow to get cable carriage for the station. It’s on Dish Network, DirecTV and Verizon FiOS (as well as AT&T U-Verse in Connecticut), and it’s up at channel 96 on Time Warner’s Manhattan system, but while Cablevision carries the channel in parts of north Jersey and Rockland County, right now it’s not available to Cablevision customers in the outer boroughs of New York City, Long Island, Westchester or Connecticut.
*Alex Langer is up and running with test broadcasts from the first AM signal to transmit from within Boston city limits in many decades. WMSX (1410 Dedham) lit up its 610-watt signal from a site in Readville on Wednesday afternoon, following a hectic few days in which its Valcom whip antenna had to be lowered, cleaned and reassembled to make it work properly after having spent most of the last decade in storage. (Langer is reusing the antenna after it was last pressed into duty as a temporary site for the old WSRO 1470 in Marlborough, before that frequency was moved into Boston as today’s WAZN.)
For now, WMSX is running jazz music as its test signal; Langer tells NERW no definite decision has been made on a launch date for an as-yet-undetermined permanent format.
Five Years Ago: October 26, 2009
He was best known for his TV comedy, but Soupy Sales made a big mark on the NEW YORK radio scene as well. Long before the first pie was thrown at his face on TV, Sales was doing radio in Huntington, W.V., where he went to college – and then TV in Cincinnati, Cleveland and then Detroit, where he launched “Lunchtime with Soupy” sister station WXYZ-TV in 1953. That brought Sales to Los Angeles, and then to New York, where he shot to TV stardom with a daily show on WNEW-TV (Channel 5) that parent company Metromedia syndicated nationwide during the 1960s.
It was at WNEW-TV that Sales did one of his most famous bits, the New Year’s Day 1965 request to kids watching the show to send him the “little green bits of paper” from their parents’ wallets. Channel 5 suspended him briefly, but the incident only boosted his reputation as a TV rebel. The Channel 5 incarnation of “The Soupy Sales Show” lasted only two years, but Sales returned to the New York airwaves two decades later as a key part of the final burst of creativity at WNBC (660), where he occupied the midday hours from 1985 until 1987, sandwiched between Don Imus in morning drive and Howard Stern in the afternoon.
On the air, Sales frequently sparred with his WNBC colleagues, though behind the scenes relations were reportedly more cordial. Sales’ radio run came to an abrupt end amidst NBC budget cuts in 1987, as WNBC entered its final days; he left the air mid-shift on his last day on the station after an on-air attack at management and did not return the next year when WNBC left the air for good, though he later reconciled with then-PD Dale Parsons, according to his account on the New York Radio Message Board this week. (Stern also apologized to Sales many years later, calling the comedian one of his “childhood heroes.”) Sales never returned to radio – or to a regular TV gig – after WNBC, though he continued to make occasional guest appearances in his later years. He died Wednesday night at a hospice in the Bronx, at age 83.
Eastern MASSACHUSETTS could get another 50,000-watt AM signal, if WBIX (1060 Natick) owner Alex Langer has his way. He’s applying to move WBIX’s daytime signal from its current site in Framingham (on the two-tower array formerly used by WKOX 1200, until that station moved to Newton earlier this year) to the five-tower array in Ashland that WBIX already uses at night. That Ashland array was built in the early eighties for the 1060 signal, back in its original incarnation as WGTR, but was repurposed in the mid-nineties for the new signal on 890 that’s now silent WAMG Dedham. 1060 later returned to the Ashland towers for nighttime use only, diplexing with WAMG.
WBIX’s proposed return to Ashland could reignite a battle that kept the old WGTR from ever becoming fully licensed at the Ashland site: back then, WBZ (1030) objected to potential interference to its signal from the third-adjacent WGTR signal, and a steady stream of objections from WBZ itself and from its Group W sister station, KYW (1060 Philadelphia) ensured that WGTR’s then-25 kW daytime signal on 1060 remained at the Program Test Authority stage for a decade and a half. This time, WBIX is submitting a series of measurements that it says demonstrate that the FCC’s “M-3” conductivity map overstates the ground conductivity between Ashland and WBZ’s transmitter in Hull -and therefore that there will be no prohibited overlap between the 25 mV/m contours of WBZ and the relocated WBIX. Will CBS object to 1060’s move this time? Stay tuned…
There’s a station move in the works in the Atlantic City, NEW JERSEY market, where Atlantic Broadcasting is applying to move modern rock WJSE (102.7) right into Atlantic City. Here’s how the move would play out: WJSE would change city of license from Petersburg to Ocean City, and would move its transmitter site some 15 miles north to the Ocean Club Condominiums, right on the Boardwalk. (That’s also the site of WTTH 93.1, though WJSE would apparently be on the other one of the two Ocean Club towers.)
