The Year in People and Formats (Part II)

By SCOTT FYBUSH

It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 23rd time we’ve gathered up our headlines from the previous 12 months and tried to sum it all up for you. Year in Review installments wrap up Monday, Dec. 31, with our Top 10 Stories of the Year and Tuesday, Jan. 1, with Those We Lost, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report with an update on Wednesday, January 2, 2018 and our regular Monday update on January 7. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)

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The third installment of our Year in Review (catch up on yesterday’s installment here) continues our annual roundup of people and formats on the move in the never-ending whirl that is radio and TV in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada.

JULY

One of the bigger physical moves from the Entercom/iHeart/Beasley station shuffle in Boston had now-Beasley-owned “Sports Hub” WBZ-FM (98.5) relocating from Entercom’s Brighton building to spiffy new digs in Beasley’s Dorchester cluster headquarters; swap partner WMJX (106.7) had already made the reverse move, and the former WBZ-FM space in Brighton was soon under renovation to house competitor WEEI-FM. At its new home, WBZ-FM added an NBC Sports Boston TV simulcast for its midday Scott Zolak/Marc Bertrand show, while WEEI moved Glenn Ordway and his co-hosts to afternoons and Dale Arnold to middays a few weeks later.

Just down the road, WMEX (1510) made it back on the air, running just 1000 watts under special temporary authority from the WBIX (1260) site in Quincy and simulcasting sister station WATD-FM (95.9).

In New York, Entercom freshened up its WNEW (102.7) by dropping the “Fresh” brand after 11 years, relaunching as a straight-ahead AC aimed at iHeart’s WLTW (106.7). Karen Carson went solo in mornings, while Christine Richie moved from middays to nights.

Former WNYC talk host Leonard Lopate, disgraced by a sexual harassment allegation, resurfaced up the dial with a new show on Pacifica’s WBAI; that move on WBAI’s part prompted Jay Smooth, one of the station’s longest-running hosts, to quit his pioneering hip-hop show in protest. Lopate’s old midday slot on WNYC got a new permanent host, as Alison Stewart signed on to anchor the new “WNYC Midday.”

Boston’s WBUR also had new hosts on tap for its “On Point” after harassment allegations ousted Tom Ashbrook; Meghna Chakrabarti took Mondays through Thursdays, with David Folkenflik hosting from New York on Fridays. WBUR’s “Only a Game” said farewell to host Bill Littlefield, but still hadn’t named a permanent new host at year’s end.

Near Syracuse, WZUN (1070 Sandy Creek) dropped ESPN Deportes Radio to simulcast “Sunny” WZUN-FM (102.1 Phoenix), adding an FM translator to bring Sunny into Fulton and Oswego. The syndicated Bobby Bones show replaced Marty Mitchell on Poughkeepsie’s WRWD-FM (107.3) and also added WVNV (96.5) up in Malone, NY. In Glens Falls, Jackie Donovan left mornngs at WNYQ (101.7) as she ended a 25-year radio career to start a new one at a local winery.

In Pennsylvania, Seven Mountains added the former WVYS (96.9 Ridgebury) to its “Bigfoot” WNBT (104.5 Wellsboro), with new calls WZBF. Former simulcast WDYS (103.9 Dushore) dropped “YES FM” to begin simulcasting “GEM” from WZMF (1460 Tunkhannock)/WGMF (730 Nanticoke), right after those AMs swapped calls.

In Philadelphia, former Inside Radio editor Steve Butler stepped down after many years at the helm of the KYW (1060) newsroom (and wouldn’t be the only former Inside Radio editor to retire in 2018, as it turned out.) Alex Silverman moved down from WCBS in New York to replace Butler in September.

In Toronto, Jamar McNeil joined the morning show at the refreshed CHUM-FM (104.5), presaging bigger changes later in the year there.

Gone: Allentown’s WFMZ (Channel 69) and WLVT (Channel 39) from their former UHF RF channels – 46 and 39 – after selling that spectrum to channel-share with WBPH (Channel 60) on VHF channel 9.

Back on the air: WUSP (1550 Utica), with urban as “the Heat,” as well as a temporary return of silent WBVG (1050 Baldwinsville NY), with standards.

New: CJMU (102.3 Gravenhurst-Muskoka ON), testing June 27.

AUGUST

The next chapter in the Boston Shuffle took WBZ (1030) out of its home of 70 years at 1170 Soldiers Field Road, relocating to iHeart’s expanded cluster studios up in Medford, albeit without several traffic reporters and production guru Mike Coleman, who’d been abruptly cut in the last few days in the old facility. Assistant news director Jon MacLean was also out just a few weeks into the move.

Rhode Island Public Radio changed calls, with WXNI (89.3 Newport) becoming WNPN and WRNI (102.7 Narragansett Pier) becoming WNPE ahead of a branding change that turned it into “The Public’s Radio,” with some extra lower-case “i”s for graphic desiiiiiiiiiign.

