Year in Review 2012: Local Broadcasting's Arrivals and Departures
December 29, 2012 by CNYRadio.com
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- Here we are, wrapping another year documenting the happenings of local radio and television in Syracuse, Utica and Ithaca. Sometimes you don't realize just how much has changed in local broadcasting until you stop to take a look back at the past twelve months. Today, we begin our annual Year in Review series with a recap of the many "comings and goings" we've reported over the past year.
The debut of 105.9 The Rebel and its hiring of Dave Frisina for afternoons were among January's top stories.
Dave Frisina signs with Cumulus Media's recently-launched 105.9 The Rebel (WXTL) to host afternoon drive during the week, and to continue Soundcheck, his long-running Sunday night spotlight on locally-produced music.
WRVO announced Director of Development Mathew Seubert is leaving the station after 18 years, to accept a similar position outside of broadcasting.
When people in Syracuse talk about "Upstate," they're usually talking about the hospital. But for a short time earlier this year, the term Upstatewas better-known as the title of a sitcom that was being shot on-location in Syracuse. Former NewsChannel 9 GM Steve Kimatian served as Executive Producer, and the script was written by experienced sitcom writer Tom Seeley of Cazenovia. After the pilot aired on WSYR-TV, Seeley and Kimatian said they intended to pitch the show to network executives... but nearly a year, we haven't heard anything else about it.
After a hiatus that started in late 2011, the Irish Power Hour returns to local radio. Formerly heard on 95X (WAQX), hosts Sean Johnston and Cabrina Gilbert move to TK99/TK105 (WTKW/WTKV), and expand their reach into the Mohawk Valley with a simulcast on sister station 96.9 WOUR in Utica.
Approximately one-hundred pounds of 93Q (WNTQ) morning co-host Ted Long have disappeared as a result of gastric bypass surgery the previous fall; Long appeared live on CBS 5 (WTVH) to talk about his weight loss with anchor Michael Benny.
Cumulus Media's relatively-new 105.9 The Rebel adds its second local personality: Syracuse New Times music editor Jess Novak is added to the lineup to host middays, bridging the gap between the syndicated Bob & Tom Show in the morning and local host Dave Frisina in the afternoon.
Almost six months after his sudden dismissal from WSYR radio, Jim Reith returns to the local spotlight by way of WCNY. The public broadcaster announces a daily TV show titled Reith will debut in May, along with word of a radio show in the fall -- but you'll need an HD Radio, since it'll be on the WCNY-HD3 subchannel.
Local pro-golfer Perry Noun begins another season of talking golf on Saturday mornings, but on a new station. Tee Time with the Pronoun moves to Love Radio 103.9 (WVOA-FM).
Weekday afternoon New York Yankees baseball games returned to Syracuse radio, after a year off. For the 2011 season, WSYR-AM/FM passed on all weekday games that conflicted with Rush Limbaugh's early afternoon timeslot, as a result of Limbaugh's iron-clad affiliation contract. For 2012, Clear Channel cleared the weekday afternoon games on urban AC station Power 620 (WHEN), which used to be the backup choice for Yankees games in 2010 and prior seasons, when WHEN was SportsRadio 620.
WCNY-TV's annual "Great Television Auction" fundraiser, or, as it's more commonly known, TelAuc, returns to April, after the station moved the multi-night televised auction to June the prior year.
WSTM invited local TV news alumni to fill in while morning anchor Megan Coleman was out on maternity leave this spring.
There's a new Morning Newswatch host at Ithaca's WHCU 870 and 95.9... he's Lee Rayburn, formerly of KNWZ in Palm Springs, California.
New Country WOLF 105.1promotes Taylor Smith from promotions director to midday on-air personality, and the station launches a newly-redesigned website.
Former NBC3 (WSTM-TV) morning co-anchor Anthony Adornato temporarily returns to his old job, filling-in for the first couple weeks of Megan Coleman's maternity leave. Her second child, a boy named Harry, was born on April 28.
Radio ratings provider Arbitron ends its long-standing "embargo" policy, in which absolutely no ratings data would be released to the general public in select markets. For quite a few years, Syracuse and Utica-Rome were embargoed, meaning you had to be a subscriber to see the ratings. The new policy isn't quite a return to "the old days," however, as Arbitron's public ratings only include stations that subscribe to the full book.