WJSE’s new 4.1 kW/399′ directional facility would serve more of Atlantic County than its present signal, at the expense of most of the station’s present coverage of Cape May County. To maintain the fiction of “first local service” to Petersburg, sister station WTKU (98.3) would change city of license from Ocean City to Petersburg, remaining at its present transmitter site.
In CANADA, there are some big changes coming to CBC’s TV news broadcasts today. On the heels of September’s expansion of early-evening local CBC newscasts to 90 minutes (5:30 to 7 PM), the CBC is now reinstituting late-night local news in most of its markets, in the form of a 10-minute news update at 10:55 PM inserted between a slightly shortened version of “The National” and “The Hour,” which will now start at 11:05. Local anchors for the new 10:55 newscasts include Adrian Harewood in Ottawa (moving to TV from CBC Radio 1’s “All in a Day” afternoon regional show, with Alan Neal taking over the radio show), Aaron Saltzman in Toronto, Susan Pedler in Windsor and Andrew Chang in Montreal.
The CBC changes also include a rebranding of the national all-news network formerly known as CBC Newsworld, which relaunches today as “CBC NN.”
There’s a new signal on the air between Chatham and Windsor. CKXS (99.1 Wallaceburg) signed on this past Tuesday (Oct. 20) at 9 AM, and its airstaff will make their official debut this morning, along with the station’s adult contemporary format. The new station’s talent roster includes GM Greg Hetherington and Gary Patterson (two of the five partners in the station under the “Five Amigos” banner), along with Jay Smith, Dana Treacy and Chris Prince. There’s a website up at www.ckxsfm.com as well.
Ten Years Ago: October 25, 2004
It’s hard to imagine what could be more distracting to most of New England (and the vast expanses of Sox Nation beyond) than a Red Sox run at the World Series, so it’s no great surprise that there’s very little for us to report this week – which is just as well, because there’s a ballgame to watch! But we live to bring you broadcast news, so here’s the skimpy little run of it for this most distracted week (with a promise to be back with much more next Monday, no matter how this whole heart-in-the-throat week ends….)
*Gotta start in MASSACHUSETTS, of course – where the big news (aside from the obvious) was a management shuffle at Viacom’s WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WSBK (Channel 38) that found general manager Ed Goldman heading for the showers after a long run up there on the second floor. We can’t be completely unbiased about this one here at NERW, since your editor worked under Ed in the mid-nineties when he had oversight of WBZ radio (and, for a time, the entire CBS lineup of AM stations, too.) Goldman’s replacement, Julio Marenghi, comes to WBZ/WSBK from the station manager post at New York’s WCBS-TV (Channel 2); it brings him full circle in a career that began – no kidding – in the WBZ mailroom.
It’s a good week for Boston’s WEEI (850), which gets the honor as Sox flagship station of being the only station allowed to carry the home-team radio call of the Series; the rest of the Sox network gives way to ESPN Radio’s play-by-play – which means that even parts of the Boston market (which stretches west into Worcester County, far beyond 850’s nighttime reach) have to listen to the national feed (or, worse, watch the Fox TV coverage with former ’67 Cardinal Tim McCarver and Cards home broadcaster Joe Buck!) instead of the properly biased home team.
Not that we condone this kind of thing, but there’s a Red Sox banner flying from one of the WTLB (1310 Utica) towers in upstate NEW YORK as we go to press Sunday night. The Galaxy-owned standards station didn’t put it there, and they’re rather upset with whoever did climb the tower late last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning to do it, inasmuch as they were trespassing and rather seriously endangering themselves in the process. So, this public safety reminder from your friends at NERW: there’s no reversing the curse that 5,000 watts of RF energy can put through you. Stay away from live towers!
Down in the big city – you know, the one with the only baseball team ever to drop a 3-0 lead in the postseason – Salem’s shuffling programming at its two AM stations. wiping out the contemporary Christian music that’s been heard on WWDJ (970 Hackensack NJ) and rebranding 970 as a second program stream for its religious WMCA (570 New York).
