Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Radio Boo-Boo

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Last night I was surfing the radio boards, broadcast journalist forums and other trade sites when I came across this little gem on Fybush:
"Speaking of WBZ, the radio side of the operation proved the value of a full-time newsroom last week when a chemical plant exploded early Wednesday morning. While WBZ's overnight local newscasts are pre-recorded, its talk shows aren't, and so WBZ listeners had updates from callers (and, soon, from WBZ reporters who awoke and rushed to the scene) while a certain other newsroomless talk station [WRKO] was deep in "Coast to Coast AM." (And, its posted schedule on its website notwithstanding, said station didn't have "Boston this Morning With Rod Fritz" on the air at 6, either.)

Speaking of WRKO, it had still more headaches last week, when its phone system failed, leaving Howie Carr and other hosts to try to take callers with just a single working phone line. Ouch..."
Ouch indeed! Here's what fybush.com wrote about WRKO the previous week:
"...on Thursday afternoon, the seven staffers who made up the Entercom talk station's newsroom were called into the offices of station management and informed, one by one, that WRKO was moving in a different direction, replacing its local news staff with reports from Metro Networks and increasing the amount of Fox News Radio content being used on the air.

The moment must have felt like deja vu for several of the WRKO staffers: back in 1995, previous owner American Radio Systems dismissed most of the entire news staff, including news director Rod Fritz, and contracted with Metro to provide newscasts. At the time, Metro hired some of the WRKO news talent (including Fritz and Pat Carroll, now at WCBS in New York), and WRKO kept a handful of its own newspeople, including veteran anchor Listo Fisher.

This time, it's total - Fritz and Fisher are both out of work, as are Paul Tuthill (who joined WRKO from Worcester's WTAG when WRKO reversed course in 1999 and rebuilt its newsroom), Mary Blake, Sharon Smith, Marga Bessette and Deb Daigle.

WRKO says it's a cost-cutting measure, "primarily based on our mission to build upon the core identity of WRKO-AM." The station's statement continues: "It is a talk station, and we need to put all of our resources into improving our talk format." (We'd note the big bill coming due for WRKO's expensive new Red Sox deal, too.)

On Friday, Fisher told the Boston Herald that he "find(s) it difficult to conceive of [...] doing a talk show without the news component," adding that he expected the cuts to come at some point. Fisher had been with WRKO for nearly 20 years, after a stint across town at WBZ. (Fritz was at WBZ for a while too, as well as stints at WROR, WMJX, WMEX and WHDH.)

What happens now? WRKO is apparently hoping a new roster of talk hosts (filling the mid-morning shift formerly home to John DePetro, as well as a possible new morning show) can somehow talk about the news without having anyone in-house actually reporting the news. Will listeners buy it - or will they head down the dial to WBZ and WBUR, the last two Boston radio stations with actual news reporters still on the streets?"
Already, we KNOW the answer. So good it came so soon! As the Klingons say, revenge is a dish best served cold, and this is as stone cold as it gets!

Boo-hoo, poor Howie Carr. You got what you deserve, Howie. You're a guy with a lot of power who could have stood up for your brothers and sisters in the news departemnt, but you didn't bother. Now it comes back to bite you! Good!

Over the last three weeks, I've asked people in Albany--- friends, neighbors, the druggist, the postman, what they listen to when they listen to the radio. Many had a favorite station for music, but for news I was surprised to hear how many of them tune in WAMC. WGY was second on the list, closely followed by WROW.

Those in the Capital Region aware of the Thruway bridge collapse years back may remember that Sunday morning: NOBODY HOME, nobody at the switch at any local news outlet, radio or TV, except for WGY. Even the newspapers were closed, because Sunday's papers were out. Boom! The bridge goes down, people die... at least CBS6 acquired videos of the collapse and sent reporter Judy Sanders and a cameraman out there... but it was a WAKE-UP call that resonated thru local radio and TV. Because of that collapse, I picked up a nice job at WTRY under then news director George Lezotte. I proved my worth the very first day on the job when the area was hit by a massive freak storm. I worked all day long and I know George must have been happy, because he had to convince the "powers" that having a newsman on duty on Sunday morning was justified. Those dopes in Boston aren't so lucky. WRKO, aside from egg on it's face, has lost all credibility, and the news department would have to be rebuilt from the ground up, and even then, they'd have to really go the extra mile and a half to get listeners to come back.

Part of the problem is that people holding positions of power in the industry mistakenly believe citizens don't listen to radio for news. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I was on the UAlbany campus after the girl was raped by the football players, I talked with many, many students, most of them upset that they had heard about the on-campus rape through OUTSIDE media... if it was TV they said they saw it on Channel 13 or Channel 6. If it was radio, they heard it on WGY. An official at the college radio station had no idea that there had even been a rape! (And most of the kids said they never listened to WCDB anyway!)
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  1. This is from the TimesU:

    One of the least widely talked about — but most stunning — demises in the media the past 10 years has been the wholesale extinction of local radio news. WGY was one of the last holdouts in the market.

    Now, there is only WAMC Northeast Public Radio and WENT (1300 AM) in Gloversville in terms of stations with reporters who regularly hit the streets.

    Yes, other stations have news reporters, but they are usually shackled to the desk, cobbling reports together from other sources, rather than gathering information from the scene.

    Maybe WGY’s new slogan should be “See it tonight, read it tomorrow or hear it here a day after tomorrow.'’

  2. Interesting how "Doc Hux" throws the station he fills in at once in a blue moon, WROW, under the bus. As the newsgirl admitted on air one time, they don't have any news if they don't get the morning papers!

  3. I listened to WGY news on the way to work this morning (8:30) and heard all the same news I saw YESTERDAY at 6AM on Tv 10!

    WROW news is total boredom. When they're not stealing from the newspaer, they're reading news word for word from Tv station websites! And Angela "out of breath" Austin is a trainwreck on weekends: they might as well not have local news if they're going to have her gasping her way through it!

  4. I usually listen to Paul V on WROW in the morning and the rest of the day I'm with WAMC. Lately, I've been tuning Paul out for news on the hour and half hour, going over to 810 instead. The quality of news at WROW has slipped ever since you left, Dave! ;)


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