Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
It was one of the strangest radio meetings we’ve ever had: on a plane landing at Dublin Airport in 2011 after an all-night flight (most of which we’d spent snoozing), turning to the guy in the next seat as we got ready to deplane and making some small talk.
“So, what do you do?”
“Oh, I’m the general manager and morning man of a radio station in Michigan.”
Moral of the story, if there is one: always strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to you on a long flight, especially when the station he runs is less than an hour north of your in-laws.
And that’s how we found ourselves heading north out of Fort Wayne on a late summer morning, headed up I-69 just across the state line to pay a call on Ken Delaney at WTVB (1590) in Coldwater, Michigan.
“The Voice of Branch (County)” has been on the air here since 1949, and today it’s part of a larger cluster owned by Midwest Communications. Despite the sign outside showing three FMs along with WTVB, those FMs (including WNWN-FM 98.5, the former WTVB-FM that’s still licensed to Coldwater) actually operate from studios in Battle Creek, 20 miles or so to the northwest, leaving WTVB all alone in this pretty sizable building.
Ken’s morning show is super-local, and his station reaps the benefit of a close relationship with the community. (That flight he was on back in 2011? It was part of a listener trip to Ireland that had more than a dozen loyal WTVB listeners on board.)
The layout here is pretty simple: come inside and you’ll see some sales offices to your left (in what I think is a newer part of the building), or you can turn right and go down the hall to the studio/transmitter part of the structure. There’s a production room here that I believe doubles as a legal main studio for WNWN, and next to that is the big main studio where Ken does his morning show, with a newsroom right outside. Both studios look into the transmitter room that runs along the back of the building, where WTVB’s 5000 watt day/1000 watt night signal originates. (It’s directional at night, non-directional by day.)
WTVB has a translator here, too: W238CD on 95.5 now relays WTVB’s talk and music to the Coldwater area.
We close this installment with quick peeks at two other small-market stations we passed by on the way home from Fort Wayne a few days later: in downtown Lima, Ohio, the five stations of Childers Media Group (sports WCIT 940 and WWSR 93.1, country WFGF 92.1, classic rock WEGE 104.9 and AC WDOH 107.1) had recently moved from suburbia to new streetfront digs in the middle of town, a block from Public Square. (We’ll have to come back and take a look inside one of these days!)
Down the road in Geneva, east of Cleveland, we caught the studios of country WKKY (104.7) just before sunset.
Thanks to WTVB’s Ken Delaney for the tour!
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Next week: Ithaca and Owego, NY, 2014