N.B.: This profile has not been updated in several years, and may contain significant inaccuracies.
WXXI broadcasts with 5000 Watts, day and night, from a four-tower array in Brighton, south of Rochester. WXXI is non-directional by day, but at night uses all four towers (arranged in an oblong shape) to create a pattern that aims most of the signal north, protecting WSPD Toledo and WFEA Manchester.
While WXXI's official station history dates 1370 back only as far as 1984, the station is in fact the third oldest in Rochester, with a history that began in the 1930s.
WXXI's predecessor, WSAY, was founded by Gordon Brown, an engineer who was one of the great characters of Rochester radio. Legend has it that the first license granted to Brown was lost in the mail, and it was only after a delay of several months that a new license, this time with the WSAY calls, was finally in Brown's hands. The new station made its debut in early 1936, running 250 Watts on 1210 kHz.
WSAY moved to 1240 in the NARBA shift of March 29, 1941, then to 1370 three years later. It took the end of the war for Brown to be able to get the equipment and steel he needed to build the 5-kW directional facility specified in the 1370 construction permit.
In the 1950s, WSAY became a top-40 station, with a rotating cast of low-paid DJs using house names such as "Mike Melody." For more than two decades, Brown continued to run WSAY on a shoestring, with technical quality that was often commensurate. WSAY was the only Rochester station that never had an FM outlet or applied for a television license.
By the 1970s, WSAY had become, in effect, a freeform radio station. Brown had little input into the music played on the station, leaving the choices in the hands of the DJs, who played everything from blues to country to heavy metal, interruped promptly every night at six for the daily reading of the rosary (one of several paid blocks of time on WSAY).
With Brown's death in 1979, WSAY was sold to the Monroe Broadcasting Corporation, which changed the format to country, then, in 1982, to talk radio under the WRTK (Rochester TalK) calls. A year later, country music returned, and after another year, public broadcaster WXXI stepped in and bought the station.
The 1370 frequency went dark for several weeks, returning on July 2, 1984 as Rochester's second public radio service, providing a diet of news, talk and jazz to complement the classical music that now filled the entire broadcast day on WXXI-FM.
WXXI(AM) has varied little from that format in the years since it signed on, and now offers news and talk (including a local midday talk show) in the daytime and early evening, with classic jazz all night long.