We speak, of course, of "The Connection," Christopher Lydon's daily two-hour haven of erudite conversation. A staple of the WBUR-FM (90.9 Boston) lineup since the mid-nineties, the show has been distributed in recent years to several dozen public radio outlets nationwide (including, out there in NERW-land, New Hampshire Public Radio, Maine Public Radio, WNED Buffalo, WXXI Rochester, North Country Public Radio, the WAMC network and New York's WNYC.)
But as WBUR head honcho Jane Christo prepared to take The Connection to NPR's national lineup, it seems Lydon and producer Mary McGrath wanted to share in the riches the program was producing for the WBUR folks. The two proposed to form a production company with WBUR to distribute the program, a move WBUR interpreted as insubordination, and so it was that WBUR escorted Lydon and McGrath from the building last week, putting them on a two-week paid suspension.
You don't do something like that to an entrenched Boston media veteran like Lydon (the former anchor of WGBH-TV's Ten O'Clock News and a former newspaper reporter) without expecting all hell to break loose in the papers, and thus the pages of the Globe have been filled with articles about Lydon's dispute with WBUR -- complete with the revelation of Lydon's WBUR salary ($175,000 this year, but with raises taking him to $280,000 in a few years) and the disclosure of increasingly testy e-mails between Lydon and his WBUR bosses.
If WBUR was still hoping for a quick, quiet resolution to all the hoo-hah, those hopes were dashed over the weekend when several Connection staffers quit in protest. Meanwhile, WBUR has been using substitute hosts on the Connection -- but will NPR have any interest in the show if Lydon and his crew don't return? We'll let you know how this one plays out.
Jay Gordon's leaving WODS (103.3 Boston) and the overnight shift for one of those "real jobs" at Dean Witter. No word on a replacement yet at Oldies 103, and the good news here is that Gordon's weekend "Elvis Only" show will continue on WODS and in syndication.
Up on the North Shore, UMass Boston gets WNEF(FM) as the calls for its new 91.7 in Newburyport, adding to the top-o'-the-hour mouthful that already includes WUMB Boston, WBPR Worcester, WFPB Orleans and WFPB-FM Falmouth. And speaking of 91.7s up there, congratulations to Bob Nelson, who'll mark his twentieth anniversary at Salem State's WMWM (91.7 Salem) with a special edition of his Sunday-afternoon blues show March 11.
The news from Tufts University's WMFO (91.5 Medford) is, literally, news. The station is adding a daily half-hour of news from 7 to 7:30 PM, which means it joins Emerson's WERS (88.9 Boston), Brandeis' WBRS (100.1 Waltham), and probably a few others that escape our memory as Boston-area college stations doing regular long-form newscasts.
Well... as we pointed the NERW-mobile towards Philadelphia two weekends ago (much more on the trip in a bit), we actually heard WXXC on the air, sort of. The signal is just barely perceptible on I-81 crossing the Onondaga/Cortland county line south of Syracuse, and disappears again well before Cortland itself. Just as we started wondering whether WXXC would serve more than a few hundred potential listeners, though, the FCC beat us to the punch:
On February 12, just two days after we heard WXXC for the first time, the FCC cancelled the station's license and deleted its callsign. We suspect an appeal from SCR, but we suspect (given what we heard of the WXXC signal) that the group would do better to apply its energy to its other applications, which promise to deliver more signal to areas where people actually live.
As we write this Monday night (2/19), we're listening to the WXXE Webcast, which is still giving an ID for WXXC.
(One more bit of strangeness, though: while WXXC's sister station, WXXE Fenner, can always be distinguished by its phone-line audio quality, WXXC actually sounded halfway decent on the air for the few minutes we could hear it. Hmmmmmm.....)
Up in Buffalo, Janet Snyder needs a new co-host for her morning show at WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls). Nicholas Picholas, who's been her partner at "Kiss" for the last few years, is heading north to Toronto to do mornings at "Energy Radio" CING (107.9 Burlington). (A Buffalo correction, by the way: it's Mark Lindow who left the PD chair at WYRK.)
