Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
When you plan a Big Trip that spans the end of February and the beginning of March, you never know what the weather will dish out. Lucky for us, our trip around the mid-Atlantic region this year was mostly a warm and sunny one…until the final day, at least.
We woke up in Salisbury, Maryland to the sight of snow outside, and it stayed chilly all day as we made our way around the Eastern Shore and eventually to BWI airport for the flight home that night. Which may explain why we started out with some indoor visits, including a peek at the brand-new studios for the four stations in Adams Radio Group’s Salisbury-Ocean City cluster.
How new? Rock “Beach” WZBH (93.5 Georgetown DE), oldies “Big” WGBG (98.5 Seaford DE), R&B “OC 104” WOCQ (103.9 Berlin MD) and country “K107” WKHI (107.7 Fruitland MD) had literally just moved into their new digs in an office park on the north side of Salisbury when we stopped by for a quick tour.
The studios here (as with other Adams clusters) are identical and spotless, all lined up along a shiny new hallway with a shiny new rack room at the end.
Meanwhile over at Salisbury University, shiny new studios are still in the future for Delmarva Public Radio’s pair of stations, WSCL (89.5 Salisbury) and WSDL (90.7 Ocean City). Their old studio location was torn down as part of campus reconstruction a few years back, and for now the offices and studios are in separate locations, with the studios in a modular building out in a back parking lot.
They do a lot with a little space here: five rooms, basically, all in a row, starting at one end with a rack room that houses the automation for both WSDL (news and talk) and WSCL (classical). WSDL’s studio is next to that, looking into a talk studio that’s shared by both stations (and that serves as the “lobby,” sort of, for the studio area).
WSCL’s classical studio also looks into the talk studio from the other end, and adjoining that is a small windowed room that just fits a couple of desks for WSCL/WSDL’s crack news team.
Here’s hoping that the next time we make it to Salisbury, the stations will have found new permanent studio space that reunites them with their office staff!
Meanwhile, though, our route on this March day takes us northwest out of Salisbury, over toward the charming little Chesapeake Bay town of Cambridge, Maryland.
Commercial radio here comes from MTS Broadcasting’s four-station cluster, housed at the edge of the bay in a little block building that began as WCMD (1240) in 1947.
Over the years, WCMD became WCEM, then added sister stations: first WCEM-FM (106.3) in 1968, and much later WAAI (100.9 Hurlock) and WTDK (107.1 Federalsburg).
Today, WCEM plays standards, WCEM-FM is hot AC “the Heat,” WAAI is “100.9% Country,” and WTDK is oldies “The Duck.” And while we did get inside for a tour, no photos were allowed – so we can tell you about the big transmitter room that looks like it was originally a live performance studio and the line of studios next to it, but when it comes to images, we have to move along to one of our favorite stops of the trip.
That’s Cambridge’s LPFM, WHCP-LP (101.5), a labor of love from NPR’s former director of engineering, Mike Starling.
Mike’s spent the last few years as “chief volunteer,” guiding this great little station from inception to reality, and from a barn behind his house to a storefront right on the main drag.
In that space (and with the help of donations from radio buddies all over the country), Mike’s built out a wonderful broadcast facility. The front room is a combination air studio/work room/live performance space, with a big screen over the studio area to show off what the DJ’s working on.
There’s a small office area and a bathroom in the middle, leading back to a quieter air studio at the back of the building. Those boards were castoffs from Wyoming Public Radio, just to give one example of all the donations that helped Mike give his town a well-equipped local radio voice. And what’s that behind the old wooden door in the back studio? It’s another little studio for voicetracking and production, plus a rack for STL and EAS and such.
WHCP’s transmitter is over at the local police department tower a few blocks away…and there will soon be a second WHCP studio, in a space that the town has donated so that Mike and his crew can create an entire broadcast facility just to train local teens to do radio. How cool is that?
And from there, we’re off, off and away, headed for BWI and home – and we hope, sometime soon, for a return visit to see more of what Delmarva has to offer!
Thanks to Adams’ Albie Dee, WSCL’s Chris Ranck and WHCP “chief volunteer” Mike Starling for the tours!
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Next week: Watertown, NY