New Country WOLF 105.1 midday host Chili Palmer exits for a new job, while across the hall, MOViN' 100.3/96.5 afternoon host Brandon C is promoted to webmaster for the two stations.
Goodbye to the WADR call letters that had long been registered to 1480AM in Remsen. Roser Communications Network is using the AM station to bar others from picking up the market's heritage WRCK call letters, after changing 100.7 to WUTQ-FM. The FCC's latest list of call sign changes also shows 1450AM in Rome is ditching its identity as WRUY to bring back WKAL, the station's original call sign from 1946.
At NewsChannel 9, longtime newsroom manager Roger Mirabito left for a new job at Onondaga Community College. For most of his 13 years at WSYR-TV, Mirabito served as the station's Assignment Manager. Following the sudden 2011 exit of longtime ND Jim Tortora, Mirabito served as Interim ND, and later, as Assistant ND.
Local radio and TV newsrooms welcomed the arrival of Associated Press awards; within our coverage area, WRVO was the big winner among radio stations, and WKTV took home more TV awards than anyone else.
Jerry Kraus, aka "The Doctor," is back on Utica radio, with a Sunday morning show on 92.7 The Drive (WXUR). (Update: His show, "The Time Warp," is now called "The Recovery Room.") Kraus previously hosted afternoons at 96.9 WOUR for thirty years, until 2007 when Clear Channel sold the station to Galaxy, resulting in nearly all on-air talent being dismissed.
After 12 years with WRVO, program director Fred Vigeant leaves for a similar position at WITF radio and television in Harrisburg, PA. Vigeant told CNYRadio.com he originally enrolled at SUNY Oswego with plans to become a high school science teacher, but "fell in love with radio" through his involvement with WRVO and student-run WNYO.
After many years during the 7pm "access" hour on WTVH, staples Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! are leaving the CBS affiliate for the same timeslots on Fox 68 (WSYT).
Even though it's been around for a decade, you could say non-profit Ithaca Community Radio finally "arrived" this year by launching its own programming, after years of simulcasting the signals of other non-commercial stations from Geneva and Binghamton. ICR consists of WINO 89.9 Odessa, WRFI 91.1 Watkins Glen and 88.1 FM translator W201CD Lansing.
Utica's Big Frog 104 (WFRG) adds the syndicated Taste of Country Nights, bumping Lia at Night to overnights. ToC started out as the name of a national country music news website launched by WFRG parent Townsquare Media.
Good Guys Broadcasting Corporation is founded by former WKTV executives Tom Coyne and Frank Abbadessa, who launch sports-formatted 95.5 WUSP on FM translator W238CA, the former 1550 WUTQ-AM (which became WUSP) and 1480 WRCK. The selling price listed in FCC records: $350,000.
Longtime Utica-Rome radio personality Linda Rae, formerly of 97.9/105.5 Kiss-FM and Mix 102.5 (until Clear Channel exited the market in 2007), returns to DJ duty on weekends at 100.7 WUTQ-FM.
Newport Television is poised to exit the TV business, as the Kansas City-based owner of NewsChannel 9 (WSYR-TV) announces the Syracuse ABC affiliate is one of a dozen stations being sold to Nexstar Broadcasting, the company that already owns Utica's Fox 33 (WFXV) and operates ABC affiliate WUTR.
WRVO Public Media's lineup of news and talk programming expands northward, with the sign-on of WRVH 89.3 in Clayton, covering areas along the St. Lawrence River beyond the reach of Watertown-based WRVJ.
The day after her replacement exits (see the departure section below), former Clear Channel Rochester GM Karen Carey returns to radio as GM of Townsquare Media's Utica-Rome cluster.
WQNY's Chris Allinger walked to every town in Tompkins County in August, raising $16,000 for charity.
NewsChannel 9 morning traffic reporter and Bridge Street co-host Kaylea Nixon is leaving town because her husband is taking a new job in Chicago -- but she'll continue to visit Syracuse occasionally, to tape TV spots for a local car dealership, something she has been doing since before joining the ABC affiliate. Taking her place is Caroline Gable, formerly of Utica's WUTR and WFXV, and before those, WKTV.
Notable national news: the ABC television network announces Nightline will be leaving the 11:35pm timeslot it has held since the late 70s, to make way for Jimmy Kimmel Live, despite the news program's ratings dominance in the timeslot. Staffers expressed concern that viewers won't sit through Kimmel (who presently airs at midnight) to catch Nightline at 12:30am, but one report claims Kimmel "demanded 11:35 or said he would walk" during contract renewal talks.
