Hal Jackson, a veteran broadcaster who broke down racial
barriers, becoming one of the first black disc jockeys to reach a large white
audience and an omnipresent voice on New York City radio for more than 50 years,
died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 96.
His death was announced by WBLS (107.5 FM), the New York station where he
continued to host a weekly program until a few weeks before his death.
Mr. Jackson, whose eclectic musical taste and laid-back manner helped define
black radio, began his career in the late 1930s, when it was a challenge for a
black announcer just to get a foot in the door.
At a time when segregation was widespread, he was a familiar voice to black and
white listeners alike. At one point in the 1950s, he was hosting three shows —
one rhythm-and-blues, one jazz and one pop — on three different New York radio
As a radio executive, he helped found Inner City Broadcasting and establish the
urban contemporary format, rooted in black music but appealing to a racially
diverse audience. In the 1970s, it came to dominate the airwaves, first in New
York City — where WBLS became the No. 1 station in the market — and then across
He was the first African-American inducted into the National Association of
Broadcasters Hall of Fame, in 1990, and among the first five inducted into the
Radio Hall of Fame, in 1995.
“Hal was the constant voice of black America,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said
Thursday. “From M.L.K. to a black president, he literally was the one who
connected those dots.”
Harold Baron Jackson was born in Charleston, S.C., probably on Nov. 3, 1915. (He
explained in his autobiography, “The House That Jack Built,” that his birth,
like that of many Southern blacks in those years, was not officially recorded.)
He was one of five children of Eugene Baron Jackson, a tailor, and the former
Laura Rivers. Both his parents died when he was a child, and he lived with
relatives in Charleston and New York before settling in Washington, where he
graduated from Dunbar High School and attended classes at Howard University.
Avidly interested in sports, he approached the management of WINX, owned by The
Washington Post, in 1939 about covering black sports events for the station.
Told that station policy prohibited hiring black announcers, he took a different
tack: he persuaded a white-owned advertising agency to buy time on WINX for a
15-minute interview and entertainment show, without revealing that he was
involved. As he recalled, he showed up in the studio at the last possible moment
and was on the air with “The Bronze Review” before management could stop him.
“When I started, the business was so segregated,” Mr. Jackson said in 2008.
“Fortunately, that didn’t last long.”
Indeed, once the station’s color line had been broken, Mr. Jackson went on to
host a music show there and to broadcast Howard University football and Negro
league baseball. He also became a sports entrepreneur, assembling an all-black
basketball team, the Washington Bears, which won the invitational World
Professional Basketball Tournament in 1943.
By the end of the decade Mr. Jackson could be heard on four different stations
in the Washington area, most notably WOOK in Silver Spring, Md., where he
established his warm, low-key radio persona with the music show “The House That
Jack Built.” That approach, in contrast to the hyperkinetic jive-talking style
of other black announcers, influenced generations of disc jockeys.
“How are you?” he would begin. “This is Hal Jackson, the host that loves you the
most, welcoming you to ‘The House That Jack Built.’ We’re rolling out the
musical carpet, and we’ll be spinning a few just for you. So come on in, sit
back, relax and enjoy your favorite recording stars from here to Mars.”
While in Washington he was also a civil rights fund-raiser and broke into
television as host of a local variety show broadcast live from the Howard
Theater in the spring and summer of 1949.
Mr. Jackson moved to New York in 1954, and within a few years he was
broadcasting almost around the clock, juggling three shows on three stations,
including WABC’s live midnight broadcast from the jazz nightclub Birdland. (He
was the first black announcer to host a continuing network radio show.) In the
late 1950s, he also briefly had his own Sunday morning children’s television
Mr. Jackson’s hectic schedule was interrupted in 1960 when he was caught up in
the so-called payola scandal, charged with accepting bribes to play certain
records and forced off the air for a while in New York. The charges were
He began his long career as an executive in the early 1960s as program director
of the Queens station WWRL. He went on to produce and host concerts at the
Apollo Theater in Harlem, in Central Park and at Palisades Amusement Park in New
Jersey. He helped establish the Miss Black Teenage America pageant, later
renamed Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International. He also organized
fund-raising events for civil rights causes and was among the first to lobby for
making the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.
In 1971 he was one of a group of black entertainers, businessmen and
politicians, among them Percy Sutton, the Manhattan borough president, who
formed Inner City Broadcasting and bought WLIB-AM and its FM sister station,
which became the first black-owned radio station in the city.
As vice president of the FM station, which was renamed WBLS, Mr. Jackson hired
the disc jockey Frankie Crocker as program director and oversaw the station’s
shift from jazz to what Mr. Crocker christened urban contemporary radio: a slick
blend of rhythm-and-blues, dance music and other genres designed to appeal to
young listeners across racial lines. (In later years hip-hop was added.) When
Mr. Crocker left, Mr. Jackson became program director; by the mid-1970s, WBLS
was the No. 1 station in New York.
