Sunday, December 30, 2007

Small-Town AM Radio lives on

Here's a cool New York Times article about an old-school AM 1000-watt radio station out on the East End of Long Island, WRIV - a station so hip, it doesn't even have it's own home page nor much of any kind of authorized presence on the Web! Whee! I found out about the story via a posting on the ever-lively New York Radio Message Board (the mecca of all Internet radio message boards) about "small-town stations" like this.

The posting refers to the ongoing debate at the NYRMB about such stations: are they viable anymore in this automated'n'consolidated era of radio? Are such stations just throwbacks, unprofitable labors of love, Don Quixote-like in their stubborn local focus, tiny ratings and aging audience?

The NYRMB debate mentioned is specifically about a local Nanuet station, WRCR 1300, of which I'm a fan; I especially like their Morning Drive Show, 6AM - 11AM weekdays with Steve Possell and Sophia Salis, who are both incredibly knowledgable and opinionated about Rockland County (what a concept! A broadcast station that cares a lot about its community!) I listen to them alot - OK, maybe not alot, sometimes - as I drive Route 59, doing errands and schlepping to work. Unfortunately, their signal bombs out shortly after I get onto the Palisades Parkway southbound.

Thinking about small-town stations very much brings me back to happy memories of my beloved hometown 500 watt AM station, Elizabeth New Jersey 's WJDM 1530. (Their swank headquarters, a floor up from the Woolworth's and Fabco Shoes on Broad Street and a half-a-block from the Union County Courthouse, can be seen above in a 70s/80s-era photo.) Sadly, this low-wattage-yet-lovable station is now gone, swallowed whole in a bewildering series of radio-biz moves: it first switched to the ill-fated Radio Aahs format in 1996, which got railroaded by Radio Disney, then it sorta morphed into WWRU, which is a Spanish station owned by Multicultural Radio Broadcasting that a) moved the JDM/RRU offices to Jersey City - or is it really 449 Broadway in Manhattan? - and b) moved its signal to the high-end-of-the-radio-dial frequency of 1660 with an increased signal of 10000 watts. Although the station is still called WJDM in Elizabeth? Is it the same Spanish-language programming heard on both 1530 and 1660? I can't quite figure it out... What I do know is that the local station, which played top 40 with a lot of local news, local talk and weather, is no longer with us.

Thanks to my mom, who worked at the courthouse at the time (for the Union County Board of Freeholders), I got to know WJDM's Dave Frankel, who also did news for the Elizabeth cable TV station that I volunteered at (Channel 12), and I got to hang out there a little bit - they had a Gates master control board that looked like this. They covered the Union County beat pretty well (again, what a concept - a station that cares about its local community). Also on the station for awhile was morning dj Art Rooney, who was better known as Looney Skip Rooney on the Uncle Floyd show, and for whom's Channel 12 black-and-white slapstick TV show I used to run a boom mike for...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

10 Years of the New York Radio Message Board!

A hearty congratulations go out to Allan Sniffen, who has been running the indispensible New York Radio Message Board for 10 years now! It all started when Allan, a Westchester-based obsessive radio fan (and dentist; Opie and Anthony dubbed him "The Radio Dentist", a name I'm not sure he likes) started a message board as an add-on to his phenomenal WABC Musicradio 77 site. The board, originally an innocent place for ruminations on playlists and other 77-nostalgia-stuff, became the essential hang-out and discussion place for the New York radio "scene". Read the board religiously, like I do - it's addictive! - and you'll gain a pretty good sense of the state of radio now, in all it's goodness, badness and ugliness.

I think Allan can go overboard in his defenses of the status quo of the radio industry; his regular cry of "follow the money!", explaining away the constant, crappy brain-dead/bottom-line business decisions that insure crappy commercial radio, is certainly realistic - but it's also depressing as hell and further-discussion-squelching. And his disdain for satellite radio seems like it will never go away. But the guy works tirelessly at providing a steady and safe place for the intelligent discussion of radio, and his opinions are often spot-on, like his current critiques of the Imus show. (He posted today that there was nothing he disagreed with with this John Mainelli column, and I'd have to say I agree with the both of them.)

Allan also has a regular podcast with groovy top-40 jingles, an insistent delivery and a pithy summation of his take on the radio scene. (Wish I could still get it via the iTunes store.) He's a good guy - pun semi-intended - and has been encouraging to me about this very blog, which I'd like to start posting in again. Allan, rock on!