They weren’t as unhappy as Yankees fans – and really, who could be this week? – but about 200 upset senior citizens were out protesting over the weekend in NEW JERSEY, calling on WCMC (1230 Wildwood) to reconsider its decision to flip from standards to oldies. The Press of Atlantic City reports that the protesters carried signs that read “What are we, chopped liver? Wait till you get old!” and were especially vocal about the disappearance of longtime WCMC morning man Jim MacMillan and his very local show.
And up there in CANADA – you know, the country with only one major league baseball team (sorry, Montreal) and no NHL hockey either (er, sorry, Montreal) – there’s one new radio station conducting on-air testing. CHSL (1610 Toronto) comes from the San Lorenzo Latin American Community Centre; it’s reportedly testing with 250 watts before turning on the full kilowatt that it’ll eventually run.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, which could probably use a good Sens game right now, the local radio outlets of the CBC and Radio-Canada said goodbye to one of the region’s longest-running studio locations last week. Thursday’s edition of All in a Day on CBO (91.5 Ottawa) was the last to be broadcast from the Chateau Laurier, the venerable railroad hotel that’s been home to CBO and its predecessor stations (remember, the CBC began as the Canadian National Railways’ radio network) since 1924. CBO and its sister stations (CBOQ 103.3, CBOF 90.7 and CBOX 102.5) move down the street to a new home at 181 Queen Street, and thus ends a very long bit of history.
Fifteen Years Ago: October 23, 1999
As Alex Langer prepares to transform little WJLT (1060 Natick) into the latest revival of Boston’s WMEX, he’s hiring some big names to help. In what has to be one of the more curious career moves in Boston media, Mark Berryhill is leaving his news director job at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) to become vice president and general manager of the new ‘MEX. The move leaves Channel 7 with a serious management gap, since assistant news director Staci Feger-Childers announced her departure from 7 Bulfinch to become news director of Buffalo’s WKBW-TV (Channel 7) earlier in the month. So…just what does Berryhill see in a little AM daytimer? The plan is to bring well-known voices like Jerry Williams back to the Boston talk scene on WMEX, from a studio in a yet-to-be-announced downtown Boston location. Also moving to the 1060 spot will be Upton Bell, now heard on WRPT (650 Ashland), whose frequency will become home to the WJLT calls and religious format now on 1060. (The WMEX calls, by the way, have been hibernating on AM 1530 in McConnellsburg, PA, the once and future WVFC…just in case you wondered.) We’ll see how successful this bet of Berryhill’s and Langer’s is when we hear WMEX powering down at, oh, 4:45 on a December afternoon…
Amherst will now have two full-time public radio outlets in town. For several years, WFCR (88.5) has been leasing part of the broadcast day of crosstown WTTT (1430) to carry additional news and talk programming. Now that service is going 24/7, under the new calls “WPNI” (known on-air as 1430/PNI).
Next stop, NEW YORK, where Saturday found two of the Big Apple’s best-known media voices silenced for good. Jean Shepherd’s late-night rambles on WOR (710) showed a generation of listeners what real storytelling is all about. In addition to radio, Shep wrote books, movies (“A Christmas Story”), spent some time in television — and all but disappeared from public view in the last few years. He was living in Sanibel, Florida, enjoying his hobby of amateur radio (as K2ORS), and making occasional speaking tours. Shepherd was 78.
On the TV side, Jim Jensen was one of New York’s top-rated anchors, with a career at WCBS-TV (Channel 2) that began in 1964 and survived a bout with drug rehab in 1988. Jensen retired in 1995, and had been hospitalized for heart trouble when he died Saturday morning (10/16). Jensen was 73.
Back to New England we go, starting in VERMONT, where WCLX (102.5 Westport NY) is now a fairly potent Burlington signal from its new site across the lake. The station is running oldies in stereo right now…but in a few weeks, it will switch to progressive rock, under the guidance of many of the same folks who used to run the late WEXP (105.1 Plattsburgh, now oldies WKOL). NERW is pleased, and planning a trip to the Champlain Valley sometime soon…
Speaking of WEXP, the current holder of those calls, 101.5 in Brandon, has taken on an actual format. “Express 101” is running CHR, commercial-free at the moment, aimed at the Rutland market.