In Utica, “Matt Herkimer” (John Simmons) retired from mornings on “Bug Country” WBGK/WBUG after more than half a century on the air around town. “Brittany Lee” (Sandy Silverstein) took over, making a husband-wife team with afternoon jock Dave Silvers.

Up the road in Watertown, Stephens Media Group drew some unwelcome local news attention when news broke that several air staffers at WCIZ (93.3) and WFRY (97.5) were gone from the stations. WCIZ’s Dianne Chase and Joe Munroe and WFRY’s “Webb Foote” and “Annie Croakley,” along with several part-timers, were all out – but the NABET-CWA union intervened to try to get at least some of the jobs reinstated.

Over in Vermont, “MP103” became “Free 103.3” at adult hits WWMP (103.3 Waterbury).

FM translators brought new brands to several Pennsylvania AMs: WCPA (900 Clearfield) became “Passport Radio,” while WCNS (1480 Latrobe) became “97.3 Lite FM.” A month later, WESB (1490 Bradford) became “B107.5” after lighting up its new FM signal.

In Springfield, Mass., the city borrowed a local church’s LPFM, WZCS-LP (102.5), to provide traffic information for the opening of a new casino downtown.

In Toronto, Corus’ CFNY (102.1 the Edge) lost both its morning show (Melani Mariani and Adam Ricard) and afternoon host (Fearless Fred, who moved to sister station Q107); Ruby and Alex Carr later took over as the new brother-and-sister morning team on the Edge. In Halifax, Evanov’s CKHY (105.1) rebranded from active rock “Live 105” to classic rock “Rock 105.1.”

More call changes: WDKL (106.9 Masontown PA) became WMKF so EMF could reuse the better K-Love call in Detroit;

New: WHVC (102.5 Rhinebeck NY), with Redeemer Radio Christian programming.

Gone: CHOC (104.9 St.-Remi QC), after a power increase sapped the station’s limited budget; WJZZ (88.1 Montgomery NY), citing an inability to get enough underwriting and membership funding.

SEPTEMBER

WEEI was back in the Boston headlines as morning co-host Kirk Minihane disclosed that mental health issues were keeping him off the air; after a long leave of absence, Entercom moved him to a podcast and off the morning show.

Jim Quinn and Rose Somma Tennent reunited for mornings in Pittsburgh, for an 8-10 AM slot leased on iHeart’s WBGG (970) and its 106.3 translator (but not their stream, since Quinn was charging for access to his streaming show.)

The end of Cumulus’ partnership with US Traffic Network took many familiar news and traffic voices off WABC (770) in New York, including anchors Jerry Barmash and Lisa Ritchie and traffic guy Jeff McKay.

The end of the Mets season was also the end of the five-year deal between the Amazins and iHeart’s WOR (710); the team quickly announced a new deal with Entercom’s WCBS (880), followed by word that Josh Lewin wouldn’t be staying on alongside Howie Rose. (Lewin soon signed with the Dodgers.)

In Ithaca, Saga moved its WHCU (870) news-talk simulcast to a new translator on 97.7, opening up its former 95.9 signal to stunt as “XA Radio,” featuring the hometown X Ambassadors, then relaunching on Labor Day as “Alt 95.9.” (Did the NERW-mobile get an expensive speeding ticket on our way down to aircheck the change? Sadly, yes.)

Over in Elmira, JC Coffey took Jerry Mac’s old operations job at Community Broadcasters; Mike (Kerr) McCabe went the other way, leaving the Southern Tier for a new gig programming WERZ (107.1) on the New Hampshire seacoast.

Connoisseur’s WEEX (1230 Easton)/WTKZ (1320 Allentown) flipped from ESPN to Fox Sports on Sept. 1, as did Vox’s WCPV (101.3) in the Burlington market, becoming “101.3 the Game.”

More Brooke, more Jubal: CKQB (Jump! 106.9) in Ottawa dropped local morning hosts Jesse Reynolds and Jenna Mo to pick up the syndicated hosts from Seattle. (But syndication gave way to local at WYBC-FM in New Haven, where Tom Joyner was replaced by Juan Castillo.)

New: translator W284BW (104.7)’s signal from 1 World Trade Center, the first FM way up there, stunting with an all-New York City loop of music and drawing interference complaints from another 104.7 translator in New Jersey.

Gone: CBAX (600 McAdam NB, replaced by CBZF-1 95.5); WDCD (1540 Albany, ex-WPTR), surrendering its 50,000-watt license after a year of silence.

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OCTOBER

What happened to New Hampshire Public Radio president Betsy Gardella? Staffers showed up at the headquarters in Concord one Monday morning to find her office empty and a memo saying she’d be working off-site until her retirement in December. Earlier in the year, Current had reported that Gardella was the subject of an outside investigation into “serious management, human resources and communication issues.”

“War of the Worlds” made a big splash on the 80th anniversary of its CBS Mercury Theater broadcast and the 50th anniversary of Buffalo’s WKBW reenactment, with celebrations at the AES convention in New York and a few days later at the North Park theater in Buffalo.

