In this week’s issue… Car crash damages WNRI – Jim LeCorchick, RIP – Irv Weinstein’s battle – A radio donut? – Hockey on the Radio: The Minor Leagues
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Small-market radio is hard enough these days without having an SUV plow through the general manager’s corner office in the middle of the night.
That’s what happened on Diamond Hill Road in Woonsocket, RHODE ISLAND early Wednesday morning, when that SUV went off the road and right into Dick Bouchard’s office at WNRI (1380). Police showed up to find the driver, 29-year-old Thomas Hall, still in the driver’s seat of the vehicle; they took him to the hospital and charged him with possession of narcotics and DUI, and he was treated and released in the morning.
As with most stations in Woonsocket-sized markets, WNRI was on automation when the crash happened (it’s just 18 watts after dark), so there was nobody in the building to be injured. The building itself, however, wasn’t so lucky – it took a bunch of steel columns to prop the corner of the roof up so that the debris could be removed from what was Bouchard’s office.
Fortunately, most of WNRI’s broadcast equipment wasn’t in the corner of the building that the SUV hit. Once power was restored to the building around 3 AM on Wednesday, the station signed back on the air with time to spare before Dave Dean’s morning show.
We’re relieved for WNRI’s staff that the damage wasn’t worse (and that nobody was injured) – but it’s a good reminder that emergency planning needs to cover all kinds of calamities, including an SUV through the corner office. Is your station ready to keep broadcasting after an incident like this one?
(Photo by Dave Dean/WNRI)
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*Western NEW YORK TV icon Irv Weinstein is ailing. The longtime WKBW-TV (Channel 7) and WKBW (1520) newsman told the Buffalo News over the weekend that he’s been diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”), and that the disease has left him almost unable to walk. Weinstein, 86, now lives in southern California, where doctors tell him he can expect “five to six years” before the disease is likely to take his life. “My plans are to do everything I can to maintain a semblance of a normal life,” he told the News for its front-page story on Sunday.
Saga’s Cayuga Radio Group is once again playing “follow the bouncing translator” in Ithaca, where it’s paying Kent State University $35,000 for translator W237DX from East Liverpool, Ohio. That translator will move to Ithaca on 94.1 with 250 watts, where it will relay WNYY (1470) – which will in turn send its existing Ithaca translator, W249CD (97.7), eastward to East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where it will move to 105.1 with 250 watts as a translator for WHNP (1600). (That 105.1 frequency became open in the Springfield area with the deletion of Western New England College’s WNEK.)
There’s also a new translator coming to Elmira, as Europa Communications applies to move W281BP (104.1 Sayre PA) westward and to 93.5 on the dial. The translator is currently on the books as a relay of WPAL (91.7 New Albany PA), but we’d expect that to change to one of Europa’s Elmira-market signals, either WMTT (94.7) or WPHD (96.1).
In Olean, Bill Timberlake (known on air as “JT Daniels”) is inbound as the new market manager for Sound Communications’ WMXO (Mix 101.5), WQRS (98.3) and WOEN (1360)/WGGO (1590). Timberlake comes from WVVR in Clarksville, Tennessee to replace the recently departed Tami Dunleavy.
Mike Felice spent a lifetime in broadcasting at just two station groups, starting in sales for Triangle’s WNBF in his native Binghamton in the 1960s and then moving to WKSN (1340) and WHUG (then 101.7) in Jamestown beginning in 1971. Felice rose to general sales manager and then VP/general manager. When Derrick Publishing of Oil City, PA acquired the Jamestown stations, Felice became the company’s vice president of broadcasting, overseeing stations in Dunkirk, Olean and DuBois as well as WKSN/WHUG. Felice was 85 when he died Oct. 11 at his Jamestown home.
*In New York City, Peter Allen has died. Allen was just 27 when he moved from Columbus, Ohio to New York’s WQXR (1560) in 1947 to become a staff announcer. In 1973, he was tapped as the backup to venerable Metropolitan Opera announcer Milton Cross; after Cross’ death in 1975, Allen took over as the Met’s main radio announcer, a role he maintained for 29 seasons and more than 500 performances before his retirement in 2004. Allen was 96 when he died October 8.
*In Erie, PENNSYLVANIA, they’re mourning Jim LeCorchick, the distinctive morning voice on WJET (1400). LeCorchick was starting his show just after 6 on Thursday morning when he walked into the adjacent WRKT-FM studio, asked the jock there to call 911, and promptly collapsed. An ambulance took the 69-year-old LeCorchick to UPMC Hamot Medical Center, but he didn’t make it.