Just a little over a week after NBC3 (WSTM) announced longtime primary co-anchor Jackie Robinson would be inducted to the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame later in the year, her notable absence from the station's traditional live-on-location coverage of the New York State Fair is followed by word that Robinson will be retiring after spending 34 years -- her entire career -- at WSTM.
Former WHEN sports talk host Adam Schein is tapped to hostNFL Monday QB for cable television's CBS Sports Network. And former WSYR/WHEN sports anchor Joel Goddett is named the new radio voice of Ball State University's football and men's basketball teams.
Former Hot 107.9 (WWHT) and B104.7 (WBBS) personality JJ Ryan becomes PD of a country station in Tulsa, OK. He reports another familiar face has already been in town for a few months: "Austin," the morning host at another station across town, formerly worked at Hot 107.9 under the name "AJ Hammer."
Upon her return from maternity leave, Megan Coleman is named evening co-anchor for NBC 3, filling the vacancy left by the retiring Jackie Robinson. Coleman is also named "News Content Manager" for CNY Central, which includes NBC 3, CBS 5 and CW 6.
The ESPN Radio Utica-Rome trio of AM stations (WTLA/WRNY/WIXT) expands to the FM dial, adding 91.1FM (translator W256AJ) to the bunch. Galaxy Communications spent $40,000 to buy the new signal earlier in the year, and spent the summer simulcasting 96.9 WOUR until it could complete a transmitter move from downtown Utica to Smith Hill.
Syracuse's NBC 3 announces Today in Central New York will expand to begin at 4:00am, citing a growing demand for early morning local news. As a trade-off, the station cancels its News @ Noon newscast, which had been simulcast on CNY Central partner station CBS 5, giving ABC affiliate NewsChannel 9 the distinction as having the only broadcast TV noon newscast in Syracuse.
Longtime Utica broadcast personality Bill Keeler returns to the airwaves as the host of Plate Night, a weekly TV show that takes viewers inside the kitchens of popular local restaurants.
Many present and former NewsChannel 9 personalities and journalists gathered at Onondaga Community College for the station's 50th Anniversary Celebration. The event was videotaped and edited down to a two-hour special which was broadcast in October.
Staffers gather around WSTM anchor Jackie Robinson during her final broadcast in September.
Jackie Robinson anchors her final newscast at NBC3, retiring after 34 years with the station.
Keith Kobland leaves NewsChannel 9 to take a new job with Syracuse University. Prior to joining NewsChannel 9, Kobland worked for more than 20 years at WTVH. Although his exit from TV means no more morning newscasts for Sunny 102.1 (WZUN), he continues to host weekend shifts as a DJ for the classic hits station.
CNY Central reporter and anchor Jessica Cain leaves Syracuse to move to the Midwest. Cain got her start in TV news as a producer at NewsChannel 9, and moved into reporting and anchoring at Watertown's WWNY-TV before coming back to Syracuse.
Mimi Griswold announces she's retiring from her post as VP of Programming for Syracuse-based Galaxy Communications at the end of the year. Griswold started with the company in 1992. She'll continue to consult on programming, and she'll keep hosting the Blue Moon Cafe on Sunday mornings for TK99/105 in Syracuse, and 96.9 WOUR in Utica.
Syndicated radio talk show host Michael Savage suddenly disappears from News/Talk 106.9 and 570 WSYR (and all of his other affiliates nationwide), after winning a lawsuit against his former syndicator, Talk Radio Network. Savage argued that a non-compete clause in his contract unfairly prevented him from pursuing better offers from other syndicators.
September 15 was the 90th anniversary of the station now known as 570 WSYR. Oddly, the milestone passed with no celebrations, no special "promos," or even any casual mentions by local hosts. Clear Channel management never responded to CNYRadio.com inquiries about the anniversary.
Longtime Syracuse broadcaster Jim Campagna returns to local radio, doing morning news updates for Sunny 102.1 (WZUN), on top of his primary job as a news producer at NewsChannel 9.
Fans of classic TV rave about the long-awaited arrival of the Me-TV network on WSYR-TV digital subchannel 9.2. The launch, originally set for September, was held up for a month by "equipment delays."
