In this week’s issue… Remembering WBCN’s “News Dissector” – WABC-TV’s Lisa Colagrossi dies suddenly – Jim Quinn’s radio return – Ron Bee, RIP – Buffalo’s Carl Spavento and Scott Cleveland, too
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*It’s hard to remember another week in recent NERW history in which we’ve had the sad task of writing as many obituaries as we did this week, and we lead with the loss of Danny Schechter, who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 72.
For Bostonians of a certain age, Schechter’s name is inevitably followed by “…the News Dissector,” the title he invented for himself at WBCN (104.1), where he presided over one of radio’s most unusual news operations during a tenure that began in 1970. Instead of dry newscasts, Schechter crafted a new kind of radio news for freeform FM radio, mixing music, commentary and a very healthy dose of anti-authoritarianism into the segments he weaved through Charles Laquidara’s morning show.
In the 1980s, Schechter went mainstream(-ish), returning to his native New York City to work as a producer for CNN and ABC, where he contributed segments to “20/20” in its early years. Along the way, he championed the cause of Nelson Mandela in the years leading up to his release from prison, working closely with other activists such as Steve Van Zandt to keep Mandela in the American eye. In the 1990s, Schechter found himself at the edge of public television. His company Globalvision produced top-notch shows such as “South Africa Now” and “Rights and Wrongs” that nonetheless struggled to get national carriage as the public TV system shied from controversial topics.
Schechter wrote several books about the state of journalism and the media and had become an active new-media voice in recent years. In the days since his death, tributes have been pouring forth from all corners of the media landscape – you can see many of them at the Facebook memorial page being curated by his daughter, Sarah, and we’d point to a notable one from our media colleague Dan Kennedy, here, as well.
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*It was a sad week at NEW YORK City’s WABC-TV (Channel 7), where reporter Lisa Colagrossi died suddenly on Friday after suffering a brain aneurysm right after a live shot on the station’s noon newscast. Colagrossi was rushed to a hospital, but not in time to save her. She’d been at WABC-TV since 2001, and before that had worked at WCPX (now WKMG) in Orlando and at WKYC in her native Cleveland. Colagrossi was just 49; she’s survived by a husband and two sons, ages 11 and 14.
In Syracuse, they’re mourning longtime morning man Ron Bee, whose career started on the “Rick and Ron” morning show with Rick Gary at WOLF (1490) and went on to include stints at WSEN (92.1/1050), WRRB (107.9, now WWHT) and a long run alongside Becky Palmer on the WBBS (B104.7) morning show. Bee retired from Clear Channel in 2007 after a car crash that led to the loss of his voice. More recently, he’d been in Seattle battling leukemia, which he attributed to Agent Orange exposure from his service in Vietnam. A stem-cell transplant last fall didn’t take, and Bee died Wednesday.
In Buffalo, they’re mourning Carl Spavento, who was an old-school fixture on the Queen City’s airwaves for half a century. Spavento was chief announcer at WBUF (92.9) in the 1960s, and a newscaster in a later incarnation of the station. Spavento also managed WBNY (1400/96.1) and did news at WYSL (1400)/WPHD (103.3). He retired in 1993 and was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999. Spavento was 96.
When Howard Sgoda was on the air at Buffalo’s WNYS (1120/104.1) in the 1980s, and then for almost 20 years on morning drive at WXRL (1300 Lancaster), he was known as “Scott Cleveland” – and now his voice, too, has been silenced. Cleveland had also worked in northern Pennsylvania at WHLM-FM (106.5) in Bloomsburg and WKYN (97.5) in St. Mary’s in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was just 53 when he died on Friday.
*A promotion at Cumulus in New York City: veteran manager Maire Mason is now VP/GM at “Nash” WNSH (94.7 Newark), where she moves up after two years as general sales manager at WABC/WPLJ down the hall.
Rick Jordan is heading back to radio promotion after three and a half years as PD at WCJW in Warsaw. “RJ” helped transform CJ Country from a sleepy daytime-only AM into a network of five FM translators that covers most of the terrain between Buffalo and Rochester. He’s the new Music Row promotion manager for Grassroots Records, starting today, but he’ll remain based in the Rochester area; over at CJ, the PD opening has yet to be filled.
In Massena, Sanford Cook is back at WMSA (1340), seven months after health problems took him off “The Morning Extravaganza.” Listeners helped raise money to pay Cook’s medical bills and get him back on the air at the station where he’s been for forty-some years. No sooner did Cook get back on the air than WMSA was knocked back off the air Friday by transmitter problems. A weekend Rotary Club fundraiser was moved to sister station WVLF (96.1) remote while the 1340 transmitter was repaired.