LeCorchick wrote about sports for the local Catholic newspaper and for the Erie Times-News, and by 1977 he’d started appearing as a sports commentator on local radio shows. He began doing mornings in 1993, working at sports station WFLP (1330, now WFNN) and then at WJET. Most recently, he’d been doing news commentary in the morning on WJET and sports commentary in the afternoon just down the hall on WFNN.
There’s a new translator coming to Erie, too: Cumulus is paying Kent State University $40,000 for W225BZ (92.9 Ashland OH), which will move to Erie to relay WRIE (1260).
In Philadelphia, evening host Joe DeCamara is the latest exit from Greater Media’s “Fanatic” WPEN (97.5 Burlington NJ).
*Here’s a story we’ve never done before: how about a radio donut? It’s a very yummy reality in NEW JERSEY, where the 30th anniversary of the metal format at Seton Hall University’s WSOU (89.5 South Orange) now has a commemorative donut.
Purple Glaze Donuts in Asbury Park (which is somewhat outside WSOU’s main over-the-air coverage) makes a new donut each week that honors a heavy metal band or song, and last week’s special was the “WSOU 30 Years of Metal Donut,” which the station says features “the metal colors of red and black with cream cheese icing, chocolate icing and powdered sugar.”
NERW observation: Mmmmm….radio donut…..
*In MASSACHUSETTS, the latest surprise TV talent move comes from Heather Unruh, who abruptly exited Hearst’s WCVB (Channel 5) on Friday. Unruh had been at WCVB for 15 years, most recently as the 4:30 and 6 PM anchor. Where’s she headed next? She’s not saying yet – but with NBC getting ready to launch its new “NBC Boston” in 10 weeks’ time, and with Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25) still increasing its news product, there’s probably plenty of demand for her services.
Over at Entercom’s WRKO (680), Michael Czarnecki is the new PD, moving up from APD/operations manager a year after joining the company. Czarnecki fills a position that’s been vacant for three years now.
In the Merrimack Valley, Costa Eagle Communications is applying to boost power a bit at WMVX (1570 Methuen), which would go from 31 kW days/102 watts night to 44 kW days/140 watts night. (The Portuguese-language station is currently on a backup transmitter while awaiting repairs to its main transmitter.)
*In NEW HAMPSHIRE, iHeart is parking a heritage Miami callsign on a near-death AM. That would be the former WMYF (1380 Portsmouth), which went silent when the lease on its transmitter site ran out late last year. At least on the FCC’s books, that silent 1380 signal is now “WMGE,” the callsign that had been on “Mega 94.9” in Miami until a recent format change.
*In MAINE, Hearst-owned ABC affiliate WMTW (Channel 8) is celebrating the completion of its move into a new studio/office facility in Westbrook. The move marks the first time in decades that all of WMTW’s staff have operated under the same roof; for years, the station has had a newsroom in downtown Portland and offices in Auburn. The 90 WMTW staffers at 4 Ledgeview Drive in Westbrook will be working alongside the former occupants of their new studio space; they’re leasing some of the square footage that used to belong to CW affiliate WPXT (Channel 51) and MyNetwork affiliate WPME (Channel 35), which have downsized to a smaller part of the building.
*In CANADA, the CRTC says there’s not enough economic headroom to allow for a new commercial station in Sudbury, Ontario, and so it’s returned the application from Larche Communications for a new 50 kW signal on 88.5.
In Haldimand County, south of Hamilton, Durham Radio has been granted permission to drop its required Canadian content on classic hits station CHTG (92.9 the Grand), reducing its CanCon from 40% to 30%. Durham argued, successfully, that there’s not enough pre-1981 Canadian content to support 40% of that format.
Two power increases in Quebec: just outside Quebec City, Radio Communautaire de Levis will be able to boost CJMD (96.9) from 110 watts average/216 watts max DA/10 m to 590 watts average/1 kW max DA/19 m. And in Saint-Remi, CHOC (104.9) will be able to go from 250 watts average/572 watts max DA/30 m to 250 watts average/1.7 kW max DA/54 m from a new antenna location.
And at the other end of the long ferry ride from Cape Breton to Newfoundland, Newcap wants to move CFGN (1230 Port-aux-Basques) to FM. The new FM signal for CFGN would be 1.2 kW/-3 m on 96.7, still as a simulcast of CFSX from Stephenville, 70 km north.