[Late news out of the Queen City: WBUF (92.9) ditched its "Jammin' Hits" format Thursday, stunted for a day, then went to an 80s-heavy rock format Friday, adding Howard Stern in mornings. Much more in next week's issue!]
Here in Rochester, not much happened while we were away...just the return of a little LPTV that we're quite certain nobody missed. W47BM, last seen a couple of years ago with three months of the popular "All Color Bars, All The Time" network before going dark, is now running NVC home shopping. Yawn...
Calvary's Penn Yan translator for its WZXV (99.7 Palmyra) has changed frequencies from 102.7 to 102.5, where it's now known as W273AF. (We note that Buffalo's WTSS, a grandfathered superpower outlet, used to put a very respectable signal into Penn Yan on that frequency.)
Down in Elmira, Jim Berman comes to town as general manager of WETM (Channel 18), arriving from several years at Chicago's WBBM-TV as director of research and programming. A few more TV moves: Bob Yuna moves from Charleston, West Virginia's WCHS/WVAH to Buffalo's WKBW-TV as news director, while at the other end of I-90, Beau Duffy is promoted to the same post at Schenectady's WRGB.
Just outside Utica, Ken Roser makes his LMA of new WBGK (99.7 Newport Village) into something more; he's buying the "Bug Country" outlet from 21st Century Radio Ventures for a reported $575,000.
Up north, could the new 96.1 in Norwood be closer to taking air? Tim Martz has changed the calls on the CP from WAZV to WYSI, which sounds a heck of a lot (to us, anyway) like another link in the "Yes FM" chain that already includes WYSX (98.7 Ogdensburg) and WYUL (94.7 Chateaugay). Yes has a new afternoon host, and he's a familiar voice in the North Country: Rick DeFranco, former PD and morning guy at WPAC (92.7 Ogdensburg) and now weatherman at Watertown's WWNY-TV (Channel 7).
Down in the Binghamton area, Clear Channel files to sell WINR (680) to Cleveland Radio Licenses Inc. -- though we don't recall having seen CCU's purchase of the station from dentist Paul Titus having closed yet.
Just a little bit east, we heard what BanJo has done with the Delaware County stations it recently bought: WDLA (1270 Walton) has indeed broken off to do satellite standards, leaving WDLA-FM (92.1) alone with country (now as "Big Cat Country," just like BanJo's WBKT 95.3 over in Norwich). Meanwhile, it's "Oldies 100" at WDHI (100.3 Delhi) and now-simulcast WIYN (94.7 Deposit).
A quick bit of Albany news: "The Sun" finally made it to the airwaves of Schenectady on WVKZ (1240) this week...and we hear our speculation about the return of an old callsign there might not be far from reality.
Downstate, now: We didn't quite make it to Woodstock and WDST (100.1) on our trip, but we can tell you the station has a new PD and morning host, with Greg Gattine moving over from Poughkeepsie's WPDH into Ron Van Warmer's old job. We also hear WDST has moved up Tinker Street, into number 293, Todd Rundgren's Utopia Studios.
It looks as though a consolidation of New York City's public TV outlets is nearing reality. Broadcasting & Cable reports WNET, the city schools' WNYE-TV and Long Island's WLIW are close to an agreement to share a common master control, and could eventually engage in an all-out merger. After seeing WLIW's forest of trailers at its Long Island studio/transmitter site a few days ago, we're certain that Channel 21, at least, could benefit from the added space and resources such a merger would provide!
Family Radio's WCTF (1170 Vernon) changes from commercial to noncomm license status, and if you've missed Louis Siering's NERTV site, it's back after a several-month hiatus.
Speaking of the Pine Tree State, news is sometimes slow to reach us from those very outlying regions, which is why we're only now learning that WFST (600 Caribou) was silenced last December 18 when high winds took down its tower. We're told a replacement tower has been erected, and the religious station was expected to resume broadcasting this past week.