*Pittsburgh radio legend Jim Quinn will soon be back on the air – but not, at least at first, in western PENNSYLVANIA. Quinn’s show disappeared abruptly from flagship WPGB (104.7 Pittsburgh) in November 2013, almost exactly a decade after Quinn moved there from his previous morning spot at WRRK (96.9).
A plan to bring Quinn back to the air when WPGB’s conservative talk format moved down the dial to WJAS (1320) last summer fell apart, reportedly over streaming rights. But Quinn’s most loyal affiliate, WYSL (1040 Avon) in the Rochester market, was still pushing for his return, and now WYSL owner Bob Savage is getting his wish. Savage (who worked with Quinn many years ago at the old “13Q,” WKTQ, the station now known as WJAS) tells NERW he’s installed a home studio for Quinn, and beginning April 1 he’ll be back on the airwaves of WYSL, with other affiliates perhaps to be named later. (There’s also no deal yet to bring Quinn’s sidekick, Rose Somma Tennent, back to “The War Room.”)
*There are several format changes teed up for the Keystone State on April 1: in Philadelphia, “DJ Frankie” Rodriguez is planning an April Fool’s Day launch for a new HD/translator Spanish hits format that he’s planning to call “Super Q” (at least until the cease-and-desist arrives from iHeart’s WIOQ, the Philly top-40 signal known for decades as “Q102.”) Rodriguez is leasing the HD3 of Greater Media’s WPEN-FM (97.5) to feed the format to translator W246AQ (97.1 Collingwood NJ), which runs 10 watts from the PSFS Building in center city Philadelphia and is owned by Priority Radio, which has been using the translator as a relay of its WXHL (89.1 Christiana DE). Rodriguez comes to Philadelphia from WKKB (100.3 Middletown RI), where he was PD and morning man.
Hall Communications has a format change on the way at its WLPA (1490 Lancaster). With its ESPN Radio programming now reaching a wider swath of central Pennsylvania by way of WLPA-FM (92.7 Starview), there are promos running now ahead of an April 1 format change on the AM side to the “America’s Best Music” satellite standards format.
Cumulus has hired a new PD/afternoon jock for its Scranton-market “Nash,” WSJR (93.7 Dallas). Mike Vincent starts his new gig there April 1, replacing Mark Stevens.
Larry Herbster’s long journey through TV management started in his native Scranton, and ended there as well, at the helm of WBRE-TV (Channel 28). But along the way, Herbster rose through the ranks of Gannett (at WUSA-TV in Washington and WGRZ-TV in Buffalo) and Nexstar, where he served as GM of WROC-TV (Channel 8) in Rochester before moving to WBRE and sister station WYOU-TV (Channel 22). Herbster retired from WBRE in 2004; he died last Monday, at age 71.
Two Pennsylvania LPTVs are changing hands, and the eye-popping price for one of them shows how important that “class A” designation has become at a time when class-A TVs are eligible to take part in the upcoming spectrum auction. LocusPoint Networks LLC, a big prospective player in that spectrum fight, is paying Abacus Television $1.3 million for WQVC-CA (Channel 46) in Greensburg; up the road in Erie, Channel 45 Media Association is getting just $37,500 from DTV America Corp. for as-yet-unbuilt W45EC-D, which won’t be eligible for an auction payout.
*We don’t often write much about the monthly ripples in Nielsen Audio ratings, but we can’t let the latest monthly PPM numbers from eastern MASSACHUSETTS go without some comment. In an unaccustomed spot at the very top of the 12+ heap in the Boston market is Greater Media’s WROR (105.7), which went up from 6.9 in January to 7.8 in February to take its first-ever #1 position with the highest ratings in the long history of that frequency. (Thanks to ratings guru Chris Huff in Houston for verifying that!)
The brutal winter weather made for big wins for the market’s news stations, too: WBZ (1030) landed in second place, and its 7.6 equalled the total for the two NPR news outlets in town, WBUR-FM (4.2) and WGBH (3.4, its best-ever showing). WRKO without Howie Carr? Don’t ask – it slumped to a 1.4, and Carr’s temporary home on WMEX (1510) didn’t register, though that’s likely because it didn’t buy the book. (As for the rumors that WMEX has been sold? Nothing had been filed with the FCC as of Friday.)
