Tag Archives: WUPE

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.

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Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

It’s always been my belief that unless you first build a positive culture in the workplace, nothing else you try to accomplish will ever come to fruition.

So, when I read this famous quote that business guru Peter Drucker was alleged to have coined, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it came as no surprise that the foundation of any successful enterprise is built on its culture.

In fact, most people don’t quit companies or leaders, they quit organizational cultures.

“The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.”

-John Wooden

The Learning Never Stops

In my capstone classes, students learned that their time at the university should be considered a launch pad to a lifetime of learning. Leaders never stop learning.

“When I am through learning, I am through.”

-John Wooden

Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude

Your own personal culture is your attitude. Whether it is positive or negative, it’s yours to control.

As a hiring manager, I always hired people on their attitude; everything else can be trained.

In life, more than any other factor, your attitude pretty much determines where you will go –  and how far you will go.

Ron Lundy

One of my favorite radio personalities was Ron Lundy. I first heard Ron on Music Radio 77 – WABC and immediately fell in love with the contagious, upbeat, positive attitude he presented on his radio show.

When WABC switched formats from music to talk, Ron Lundy found himself out of work, but would eventually be hired by Joe McCoy at WCBS-FM.

Every air shift on CBS-FM was already filled, so in order to create a time period for Ron, Joe McCoy would need to shorten everyone’s air shift, and convince his general manager why this hire would be beneficial to the radio station.

As I heard the story, Joe’s pitch to his GM was that Ron wasn’t just a powerful personality that would attract more listeners to CBS-FM, but that Ron was the type of guy that provided a positive culture inside the radio station, inspiring everyone to do their jobs better.

Attitude in Managing

One of my radio mentors was Phil Weiner (WBEC/WQRB/WUHN/WUPE). When I departed for my first solo general manager position in Atlantic City, he shared with me the most important thing he learned as a general manager, “Whatever your attitude is, when you enter the radio station each day, that will become the attitude of your fellow employees. Keep your problems to yourself and always maintain a positive, upbeat, enthusiastic attitude.”

It may have been the most important advice of my forty-year radio management career.

In my second career as a college professor, knowing that one’s attitude is contagious, I brought that same positive attitude and energy into the classroom.

“Attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught.”

-Margaret McFarland

Everyone You Meet Can Teach You Something

No matter how far in life you’ve gone, or how many degrees, medals or trophies you’ve earned, stay humble. Every person you meet carries knowledge about life that you can benefit from. Stay curious and be willing to soak up the wisdom from everyone you come in contact with.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

-John Wooden

Radio is a People Business

All of my life, I’ve invested my energies in the development of people. Many of them today are owners and managers of their own broadcast operations. As a general manager, I was proud to work with some great and talented individuals.

“You handle things. You work with people.”

-John Wooden

When it comes to managing people, one size does not fit all. I treated each member of my team for the unique personality they were, valuing their talents, and skills, as well as understanding that we all come with our own issues, problems and demons.

Great radio stations, full of talented people, can be an exceptionally exciting workplace.

“The worst things you can do for those you love

is the things they could and should do for themselves.”

-Abraham Lincoln

It’s important to have a culture that allows people to fail. Often the greatest wisdom comes from things that go wrong. As long as you have given your best effort, you are never a failure.

Great managers and teachers are great coaches of people.

The Big Four

Consider these four things when creating culture in your organization:

  1. Culture is created by the behaviors you tolerate.
  2. Change starts with YOU. You can’t expect your people to change if you won’t.
  3. Leadership gives you a voice at the table, not the voice.
  4. Listen to everyone and take their opinions into account when you make the final decision for moving forward.

“Much can be accomplished by teamwork

when no one is concerned about who gets the credit.”

-John Wooden

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Commercial Radio’s 100th Birthday

Election night at KDKA November 2, 1920

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, commercial radio will celebrate it’s 100th birthday. It was on this day in 1920 that “the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation, which served as the radio licensing agency of the day, issued the first radio license ever to KDKA,” as told on the station’s website.

Radio Call Letters

Ironically, those famous Pittsburgh call letters – KDKA – don’t stand for anything. They were simply assigned to the station with its broadcast license from a roster maintained to provide identification for ocean going ships and marine shore radio stations. KDKA just so happened to be the next set of call letters up for being assigned with a broadcast license.

WJJW

This story is analogous to what happened at my college back in the 70s. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from North Adams State College in 1974. During my four years at NASC, I helped to obtain the college’s FCC FM broadcast license and become its first general manager. I vividly remember standing in front of a classroom blackboard with my fellow college broadcasters trying to decide what call letters we wanted the FCC to assign to our station. During this meeting a knock came to the door, and the person who knocked handed me an important letter from the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. I anxiously opened the envelope to find that the FCC had granted our request for an FM broadcast license and had pulled the next set of unassigned call letters off the roster to go with our license. Those call letters would be “WJJW.” And like KDKA, they would stand for absolutely nothing and there again, never changed.

Call Letters

Some of the radio stations I listened to over the years had call letters that represented something, like WLS & WCFL in Chicago. WLS owned by Sears, chose call letters that stood for “World’s Largest Store” and WCFL, chose call letters that stood for “Chicago Federation of Labor,” the name of their union. WCFL proudly called itself “The Voice of Labor” at the top of every hour when it was required to give its call letters and city of license.

Do you know what the call letters for WKBW in Buffalo and KHJ in Los Angeles stood for? WKBW’s call letters meant “Well Known Bible Witness” and KHJ had call letters that stood for “Kindness Happiness & Joy.” Neither radio station would mention the origin of their call letters during their Top 40 days.  

Radio stations I worked for and managed also had call letters that represented something:

  • WBEC – Berkshire Eagle Company (the local newspaper)
  • WBRK – Berkshires
  • WUPE – Whoopee Radio
  • WFPG – World’s Famous PlayGround (Atlantic City)
  • KOEL – the first three letters of its city of license, Oelwein, Iowa
  • WLAN – Lancaster, PA
  • WSUS – Sussex, NJ
  • WOND – WONDerful Radio (Atlantic City)
  • WNNJ – Northern New Jersey

Call letters today tend to have been replaced by other forms of identification, like “Kiss,” “Froggy,” or “The River,” with the only problem being that they’ve lost their unique, one-of-kind identity that call letters branding gave them.

When I say KHJ or WBZ, you immediately know I’m talking about a radio station and that the station is located either in Los Angeles or Boston. When I say “Kiss” or “Froggy” you have no idea of which Kiss or Froggy radio station I’m referring to nor where it is located.

KDKA Covers Its First General Election

Shortly after receiving its commercial broadcast license, KDKA began planning its coverage of that year’s general election results to begin at 6pm on Tuesday, November 2nd, 1920.

Four men would climb to a little shack on the roof of one of the Westinghouse Electric’s buildings in East Pittsburgh to report on the results relayed to that shack via telephone. Leo Rosenburg delivered the results, becoming radio’s first announcer on the first licensed American radio station. You can hear a recreation by Leo of that broadcast HERE

About a thousand people tuned in to hear the broadcast and they would be some of the first people that year to learn that Warren G. Harding had beat James Cox to become the next President of the United States.

Election Night 2020

One hundred years later, election night will be quite different. People will most likely learn of the results via their smartphone, and probably not until all the votes have been counted. Due to COVID-19, we can expect that the vote counting process will take days, or even weeks, before a victor is declared.

Remember, your vote is important. Many recent elections have been decided by the thinnest of margins.

Do your civic duty and please VOTE.

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