*How about a little more Hockey on the Radio? The minor leagues are skating into action, too, and here in Rochester there’s a change for the AHL Rochester Americans. After almost two decades on iHeart’s WHTK (1280), the Amerks are moving down the dial to Entercom’s WROC (950/95.7), putting them in the same Entercom broadcast family as their parent team, the Buffalo Sabres. (Thankfully, team announcer Don Stevens stays in place with the move.)
The Syracuse Crunch remain on “ESPN Syracuse” (WTLA 1200/97.7), the Binghamton Senators on WINR (680/96.9), and the Utica Comets on WKLL (94.9), albeit without play-by-play voice Brendan Burke, who’s replacing Howie Rose this season on MSG’s Islanders telecasts. Andy Zilch moves from the now-departed Springfield Falcons to replace Burke in Utica. The Albany Devils play a partial schedule on WTMM (104.5 the Team), with the rest of their games streaming.
In Springfield, the Falcons’ move to Tucson brings in the former Portland Pirates, now the Springfield Thunderbirds, who appear to be landing on WHYN (560) based on the AHL media guide. Down I-91, the Hartford Wolf Pack stay in place on WPOP (1410), while the Bridgeport Sound Tigers don’t appear to have any broadcast radio this year, nor do the Providence Bruins.
In Pennsylvania, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are apparently back on WILK-FM (103.1), while the venerable Hershey Bears have a new announcer, Zack Fisch, on a network that includes WQIC (100.1 Lebanon), WTKT (1460 Harrisburg) and WOYK (1350 York). The Lehigh Valley Phantoms interrupt the otherwise Spanish-language sports programming on iHeart’s WSAN (1470).
Up north, the Toronto Marlies are mostly streaming, while the St. John’s IceCaps in Newfoundland are on CJYQ (930).
Down one level on the rungs of pro hockey, only a few ECHL teams in the region have radio: the Adirondack Thunder on WCQL (95.9) and the Elmira Jackals on WELM (1410) with new radio voice Lukas Favale.
We’re a community.
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 19, 2015
*So long, WDIS: after 36 years on the air, AM 1170 in Norfolk, MASSACHUSETTS went silent sometime in June 2014 after a rough few years in which it was barely on the air. Now the FCC has caught up to that silent period of more than a year and taken action – as the law dictates, the WDIS license has now been cancelled and the callsign deleted.
David Finnegan had so many facets to his career that his three-year stint as an evening talk show on WBZ (1030) was just a side note in his obituary last week. A lawyer and politician, Finnegan had already served as Boston School Committee president and made one unsuccessful run for mayor of Boston when he took the night shift on WBZ in 1979. He left that slot (and the host chair of “Weekend with David Finnegan” on WNEV-TV 7) in 1983 to take another stab at the mayor’s chair, running against incumbent Kevin White with the slogan “Finnegan or him again.” White dropped out, and Ray Flynn eventually won the race. Finnegan never returned to full-time broadcasting, instead focusing on his law practice and advocacy. Finnegan, who died of lung cancer last Monday in South Carolina, was 74.
*The newest FM signal in NEW YORK City is coming from just across the river in NEW JERSEY: Ted Schober flipped the switch last week to turn W248CG (97.5 Jersey City) on the air, running 110 watts from a rooftop in the high-rise Newport section of town with an antenna pattern that aims across the Hudson into lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. For now, the new translator is relaying WFUV (90.7 New York), but we suspect that’s likely to change as soon as a buyer for the translator signal comes along.
And in the Maritimes, a little chuckle to close out this issue: with the death of longtime CBC Halifax “Weekend Mornings” host Stan Carew, the show’s horse is being put out to pasture.
“Duke the Studio Stallion” may have never been anything more than a sound effect in real life, but on the air, he was Carew’s “sidekick” for a decade, ever since Carew had some teeth knocked out in an accident. On the show, Carew explained that he sounded different because Duke had kicked the teeth in, and it was off to the races from there. Interim “Mornings” host Doug Barron tells CBC News Duke decided CBC’s new Halifax studios were “a little too slick,” and so he’s off to The Greener Pastures Retirement Farm, Villa Estates and Equine Spa to live out his days in comfort.
We’ll leave you to write your own lines about what would have happened to Duke if he worked for one of the big commercial group owners these days…
Five Years Ago: October 17, 2011
*Tower climbing is dangerous work, and the news from MASSACHUSETTS provided another reminder of that last week.