There’s a new LPFM on the air in Lynn: WCDV-LP (89.3) is a rare LP on the “educational” side of the 92 MHz line, and it’s licensed to Iglesia Cristiana Torrente de Cedron, broadcasting Spanish-language religious programming. Up in the Merrimack Valley, Tim Coco and his WHAV.net crew have secured the actual WHAV-LP calls for their CP in Haverhill on 97.9, returning the calls to the city of their origin (on what’s now WCEC 1490) after they’d been assigned to a shipboard radio transmitter for the last few years.
On Cape Ann, UMass is moving ahead with its surprise grant of 91.5 in Gloucester. The long-dormant app had initially been tossed by the FCC for a typo in its coordinates, leading to the grant of 91.5 to WWRN in Rockport instead, but then the FCC revisited the situation and restored the UMass bid. WWRN is on the way down the dial to a new home on 88.5, and UMass recently filed new paperwork to keep the data on its 91.5 application current. When it’s built, the new signal will relay WUMB-FM (91.9) from Boston.
*Will Will Flemming be the last voice of the Pawtucket Red Sox? We’ll have our full Baseball on the Radio roundup next week, but we note this week that the AAA team, now planning a move within RHODE ISLAND to a new Providence ballpark in the next few years, has hired the former voice of the Indianapolis Indians as its radio announcer for the 2015 season. Flemming’s older brother Dave called PawSox games from 2001-2003 before joining the San Francisco Giants’ broadcast team. At McCoy Stadium, Will Flemming replaces Jeff Levering (now with the Brewers) alongside Josh Maurer in the radio booth.
We can’t let the Providence ratings go unmentioned, either: iHeart knew it would take a hit when it downgraded the signal of top-rated WWBB (101.5), but was a drop from 7.9 (and third place, 12+) in December all the way to 4.7 (and seventh place) part of the business plan? (So far, there’s been no corresponding gain for the beneficiary of the WWBB downgrade, “Bull” WBWL in the Boston market, though the planned upgrades there are still incomplete.)
*Former CONNECTICUT governor and WTIC (1080 Hartford) talk host John Rowland was sentenced last week to 30 months behind bars for hiding the money he received to work on a losing congressional campaign. Rowland’s talk show came up at his sentencing, where federal judge Janet Arterton cited what she said was his “total contempt for those laws which was made abundantly clear at the trial, including his shameless use of his radio talk show to advantage one candidate.” If Rowland doesn’t avoid prison time on appeal, it will be his second prison term after pleading guilty to a corruption charge and resigning his office in 2004.
There’s a Connecticut obituary, too, which we were remiss in not reporting last week: Neil Jackson’s long radio career included time in New Hampshire at WKBK in Keene and WCNL in Newport, in the Boston market at WROR and most prominently in Hartford at WYSR (104.1, now WMRQ), WZMX and WTIC-FM. Jackson was most recently working at ESPN in Bristol. Jackson, whose real name was Neil Patrizzi, died March 11 at age 64 after a long fight with prostate cancer.
*A VERMONT religious station is modifying its plans to relocate. WFTF (90.5 Rutland) filed its application to move to Pico Peak from the church that used to own it – but at the same time, another Christian station, WVFA (90.5 Lebanon NH), also filed for a conflicting power boost. Now Christian Ministries instead hopes to move WFTF up the dial to 90.9, still with the power cut to 60 watts and big height increase to 2230′ it had originally sought on 90.5. WFTF is currently carrying Air1 programming from EMF Broadcasting.
In Warren, WMRW-LP (95.1) is raising money to build out its frequency shift to 94.3. The switch, granted in 2013, will get WMRW away from co-channel interference with CBF (95.1) in Montreal, which signed on just before WMRW did in 2004. The move includes a new tower location off East Warren Road, three miles from its present site.
*Spring in northern MAINE will arrive (if it ever does at all) with one fewer AM signal in Aroostook County. WEGP (1390 Presque Isle) is off the air indefinitely while its owners look for a buyer; the 25 kW daytime signal apparently became too expensive to keep running with its former talk format.
In Dixfield, along the Androscoggin River just east of Rumford, mark down WZTZ-LP as the new calls for 102.3, which will belong to River Valley Community Ministries.
*An obituary from CANADA, too: In Nova Scotia, Allan Rowe used a long career in broadcasting to transition into politics a few years back, but his political career was cut short by an aneurysm in February from which he didn’t recover. Rowe worked at CJYQ in Newfoundland in the 1980s, then for ATV in Halifax. For 17 years, from 1995 until 2012, Rowe was a senior anchor, producer and news director for Global in Halifax. He ran for the Nova Scotia legislative assembly in 2013 on the Liberal ticket and won his seat handily. Rowe was just 58 when he died last Monday.
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