Family Life Ministries has call letters for its new FM in Trout Run: put WCIT(FM) in your list for that 90.1 facility just north of Williamsport. (Longtime friend-of-NERW Fred Vobbe will immediately recognize the callsign as one that used to live in his hometown of Lima, Ohio; right, Fred?)
Out in the Poconos, WILP (960 Mount Pocono) changes calls to WOGY, which suggests to us that Keymarket's parking a "Froggy" call for future use somewhere.
Out at the other end of the state is Sharpsville, serving the Youngstown, Ohio market, where Clear Channel has flipped the calls of WTNX (95.9) to WAKZ -- which, you'll have already guessed, means the former "The Beat" is now yet another "Kiss" CHR.
And as long as we're stepping beyond the Keystone State: Denny Sanders is out as PD of Cleveland's WMJI (105.7), part of a host of changes at one of NERW's favorite oldies stations.
Beyond the state lines to the south and east, George Brusstar joins the staff of Wilmington's WILM (1450) in the newsroom there, adding fuel to the fire of a news war in the First State (we hear competitor WDEL 1150 has added live top-hour newscasts of late; see what happens when radio is the only local news medium and there's no local TV?)
NBBC will also be building a station on 98.1 down in Saint Stephen, just across the river from Calais, Maine. The calls on that one will be CHTD, and we hear it will be at least a partial simulcast of CHWV. (With calls like that, could 98.1 be "the Tide"?)
But wait -- there's more! CINB (96.1 Saint John) is also new to the air, running Christian contemporary music on its low-power signal as "NewSong FM." And we hear the new 94.5 in Moncton will soon take to the airwaves as well.
It's not just the Maritimes getting new signals: Kingston, Ontario is now hearing tests of CIKR (105.7), the new 24 kW signal that will soon be fully operational as rocker "K-Rock." We hear John Wright's station is coming in considerably weaker down the road in Belleville than Kingston's other FMs; we'll see later this week if we can hear it from the spots along Lake Ontario where we can reliably hear the rest of the Kingston dial.
Ottawa will be getting a new AM station, in a way: the MacDonald-Cartier International Airport has been granted a 99-watt signal on 1630 kHz to offer travelers information in English and French.
Down in Oshawa, "Energy Radio" arrived on CKGE (94.9) last Friday (2/16) at, of course, 9:49 AM. The latest link in Corus' Energy chain will mostly carry the network from Burlington's CING (107.9), with the exception of local host Mike Devine middays.
And on the TV dial, "OnTV" gave way to "CH" on Hamilton's CHCH (Channel 11) and its relays in London, Ottawa, and elsewhere. The station, now a sister to Global TV, expands its 6 PM news to an hour and will soon add a daily talk show at 9:30 AM.
This issue of NERW reaches you a day or so later than usual because we've been on the road...and what a trip it was!
Our first few days were occupied largely by non-radio endeavors, but we did get a chance to see a few sites around Philadelphia that were new to us. Thanks to Mega Communications' Bill Sullivan for an interesting visit to the rebuilt sites of WSSJ (1310 Camden NJ) and WEMG (900 Philadelphia); we'll feature those as Sites of the Week on fybush.com sometime soon. We also managed to get up to the far northwestern reaches of Philadelphia to see the WJJZ (106.1) tower, a big self-supporter that was the original home of one of the big Philly TV stations -- but now we've forgotten whether it was channel 3 or channel 6.
Wednesday found us making our way north up the Jersey Shore, starting at the new 1000+ foot stick in Tuckerton that carries Telemundo affiliate WWSI (Channel 62) to Philadelphia, moving north through Ocean and Monmouth Counties, and ending up at the brand-new home of WJLK (94.3) and WADB (1310) Asbury Park, adjacent to the Seaview Square mall where the stations used to be.
Thursday brought us to the heart of Manhattan and a visit to Clear Channel's new auxiliary FM site at 4 Times Square and its transmitters at the Empire State Building -- and you may rest assured that those will be prominently featured as Sites of the Week very soon (many thanks to John Lyons of WAXQ for playing tour guide for us!)
