Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.

WBEC

When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.

In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.

WUPE/WUHN

When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.

On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.

KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV

When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.

Radio Clusters in 2022

People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.

In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.

In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.

What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.

Culture always changes in the hallways,

before it changes out the speakers.

-John Frost

When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.

Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.

Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.

15 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

15 responses to “Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

  1. In 1976 when I started as a member of the WABC/WPLJ Engineering Department, we were the only shared Department between the two stations! Although the WABC and WPLJ studios were on the same floor, they were on opposite sides of the building, and indeed the two stations offices were on different floors and each station had its own GM! They were run like 2 small businesses, even though they were two of the biggest radio stations in NYC at the time. Indeed, when we moved from the ABC Building to 2 Penn Plaza in 1988 that was still largely the case, but over the years, as either Disney, Citadel, or Cumulus added stations to the floor, that changed, and more people worked on multiple stations and the stations shared much more than just Engineering. In our case, it was a slow and subtle change, but the radio stations I left in 2016 were run considerably differently than the ones I joined in 1976. Good point I’d never thought about Dick.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark Portzer

    Thank you Dick, for your observation. No truer statement has been made. There are many stations, I am sure, would never be missed if they went dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Victor Escalante

    That horse of love for the craft, team, and station left the barn years ago and it’s never coming back. You have eloquently and at times honestly addressed the reasons why radio is going the way of newspapers. The next shift taking place now is DAB broadcasting that is rapidly cannibalizing over the air radio. That shift siphons ad revenue and fragments radio even more. Our team has created a DAB radio with 22 different apps to stream simulcast. With a start up budget of less than $10k we are at 10MM per month. Legacy radio in the next five years will be where I predicted years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rich Raimonde

    Whatever energy is exerted is dispersed and lost in the cloud.

    Like

  5. Dave Mason

    Dick, it’s a shameful exercise-and it may be just one part of the issues we’re facing. I’ve been doing some fill-in work at WECK in Buffalo and a week ago Saturday a world-altering event happened with the shooting of 13 people in a local Buffalo supermarket. WECK immediately went into coverage, altering its LIVE programming of a 50’s and 60s’ oldies format. (It’s a 1kw AM station with 3 FM translators.) The coverage continued through the night. I would think that by Monday every Buffalo station would have reacted to this event so I did a short examination of 22 radio Buffalo stations’ websites. Only 11 of them made even the slightest reference to the tragedy; I’m told that as the news was unfolding, many of the “local” stations were either syndicated or voicetracked making no reference. WECK is NOT a news station with its own news department, but it clobbered most of the rest of the market because management cares enough to hire people who win! In 1977 WKBW was further propelled into its legendary status with unprecedented coverage of a blizzard that paralyzed Western New York. As of Monday its website had NO mention of the shootings. One of that company’s other stations which targets the African-American community was also lacking any mention. Back in my days at WGR, when disaster struck we didn’t care who it was, if they could contribute something they were part of the coverage. It’s all so important, but today we’re being failed by those who have a license to serve the public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard this same sort of sad radio story for weather events, like tornadoes, where most stations are in automation or syndication and the only mention of what’s happening might be from an EAS alert.

      It’s another example of how radio is causing its own demise. It makes me sad to hear things like what you wrote.
      -DT

      Like

  6. I worked for a very small market station in Upstate New York 1978-1980. AM/FM combo. AM was a day-timer with three full time announcers and news staff of two. FM was 5AM to 1AM with four full time announcers. FM shared news staff with the AM. We had a part-time weekend air staff of three people. We also had a part-time sports guy. We had three full time sales people, traffic director, billing person and an engineer who was also a fill in announcer.

    Liked by 1 person

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