After Medha Gandhi’s move from “Matty in the Morning” at Boston’s Kiss 108 to Elvis Duran’s New York morning show, the Matty show picked up a new addition moving the opposite way up I-95, as former WTDY (96.5 Philadelphia) afternoon jock Rebekah “Bex” Maroun joined the Boston show. Entercom’s Ron Valeri departed after two long runs in management at WAAF (107.3), the last as PD for 13 years, replaced by Joe Calgari; at Beasley, Hannah Byrom departed the WKLB (102.5) morning show, later to be replaced by American Idol local hero Ayla Brown.

WQFM (104.5 Hancock NY) dropped its simulcast of WEZX (106.9 Scranton); under new Bold Gold ownership, it changed calls to WHNB to simulcast “Thunder Country” WDNB (102.1 Jeffersonville); the WQFM calls replaced venerable WBAX on 1240 in Wilkes-Barre PA.

Translators brought more format changes in Pennsylvania and New York, as WKVA (920 Lewistown PA) moved from oldies to classic hits as “Big 100.3,” while WELM (1410 Elmira NY) became classic rock “106.5 the Pirate,” replacing CBS Sports Radio.

More call changes: WQTW (1570 Latrobe PA) to WKHJ; WFAT (700 Orange-Athol MA) to WPVQ.

New: CFPT (106.5 Toronto), CFPO (95.7 Ottawa) with “ELMNT FM” native programming.

Gone: WYOB-LP (105.5 Oak Bluffs MA).

NOVEMBER

It wasn’t all that “Real” for iHeart in Philadelphia, which tossed its throwback hip-hop format at WISX (106.1) after just a year, replacing it with soft AC “Breeze” and sending the airstaff (including morning man Chio Acosta) packing.

Alan Bishop’s Finger Lakes Radio Group launched classic hits “The Lake” on WCGR (1550 Canandaigua) and its two translators on 104.5 and a new one on 100.1 serving Rochester. Just down the road, Genesee Media launched classic country to replace talk on WOKR (1310 Canandaigua) and its new 95.5 translator. In New Hampshire, Saga replaced “Hits 94.1” with “Rewind” on its HD-fed translator in Manchester.

On Long Island, the call change from WLIE to WBWD on AM 540 in Islip made sense a few weeks later when the former Spanish-language religious outlet flipped to Indian music as “Bolly 540.”

Tiny WDLA-FM (92.1 Walton NY) said farewell to Ron Galley after a remarkable 47-year run; that was seven years longer than Cathy Dee’s equally remarkable run at WATD-FM (95.9) in Marshfield, Mass., where she retired from afternoons.

In Altoona, PA, WWGE (1400 Loretto) became WYUP, “107.1 Jack FM,” with the addition of a new translator.

Gone: the tower of WHGL (100.3 Canton PA), claimed by a town plow truck that caught a guy wire the day after Thanksgiving.

In Orillia and Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Bayshore Broadcasting launched a new “MAX FM” classic hits format on CISO (89.1) and CHGB (97.7), replacing AC “Sunshine” and “Beach,” respectively. In St. Catharines, Rick Hodge retired from CHRE (105.7 EZ Rock), just weeks before his former CHUM-FM morning partner stepped down…

DECEMBER

December 5 brought an all-star farewell to veteran CHUM-FM (104.5 Toronto) morning man Roger Ashby, whose last show after almost 50 years took place before a packed hotel ballroom. Co-host Marilyn Denis continued with the newest addition to the show, Jamar McNeil.

Changes kept coming at iHeart in Boston, where Jeff Kuhner returned to mornings at WRKO (680), swapping airshifts with Doug “VB” Goudie and ousting his co-host Kim Carrigan. Down the hall, WBZ (1030) shuffled morning co-host Josh Binswanger to afternoons, moving Jeff Brown to mornings.

In Philadelphia, Urban One flipped black gospel “Praise” to classic soul “Classix” on WPPZ (107.9); classic R&B also got a new FM home in Buffalo on Entercom’s WWWS (1400) and its new translator at 107.3. Vernon Odom’s retirement from WPVI (Channel 6) ended a long and distinguished reporting career that stretched back to the 1970s; so did Jorge Quiroga’s long run at WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston, which also ended with retirement at year’s end.

Saga’s perpetual New Hampshire translator rearrangement moved “Fox Sports Keene” (WZBK 1220) from 104.1 to 102.3; the 104.1 signal became “Pure Oldies,” fed by an HD subchannel of WKNE (103.7) in Keene.

Back on the air: WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes NJ), simulcasting WALL (1340 Middletown NY); WZTE (1530 Union City, formerly WMCE North East), stunting with patriotic music; WTBR (89.7 Pittsfield MA), now under the aegis of Pittsfield Community TV.

Gone: the mighty 307 kW downtown Montreal signal of CKOI (96.9), replaced by a new 148 kW signal from the much higher Mount Royal site.

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> > > Coming Monday, Dec. 31: The Year’s Top 10 Stories

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