After a quick stop on Staten Island to see the WSIA (88.9) tower now that they're back on the air (and to drive the block or two that part-15 "WHPW" 1690 covers from its building on Tompkins Avenue), it was off to Brooklyn (where the guards at Kingsborough Community College didn't want us taking a picture of WKRB 90.9, public property or not) and then to Long Island, where in the course of a day and a half we saw nearly every stick on the Island.
That includes, of course, the legendary WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor), where GM Paul Sidney, midday jock Brian Bannon and the rest of the crew showed us all the carts (yes, carts), jingles, bells and such that makes the station such an entertaining throwback to an earlier, more innocent day of broadcasting. That, too, will be a Site of the Week soon -- and we'll also try to show you the new tower of WRIV in Riverhead, the strange H-shaped tower that holds WBAZ (101.7 Southold), the tall TV sticks of WHSI (Channel 67) and WLNY (Channel 55), and so much, so much more.
We left Long Island by way of Maspeth, Queens and the four towers of WQEW (1560), which hide behind a warehouse on Grand Avenue. We made a return visit of sorts to City Island and WCBS/WFAN, so expect that Site of the Week to be updated soon, and we even got to see a few Connecticut sites once we'd fought our way through city traffic -- including W203BB (88.5 Norwalk), that very directional KAWZ translator that somehow wedged itself into the little space that doesn't really exist between WEDW-FM Stamford and WVOF Fairfield on the same channel. (Thanks, Dennis and John, for playing tour guides!)
The final day of the trip took us to some little AM sites: WLNA (1420 Peekskill), just down the hill from the former studios of WLNA and WHUD (100.7), which seem to have moved in with sister stations WBNR/WSPK in new digs on Route 52 in Fishkill. We went east to the single stick of WPUT (1510 Brewster), above the railroad station there, and then west to Cornwall, where we could just barely see the single unpainted stick of WWLE (1170) behind a house on a little private road south of Route 94.
And then, just four sites short of being able to say we'd seen EVERY AM site in the Empire State, we tried to find WGNY Newburgh. It wasn't at the "old" 1220 site just north of the studios on Little Britain Road. Next we tried to find it at the site where it apparently moved when it went to 1200, off County Road 23 between routes 17K and 52 north and west of town. The signal was good and strong, especially as we drove Racquet Drive just off CR 23 -- but the towers? We never saw them. Anyone know where WGNY can be found? We'd love to know!
And from there, instead of going north to Kingston and checking two more sets of calls off the list (sorry, WKNY and WGHQ; we'll be back!), we headed for home, aided by the entertaining sounds of Dead Air on WKPQ (105.3 Hornell).
More pictures to come on Site of the Week...we promise! (or is that a threat?)
One more thing before we go: NERW needs some help from all you good folks out there. For several years, we've taken care of our blank-tape needs for all our airchecking (and we're talking 400-500 tapes a year!) at a certain Massachusetts-based warehouse club, where we could get 16-packs of Maxell UR90s at a reasonable price, complete with cardboard trays in which we could store the tapes.
Now that certain two-letter warehouse club has switched to another brand of tape, without the trays and in those silly slim-line cases that don't store easily...and NERW needs another way to get case-quantities of Maxell UR90s. Anyone who can point us to a suitable wholesaler or similar source will have our gratitude.
And speaking of airchecking, your editor needs engineering assistance! The Aiwa walkman-style recorders that we use to tape stations while we travel are showing their age, and one of them is significantly broken. A generous reader donated a parts unit -- but now it's time for these units to go into the shop for a thorough cleaning, overhaul, and in the case of the broken one and the parts unit, a complete rebuild.
If you have the skills to work on these little units, and would be willing to do so at a reasonable rate (or even as an in-kind donation to NERW), or if you can suggest a reputable place to take them for repair, please drop your editor a line -- I'd be grateful! (Aiwa stopped making units of this quality a few years back, and the new ones they make just don't fulfill NERW's needs...)
And that's it for another week here at NERW. We'll be back on our regular schedule next Monday; see you then!
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