Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Over the last few years, we’ve gotten pretty good at getting to the “before” half of stations that are moving, but sometimes we’re not as quick as we should be at checking out the “after.”
So it was with Irv Goldstein’s Berkshire Broadcasting cluster in Danbury, Connecticut – we rushed over there back in 2012 to document their last days in their old downtown studios (our tour, with late and much-missed chief engineer Tom Osenkowsky, appeared in this space in early 2014), but it took us until the autumn of 2017 to get back to Danbury to see the new studios over on the west side of town in their finished form.
The new digs are a huge step up from the cramped, windowless fourth-floor space downtown that had been home to news-talk WLAD (800) and top-40 WDAQ (98.3); there’s ample parking and lots of natural light through the first-floor windows here at 98 Mill Plain Road, where the Berkshire offices are on one side of the lobby and the studios are down a hallway on the other side, with 98Q in the middle and WLAD’s talk and news studios anchoring the far corner.
A production room can also be used as another live studio if there’s a need to grow beyond automation on any of the additional services that now come out of here – oldies “B94.5” on WAXB (850 Ridgefield) and a Danbury translator or country “Bull” on two more translators at 107.3 and 103.7, fed from WDAQ’s HD subchannels. (Irv’s been busy with translators here – he’s also feeding WLAD’s programming to a new translator on 94.1.)
After lunch in Danbury, our traveling caravan (we were accompanied this time around by some broadcasting friends, including Broadcasting Club founder Dan Hyatt, RadioInsight’s Lance Venta and SAS Audio’s Al Salci) headed south and east to the campus of Quinnipiac College in Hamden, just north of New Haven. We’d been over that way earlier in 2017 to visit iHeart’s Radio Towers Park (WELI/WKCI), but our destination this time was a smaller and more local operation.
WQUN (1220 Hamden) is the latest incarnation of a small AM station that’s been through many identities in its 55-year history, including WDEE, WCDQ, all-women WOMN, WSCR (“Suburban Country Radio”), oldies WNNR and eventually business news and then Spanish as WXCT in the years before Quinnipiac bought the station in 1997 to make it a commercially-run offshoot of its communications program.
Today, WQUN is ensconced in a beautiful glassed-in studio complex (with classy wood detailing) on the first floor of a house on the edge of the Quinnipiac campus. Like WLAD/WDAQ, this is an Axia-based plant; there’s a newsroom/studio on one end of the hallway, two production rooms down the hall, and a big air studio across the hall from the newsroom.
In some of its earlier incarnations, 1220 had been a sister station to New Haven’s legendary rock station, WPLR (99.1), and so it’s kind of fitting that the talent holding down the afternoon drive shift these days on WQUN is Brian Smith, who was half of the “Smith and Barber” morning show on WPLR for many years. He’s one of many Connecticut radio veterans who’ve found a happy home here at WQUN, where full-service radio lives on long after it’s vanished from many commercially-owned stations in the area.
After checking out the cozy WQUN offices upstairs and the rack room down in the basement, we head south and west to Denham Hill Road, just uphill from WELI and Radio Towers Park. This is where WQUN’s two-tower array sits concealed in the woods behind the ranch house that was once the 1220 studios and is still the transmitter site.
The main floor of the building is mostly empty offices now, but downstairs is where the studios used to be – and where WQUN has built out an emergency studio in case it should ever have to vacate its usual digs. That emergency studio (and another former studio that’s now being used as a storage space) looks out on the transmitter room, where the vintage RCA anchors a row of transmitters that includes the current BE rig that powers WQUN’s daytime kilowatt and its 305 watts at night.
Thanks to Berkshire’s Irv Goldstein and WQUN’s Ryan Krupa and Ray Andrewsen for the tours!
GOOD NEWS! (for us)
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Next week: Hartford, 2017