On Wednesday afternoon, an Iowa-based climber was at work on a project to replace the ladder inside American Tower’s “FM 128” site on Chestnut Street in Newton (recently featured here on Tower Site of the Week) when he plummeted 500 feet to his death.
The Middlesex County DA’s office quickly ruled the death accidental, and it’s now the subject of an OSHA investigation. The climber’s name had not been released as of Sunday. In a statement after the incident, American Tower said it has suspended work at the site while it investigates. The climber was working for a Texas-based tower company, Ultimate Tower Services.
*Congratulations to longtime friend-of-the-column Bob Welch, who’s about to be a Radio Person on the Move in VERMONT. After spending the last few years doing the midday and afternoon news (and lots of other things, too) at WSTJ (1340 St. Johnsbury), Bob returns to the legendary WDEV (550 Waterbury)/WDEV-FM (96.1 Warren) in two weeks, where he’ll take over the evening shift. Lee Kittell, who’d been doing nights at WDEV, is now the PD and afternoon host, replacing Jack Donovan.
*During the original 33-year run of WCBS-FM (101.1) as NEW YORK‘s oldies station, only one jock was there all the time.
Bill Brown, who died last week at age 69, was at the station even before it was playing oldies, and he was the last live voice heard on CBS-FM on the infamous “day the music died” in 2005, just before the start of the ill-fated Jack FM. By then, he’d become a staple at 101.1, known especially for his “Brown Bag” lunchtime specials.
Brown came to New York by accident, his family says: after working at small stations in his native Georgia and southern California and serving in the Navy (and some on-air work at the Far East Network in Tokyo), he fell into the Bill Drake orbit, working at KGB in San Diego from 1964-1967. As was common in the Drake top-40 days, Brown was tapped for another job at a Drake-consulted station, WUBE in Cincinnati – but before he could get there, Drake called him and told him to keep driving east to a different gig, at WOR-FM (98.7) in New York. Brown worked there from 1967-1969 before joining WCBS-FM. In addition to his 36 years on the air there, Brown also served as program director for a brief stint in the 1970s.
Brown died last Sunday (October 9) after a long illness; he’s mourned by his family (including his wife of 35 years) and by his former colleagues at WCBS-FM, who put up a memorial page here.
Ten Years Ago: October 16, 2006
Fans of smooth jazz in southeast PENNSYLVANIA and southern NEW JERSEY are about to get their format back. Greater Media, which is acquiring WTHK (97.5 Burlington NJ) in a trade with Nassau, announced last week that it will flip the station from classic rock (“The Hawk”) to smooth jazz on November 15, bringing back the format and the WJJZ calls that disappeared from the market when Clear Channel flipped the previous WJJZ (106.1 Philadelphia) to rhythmic AC “Philly’s 106.1” as WISX in August.
The new WJJZ will launch from the longtime 97.5 transmitter site in Trenton, since Greater Media has not yet finished (or, as far as we know, even started) construction of the station’s new transmitter facility at the Wyndmoor tower site just outside Philadelphia. Assuming nothing changes between now and November – it’s always at least slightly risky, after all, to announce a format flip this far in advance – the flip to smooth jazz will broaden the demographic range of Greater’s Philadelphia cluster, which currently leans heavily male and rock-oriented with sports WPEN (950), rock WMMR (93.3), adult hits WBEN-FM (95.7) and classic rock WMGK (102.9). Greater Media says it will have the new signal from Wyndmoor on the air by January 2007.
Some sad news out of eastern MASSACHUSETTS this week – WBZ (1030 Boston) nighttime talk host Paul Sullivan isn’t out of the woods yet as he continues his fight against brain cancer. Sullivan underwent two operations in 2004, but recent tests turned up more signs of cancer, so he was back at Mass General last week for a third surgery. The good news? Word is he’s already recuperating, and planning to be back on the air in time for election night next month.
When is “late news” not necessarily late news? When it’s taped several hours before airtime, as Bangor’s WVII-TV (Channel 7) plans to do with its 11 PM newscast, and the 10 PM news it airs on sister station WFVX-LP (Channel 22). “Not a whole lot happens in Bangor, Maine late at night,” says GM Mike Palmer to the Bangor Daily News – and while that’s probably true, we’ve got to imagine that when something does happen at night in Bangor, viewers there will be tuning to crosstown WABI-TV and WLBZ rather than to WVII/WFVX. (Of course, the ratings suggest that most of them are doing that already, anyway.) WVII says it will continue to offer live sports on Friday nights, and Palmer took a slap at WLBZ as well, saying “it’s not like we’re putting on the news from Portland and masquerading ourselves as a Bangor TV station.” (Much of WLBZ’s news comes from sister station WCSH in Portland.)
