In this week’s issue… WLNG’s revamped sound – New morning show in NYC – New “Jack” in PA – “Breeze” blows into Buffalo – CJRT turmoil creates competition – Remembering Durgin, Eiseman
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Welcome to 2019! This year, we’ll be marking the 25th anniversary of what started as “New England Radio Watcher” back in 1994 – and after our annual New Year’s hiatus, we have so much news to kick off the new year that we’re actually splitting our NERW report in half this week.
Yesterday, we brought you “New England RadioWatch,” with all the headlines from Connecticut to Maine. Today, it’s Part Two, bringing you up to speed on the news from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and eastern Canada. And if you value the service we provide here, there’s no better way to show it than to tell a friend or colleague to join you as a subscriber!
*The East End of Long Island isn’t like anywhere else in NEW YORK, or in the rest of the country, really. It’s a bunch of small towns that happen to be populated, in part, by some phenomenally rich people, especially in the summer. Over the years, there are plenty of stories of “experts” who’ve come into the area from outside and discovered, the hard way, that most of the rules of media that work pretty well anywhere else get torn apart pretty badly once the LIE gives way to Route 27.
As NERW (and Site of the Week) readers know well, WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor) has been the perfect example of this truism for more than half a century now. If you turned on WLNG last month, it would have sounded pretty much the same way it did when the FM signal went on the air back in 1969 – a ridiculously wide variety of music from the 1950s to now, surrounded by lots and lots of jingles, lost dog reports, obituaries, wall-to-wall weekend remote broadcasts, marine weather, and on and on.
A nightmare for most consultants, perhaps, but on our last visit out there in the summer of 2017, there was simply no way to argue that it worked: the phone at the front desk was constantly ringing with listener input, the production studio was in use all afternoon cutting new spots for devoted local advertisers – and hey, what other radio station do you recall Billy Joel and Jimmy Fallon calling out by name on the air multiple times?
And so we start the new year watching as WLNG’s new owners, Sandra Foschi (Bark Out Loud Dogs Media) and her husband Bill Evans, begin putting their stamp on the station they just bought. The music mix got a little less diverse, the jingles and newscasts less frequent, Scott Shannon (whose history with Evans goes back to New York’s WPLJ) began showing up on liners and IDs, and the East End noticed.
Dan’s Papers, the fat weekly that’s sort of the print equivalent of WLNG in its only-on-the-East-End nature, sounded the alarm in the form of an editorial from founder Dan Rattiner calling for the sound of the station to be designated a “historic place.” (Did you know Rattiner was approached by WLNG founder Perry Duryea Jr. as a prospective early investor way back in 1961? We didn’t – but the East End is a small place, and after Rattiner said no, Duryea landed airline magnate Bob King instead, and it was King who kept WLNG’s sound frozen in time for decades until his death in 2011, which led to the station’s sale last year.)
Dom Theodore, the respected programmer who himself recently shifted into station ownership, weighed in too – and you can (and should) read his comments on WLNG’s changes on his blog.
On WLNG’s Facebook page, the posts have changed – instead of shots of East End locals at the station’s many remotes, it’s mostly reposts of Evans’ weather forecasts on New York’s WABC-TV (Channel 7), save for one attempt to post a defense of the station’s changes from retired afternoon jock Rusty Potz. (That all-caps post was eventually deleted.)
What now? Will WLNG’s changes indeed freshen up the station’s sound and attract younger listeners? Or will the changes turn off the loyal East Enders who like things the way they are and have rewarded the station with consistently strong listenership and revenue? Or some combination of both?
We’ll continue to be watching (and listening) closely as Foschi and Evans settle in at WLNG – and we’re hoping we can get them (and perhaps some of the critics of WLNG’s changes, too) to join us on our Top of the Tower Podcast as we start a new season of episodes in the next few weeks, too.