Clear Channel Syracuse programmer Jason Furst heads south to become PD at Charlotte's WBT. Furst arrived in 2006 as PD of Nova 105.1 (WWDG), and was later reassigned to SportsRadio 620 WHEN, CHR Hot 107.9 (WWHT) and Newsradio 570 WSYR. When he left, Furst was programming WSYR, along with Rochester news/talker 1180 WHAM.
A Departure... More Departures... A Comeback... and Legal Action
Former 95X staffer Kevin Keefe gets a promotion with Community Broadcasters, where he's been Station Manager for a three-station cluster in Ogdensburg; he's now the new GM for the company's five-station cluster in Watertown.
Former Lite 98.7 and Y94 personality Jeanne Ashley moved from Miami's 101.5 Lite FM to crosstown competitor Easy 93.1 earlier this year, and recently added music director duties.
Former Hot 107.9 host Ralphie Aversa lands in market #1, New York City, to host nights at the legendary 95.5 WPLJ. His show is simulcast on Cumulus-owned CHR stations in three other states.
Laura Hand celebrated 40 years at WSTM-3 in November
HD programming is now possible around the clock at NewsChannel 9. Previously, HD offerings were limited to live network programming and local newscasts. A master control upgrade allows all other programs and local commercial breaks to air in HD.
New signs near the CNY Central studios designate the 1000-block of James Street as "Jackie Robinson Parkway," honoring the anchor who retired in September after 34 years at WSTM. Back in 2000, a similar honor was bestowed upon the late Ron Curtis, along the 900-block where WTVHused to be located.
Bill Worden ended a 35-year run as 6pm and 11pm anchor at WKTV in November.
Brent Axe announces he's leaving radio, after spending the better part of the last 16 years talking sports every day at The Score 1260 (2008-2012), the former SportsRadio 620 WHEN (2002-2006) and Utica's WIBX 950 (1996-2002). On his last day on-air, "The Axeman" revealed he's going full-time with syracuse.com, where started blogging about sports while in between the two Syracuse radio jobs.
Surprisingly, Dr. Rick Wrightwasn't shown the door at Clear Channel, after openly criticizing the extensive use of automation in a newspaper interview. Wright told The Stand he's the only live DJ in the building during his Old School Sunday show on Power 620 (WHEN). "That's not radio," Wright told the reporter, going on to say, "Radio has lost its luster because we have no act."
Jeff Szczesniak of Cayuga Community College's Win 89 FM (WDWN)wins "Adviser of the Year" at the College Radio Day 2012 Spirit of College Radio Awards.
Aaron Trimmer is the new PD at News/Talk 106.9 and 570 WSYR. Just like Jason Furst before him, Trimmer splits his time between WSYR and Rochester's 1180 WHAM.
Immediately after closing on its purchase of NewsChannel 9, owner Nexstar Broadcasting informs dozens of back office staffers they'll be out of a job by mid-January. People who handled functions like accounting, traffic and HR for WSYR-TV and sister stations in Binghamton, Elmira and Watertown will have their duties absorbed by Nexstar staff in Rochester. No advance notice for the station's part-time news photographers, who were dismissed immediately.
For the second time in two years, talk host Jim Reith is "on the beach," as WCNY-TV suddenly cancels his daily half-hour talk show just shy of 7 months on the air. Management explained it was "a greater challenge than we anticipated to move Jim’s brand from radio to television." Prior to WCNY, the host had worked at WSYR radio for 27 years, and hosted an afternoon drive talk show for the last 11 of those years.
95X midday host and Assistant PD Joe Detomaso gets a promotion, taking the "assistant" out of that title. He had been interim PD since Hunter Scott left in October.
CNY Radio Alumni on the Move
Matt Johnson, who went by the name "Jimmy Olsen" during his time at 93Q, exits from Wild 104 in Binghamton, as he and his wife move to New York City for an opportunity outside of radio.
Alan Furst, who programmed Y94 and WSYR when they were owned by NewCity Communications in the early 1990s, is leaving the PD's office at news/talker WIBC-FM in Indianapolis to take a similar role at Houston's News 92 FM.
Syracuse University says former WSTM sports director Roger Springfield has been dismissed from his duties as media director for SU athletics, pending a police investigation of a yet-undisclosed nature.
Tomorrow: Two separate articles. At 8:00am we'll pause to remember those we lost this year. And at noon, a look back at this year's format flips.
Monday: Our annual countdown of the top 10 stories from the past year, and some other miscellaneous statistical stuff.