In this week’s issue… Remembering Sean Hall – Toronto FM sheds airstaff – Veteran LI morning host exits – Catholic network seeks growth 

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*Sean Hall had only been a NEW HAMPSHIRE radio newsman for five years or so  but he was so much more than just a weekend/fill-in anchor on WKBK (1290 Keene).

Hall died in a car crash on Route 32 in Richmond Saturday night.

A third-generation news guy (his dad was a Mutual news anchor and his grandfather worked in newspapers), Sean was a friend to so many of us in radio during his long career, most of it spent in and around his native Washington, D.C., where he worked for a long list of outlets including WTOP, NBC Radio, Mutual and WBIG. Up the road in Baltimore, Sean spent much of the 1980s at WBSB (where he was the final voice on the air as “B104”) and later worked at WQSR – and he even had a hand, later on, in coastal MAINE as a remote news voice for WRMO (93.7 Milbridge).

What he was though, more than anything else, was simply a phenomenally passionate lover of all things radio. Sean mentored hundreds of younger talents in his many years in the business, and he was a constant presence online, sharing his stories and knowledge even as he struggled with health problems.

He’d relocated to southwestern New Hampshire a few years back, settling in Swanzey and taking on that part-time role at WKBK, where he became not only a weekend fixture but also a coach and mentor to the station’s staff.

What happened Saturday night? Details still aren’t complete, but local media reports say he was trying to make a left turn when he crashed head-on into an oncoming pickup truck. The truck’s driver suffered only minor injuries, but Hall died at the scene. He was just 63.

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*In CONNECTICUT, Sacred Heart University has found a buyer for one of its excess AM stations. WNLK (1350 Norwalk) is becoming the first property for the new Veritas Catholic Network, which is paying $300,000 for the AM signal and a translator CP, W280FX (103.9 Norwalk).

Back in 2011, Sacred Heart paid Cox $500,000 for WNLK and its Stamford sister, WSTC (1400), using them for several years as a Fairfield County local version of its regional WSHU public radio service. That ended in 2017, when the university took the stations dark and put them up for sale. In the time since, WNLK and WSTC have picked up some of the leased-time ethnic programming that had been running on now-silent WDJZ (1530 Bridgeport), and that programming will continue for now on WSTC.

Veritas is helmed by Steve Lee of Ridgefield, who has big plans, he says, to expand his network outward from WNLK to cover Westchester County, New York and eventually more of Connecticut and New York City.

*Across Long Island Sound on the NEW YORK side of things, Steve Harper has exited WKJY (98.3 Hempstead), ending a 40 year radio career that’s included the past nine years in mornings on what’s now “K98.3.” Harper, a Long Island native, spent 26 years at WBLI (106.1) and then had a brief run at WBEA in the Hamptons before joining WKJY in 2009.

He’s been running an advertising business, Harper Marketing, which will now be his full-time job; for now, his co-host Kara Reifert is carrying mornings solo.

Meanwhile, we now know where former Mets play-by-play voice Josh Lewin is landing: he already has southern California ties through his years with the Chargers and UCLA play-by-play, and he’s going to be there full time now that he’s joining Entercom’s KWFN (97.3 the Fan) in San Diego to do pre- and post-game Padres coverage, as well as filling in on play-by-play.

*Up in Rockland County, WRCR (1700 Ramapo) continues to struggle. It’s been off the air since August 2017, save for a brief return this past summer to keep its license alive. Now owner Alex Medakovich has launched a GoFundMe campaign to make the $35,000 down payment on a new transmitter site in Haverstraw after losing the lease on the station’s longtime location in Nanuet; as of Sunday, the campaign had raised $4200 in almost two weeks.

*Upstate, there’s a parting of ways at Rochester-market WYSL (1040 Avon) between midday talk host Shannon Joy and owner Bob Savage. In a post on WYSL’s website, Savage says Joy is off the air after declining to renew her contract, which expired at the end of October. (“Why didn’t she renew with WYSL? Beats us. We still don’t know,” Savage says.)

Joy says she’ll be on Facebook Live today in her usual noontime slot to tell her side of the story, which she says has left her with advertisers but no production or syndication home for her show, which was also heard on stations in Elmira/Corning, Geneva, Auburn and Rome.

In Joy’s former slot, WYSL plans to launch a new midday show Dec. 3 hosted by attorney Julie Jordan DiPalma, who’s been doing a weekend legal show on the station.

*Meanwhile here in Rochester, iHeart has added a second all-Christmas outlet alongside its usual flip at WVOR (102.3 Canandaigua). The bigger Rochester signal of WDVI (100.5) also went all-Christmas last week, just after a shuffle of syndicated morning shows that sent Elvis Duran from 100.5 back up the dial to sister station WKGS (106.7), replacing Brooke and Jubal on “Kiss.”

Is a bigger change in the works after the holidays for “Mix 100.5”? Along with our content partner, RadioInsight, we’re keeping a close eye on iHeart’s expansion of its “Breeze” soft AC format, which gained a New York City clearance this week on the HD3 of WLTW (106.7). While we wait to see if it’s “Breeze” or a continuation of “Mix” or something else on WDVI in the new year, we note that the 100.5 flip to Christmas will reignite a long-running format war with what’s now Stephens Media’s WRMM (101.3), which has had the Christmas music mantle in the Rochester market all the way back to its long-ago days as WEZO in the 1980s.

*Back then, WEZO belonged to Malrite, which for a time made it a sister station to what’s now WHTZ (Z100) in New York. But before it was Z100, that station was NEW JERSEY‘s WVNJ-FM (100.3 Newark), co-owned with WVNJ (620) by Herb Saltzman, who died November 12. Saltzman had been sales manager at WOR before joining WVNJ in the seventies; he went on to become a partner in the Sabre Broadcasting Corp., which bought the WVNJ stations from the Scudder family in 1978 for $3.5 million and went on to sell WVNJ-FM to Malrite five years later for twice that much.

Tom Taylor reports, in his NOW newsletter, that Saltzman went on to briefly own WFAS in White Plains before retiring. Saltzman was 89.

*In western PENNSYLVANIA, Michael Ovadia has departed Forever’s “Froggy 104.3” (WOGI), where he was the “Frogman” half of the “Frogman and the Gator” morning show alongside Erica (“Gator”) Hink, who stays on board. Ovadia, who came to WOGI from WSOX in Red Lion, had been with the station for four years.

*The big news from CANADA last week came from Bell Media, which laid off staffers in several markets, most notably nearly the entire airstaff at Toronto’s “Virgin Radio” (CKFM 99.9).

That included the “Tucker in the Morning” show hosted by Scott Tucker, Maura Grierson, Andy Wilson and Robyn Gerson, as well as middayer Kella Duncan. Up the road in Kingston, CFLY (98.3) PD Jacquie Beckett and morning co-host Susan Amos were among five staffers cut, reports Broadcast Dialogue.

For all the cuts, it doesn’t appear a format change is imminent at Toronto’s Virgin, which is now running largely jockless until a new airstaff is hired. At CFLY, meanwhile, Broadcast Dialogue reports morning host Brian Scott has also exited – but he’s retiring because of health issues, specifically a cancer that’s spread to his brain and affected his speech. Scott worked at CFGO in Ottawa and CISS in Toronto in a 37-year radio career that took him to CFLY for his last 13 years, which ended when he left the air in April.

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