Fifteen Years Ago: October 15, 2001
NEW YORK is where we start this week’s report, with word that the latest round of anthrax scares disrupted things at Clear Channel/Albany Saturday morning. Two envelopes containing a whitish, sticky substance showed up in the station’s mail, sending WGY (810 Schenectady) talk host Joe Gallagher to the hospital for a check-up after opening them. Gallagher wasn’t hurt, and police think the whole thing was a hoax. (Sign of the times, though: we’re seeing job listings that specify e-mail applications only because of delays processing paper mail!)
New York City’s WKTU (103.5 Lake Success) is moving again. One of the four FMs displaced in the World Trade Center collapse, the Clear Channel station was the most fortunate, since it had a fully-functioning auxiliary facility at Four Times Square that was back on the air within moments. But that site is significantly lower than the rest of the market’s FMs, and so Clear Channel is looking elsewhere for long-term use. An application filed last week will move WKTU to the ERI master antenna on the Empire State Building, joining more than a dozen other FMs (including fellow WTC refugees WPAT-FM and WNYC-FM) on the city’s tallest remaining structure. The engineering study (dated September 12 – they weren’t wasting any time!) notes that WKTU will suffer slight additional interference from WBZO (103.1 Bay Shore) and WNNJ-FM (103.7 Newton NJ) as a result of the move, an inevitable result of the area’s overstuffed FM spectrum.
WNYC-FM, meanwhile, says it will cost $4 million to get back up to full power from Empire. It’s looking to fellow public radio stations to help, and indeed Minnesota Public Radio has already received special permission from the FCC to do on-air fundraising to benefit WNYC, with other stations expected to follow suit. The TV DX types down that way tell NERW that the city’s VHF signals are slowly getting back up to viewable power, with decent pictures being reported on channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 from respectable distances.
We’ll take care of PENNSYLVANIA next, beginning in Erie, where the new Fairview-licensed 93.9 signal is reported on the air as of today (noon on Monday, 10/15, to be exact), running active rock as WRPL, “the Planet.” While Nextmedia turns on that new signal, it’s transferred its 102.3 license (currently WLKK) to Regent, which began stunting this afternoon with a rotating roster of 24 different formats. The real format will premiere on 10/23 (get it?), with new calls reportedly on the way as well. WLKK PD Tim Stephens is out as well with the demise of “the Point” there.
Twenty Years Ago: October 16, 1996
After more than two years of promises, the Kidstar children’s radio format makes its debut in Boston on Thursday, October 17, on WROR (1150 AM). The leased-time ethnic programming on WROR ended sometime Monday, and 1150 was mostly silent for much of Monday night and Tuesday, allowing Bostonians a rare chance to listen to the surprisingly good big-band format on WVNJ (1160) from Bergen County, NJ. As I write this, 1150 has returned to the air with a ticking-clock sound effect and a promotional loop that runs roughly every 20 minutes advertising Kidstar (and, unsurprisingly, no legal ID). The official kickoff of Kidstar in Boston will take place at 11:50 am on Thursday, with a celebration at Boston’s Computer Museum downtown. The on-air promos on 1150 are urging kids to attend, which seems odd, given that Thursday is a school day. Picking up the leased-time ethnic slack is Douglas Broadcasting’s WBPS (890 Dedham-Boston), which has lost most of the sports shows that were leasing the daytime hours, and which is now running Spanish-language programming from 9 am until 3 pm, and a variety of other languages in the evening.
Skowhegan, Maine’s WHQO (107.9 FM) has shed its smooth-jazz/AC format (“The Light at the End of the Dial”) in favor of a simulcast of all-sports WSKW (1160 AM, “The Score”). The format change accompanies an LMA of WHQO from Harvey Broadcasting to Mountain Wireless, which owns WSKW, album-rock WTOS (105.1), and AC WCTB (93.5 Fairfield ME). It gets the Score a much better signal in the Augusta-Waterville area, especially at night, when the 1160 signal is nearly inaudible with only 730 watts (as opposed to 10kw daytime).