WRVO Selects Smith to Host "Morning Edition"

February 7, 2009 by

OSWEGO -- Good news for John Hurlbutt: the longtime local host of "Morning Edition" on WRVO can finally retire.  After a search that started when Hurlbutt announced his plans to retire in September, the station has chosen to promote Jason Smith to the hosting chair.  WRVO is now searching for a morning news producer/anchor to fill Smith's seat, and WRVO General Manager John Krauss has graciously provided some of his thoughts and reflections from 40 years of working with Hurlbutt at the NPR news/talk affiliate.

Smith arrived at WRVO almost a year ago, after working as a reporter, anchor and assignment editor at Newsradio 570 WSYR in Syracuse.  Hurlbutt had originally announced his intent to retire at the end of 2008, but with no replacement named yet, he graciously agreed to stay on board as the search continued.

Thanks to an anonymous reader tip, we were able to obtain confirmation of the changes from WRVO Program Director Fred Vigeant and WRVO General Manager John Krauss.  The two say Hurlbutt's last day will be sometime in March, but they're still planning out the specifics, including the exact date for the proverbial passing of the torch.

Hurlbutt has worked at WRVO since the station first went on the air in 1969.  Krauss has also been there from the beginning... and he graciously offered to answer some questions for  How many people applied for the job?

John Krauss:  18  Obviously, this was not a hasty decision... what set Jason Smith apart from the other candidates?

John Krauss:  While I can't discuss specific personnel matters - Jason was judged the bet fit for the goals we set for the position.  If you had to pick one all-time "best" memory from 40 years of working with John Hurlbutt, what would it be?

John Krauss:  There are so many......various pranks I can't discuss (the statute of limitations has not run out), on-air surprises during the early days, and public appearances that include Ice Bowling during a Winterfest in Oswego.  Picking just one would be like picking my best child.  John has been a friend and profession colleague since we were in College together.  It's rare to see anyone stay at one station for 40 years, let alone two people... what's WRVO's "secret" in keeping you both there?

John Krauss:  Actually there could have been three, Bill Shigley the first GM passed away in 1998 after 30 years with WRVO. A couple of years before that, Stars Magazine did a feature on the 5 longest Radio on-air radio employees and Bill, John, & I were 3 of them.

WRVO's mission of Significant Programming about Significant Issues for a Significant Audience that informs, educates and entertains is a major reason. Success for WRVO is service to listeners. Our on air programming does not live or die by a few tenths of a percentage point of audience share. All of the staff are committed to this audience service. Our stakeholders include more than 100,000 listeners, along with the academic community at SUNY-Oswego.  WRVO is owned by SUNY-Oswego and operates as part of the institution's commitment to community service. We are not just one more station in a group owner's portfolio.

I have been offered more lucrative positions at other public radio stations around the country, but I still work at WRVO rather than accept  because I love Central New York. I live in the country and yet can enjoy the cultural and activities of a major city less than 30 minutes away. I grew up on Long Island where housing was rows of suburban houses. My high school was 22 miles from home and it took an hour on the Long Island Railroad to get there.  Oswego was a very pleasant change. Came to SUNY-Oswego and have stayed. In my 40 years, I have managed to hold just about every position at the station except Engineer. The continued variety kept the job fresh. The wonderful acceptance and support by WRVO's audience makes the work rewarding.

In the early days when asked where we worked, we had to explain FM radio when we answered WRVO FM. Now our voices are recognized in many unexpected places and awareness of WRVO is region wide.

Even on the most challenging day it's still fun to come to work with the wonderfully dedicated staff that makes radio on the WRVO Stations. When WRVO began, its professional staff numbered just one! Now 17 people make up the top-notch team. The support of WRVO's licensee--SUNY Oswego partnered with the still growing audience makes WRVO a very stable employer.

That's why I have been here 40 years and I suspect John Hurlbutt's reasons are similar.  Will there be any special "going away" events for Hurlbutt on the air, or do you plan on keeping the transition "low key?"

John Krauss:  Plans are still underway for a special event. There will be something on the air and off as well. Once John Hurlbutt's "last" day is set, we'll have more information. The transition will take at least 6 weeks. Stay tuned.  Not really related to the transition, but -- you've seen a lot of changes in 40 years.  What do you envision for radio's next 40 years?

John Krauss:  While I won't be working in radio that long, I expect the current trends to continue as technology evolves. Stations will still prepare and deliver audio programming. The path between microphone and the listener's ear will change. But most people will prefer the surprise and serendipity of enjoyable quality prepared programming rather than having to make their own choices all the time.

Radio is still free to the listener. It remains the most reliable source of information in emergency and disaster situations.

Radio is moving into its 2nd century, TV, Movies, XM/Sirius, Cable music services, streaming, wi-fi,Ipods Iphones have all been developed since the advent of broadcast radio.  We're still here and will still be here in the future as long as the radio industry focuses on listener service that relates to the hometown.  Morning TV is often radio with pictures, XM/Sirius had to add traffic and weather to hold subscribers. Iphone users demanded apps that allowed them to reach radio streams or radio like services.The tendency to remain cocooned in our own space relying on technology for social interaction has removed the communal identity. In real estate it's location, location, location---it broadcast radio it's local, local, local! National programming needs to remain blended with local content to rebuild that sense of community that used to form around the Village Green or among neighbors.  If there's anything else you'd like to add, feel free.  Thanks again for your time... we appreciate your willingness to comment.

John Krauss:  Thanks for the chance to look ahead as well as back.  We're glad to provide that chance, and we thank you again for taking the time to provide your thoughts.

As mentioned previously, now that WRVO has decided to promote Jason Smith to the host's chair, they need someone to take his spot as morning news producer/anchor.  Here's the official job posting from PD Vigeant:

WRVO Radio/Research Foundation of SUNY have an excellent opportunity for a full-time Morning News Producer/Reporter. Works with WRVO s on-air host to develop and present timely and creative news programming. Successful candidates has a keen understanding of news and can conceptualize and produce a compelling morning program. 

Candidates must have a bachelor s degree or equivalent experience, a background in journalism and at least two years on-air experience. Additional information at

Research Foundation of SUNY/WRVO is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer. Electronic applications OK.  No phone calls.

Vigeant also catches us up on the fact that former WRVO producer Kelly Olsen exited the station early last month to pursue other interests.  Due to budget constraints, the station has opted not to fill the position at this time.


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