Working behind the scenes at Inner City rather than behind the microphone, Mr.
Jackson helped shape programming at stations acquired by the company around the
country as it grew into the first black-owned radio empire. But when a slot
opened on Sunday mornings at WBLS, he decided to return to the air.
His “Sunday Morning Classics,” a mix of music from different eras and genres,
made its debut in 1982. Originally two hours, it grew at one point to an
eight-hour extravaganza. As “Sunday Classics,” the program was most recently on
from noon to 4 p.m.
Mr. Jackson’s co-host on “Sunday Classics” was his fourth wife, the former Debi
Bolling. His previous three marriages ended in divorce. His wife survives him,
as do two daughters, Jane and Jewell; a son, Hal Jackson Jr., a former Wisconsin
Supreme Court justice; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Hal Jackson was one of the last living links to when black voices were as rare
on radio as they were on the silver screen,” the author and filmmaker Nelson
George said Thursday. “He connected several generations of listeners to the
bounty of great African-American music by not always observing the artificial
boundaries between jazz, blues, Broadway, and rhythm and blues.”
Mr. George, whose books include “The Death of Rhythm and Blues,” said Mr.
Jackson had “helped black people see the best in themselves, both before and
after the civil rights movement.”
In recent years, Inner City Broadcasting fell on hard times. In 2011, the
company, under legal pressure from its creditors, agreed to enter Chapter 11
bankruptcy. (It has since been bought by the investment group YMF Media.) As
part of the process, the company proposed hiring a chief restructuring officer.
The one stipulation Inner City requested was that the officer be forbidden to
fire four specific people. One of the four was Hal Jackson.
Peter Bergman, a founding member of the surrealist comedy troupe
Firesign Theater, whose albums became cult favorites among college students in
the late 1960s and ’70s for a brand of sly, multilayered satire so dense it
seemed riddled with non sequiturs until the second, third or 30th listening,
died on Friday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 72.
The cause was complications of leukemia, said Jeff Abraham, a spokesman for the
Mr. Bergman hosted an all-night radio call-in show on KPFK in Los Angeles
beginning in 1966, “Radio Free Oz,” which served as the testing ground for the
high-spirited Firesign sensibility. Phil Austin and David Ossman, two other
founders of the four-man group, were the producer and director of the show; the
fourth founder, Phil Proctor, was a frequent guest.
“We started out as four friends, up all night, taking calls from people on bad
acid trips and having the time of our lives,” Mr. Austin said in a phone
interview Friday. “And that’s what we always were: four friends talking.”
Mr. Bergman and his friends recorded their first album, “Waiting for the
Electrician or Someone Like Him,” in 1968, followed the next year by “How Can
You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?”
By 1970, their mordant humor and their mastery of stereophonic recording
techniques had made them to their generation of 20-somethings what Jon Stewart
and Stephen Colbert are to today’s (if Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart had a
weakness for literary wordplay, psychedelic references and jokes about the
Their records employed sound effects in ways considered pioneering in audio
comedy at the time. More generally, they were considered important forerunners
of comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live.”
Ed Ward, writing in The New York Times in 1972, described the third Firesign
album, “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” as “a mind-boggling sound
drama” and a “work of almost Joycean complexity.”
“It’s almost impossible to summarize any Firesign album,” Mr. Ward wrote,
because most of their albums were so filled with “intricate wordplay, stunning
engineering and use of sound effects, breakneck pacing and, of course, a
terribly complex story line.”
When the Library of Congress placed “Don’t Crush That Dwarf” in its National
Recording Registry in 2005, The Los Angeles Times described Firesign Theater as
“the Beatles of comedy.”
Mr. Bergman told people the ensemble’s albums, unlike most comedy records, were
never made to be listened to just once or twice. “He said our records were made
to be heard about 80 times,” Mr. Austin said.
While the ensemble continued making albums for three decades, Mr. Bergman also
wrote and produced several one-man shows, including “Help Me Out of This Head,”
a 1986 monologue-memoir that drew on his childhood in Cleveland. He also wrote
interactive games, including a CD-ROM parody of the popular adventure video game
Mr. Bergman was born on Nov. 29, 1939, in Cleveland, one of two children of
Oscar and Rita Bergman. His parents hosted a radio show in Cleveland when he was
growing up, “Breakfast With the Bergmans.” His father also worked as a reporter
for The Plain Dealer.
Mr. Bergman graduated from Yale and taught economics there as a Carnegie Fellow.
He later attended the Yale School of Drama as a Eugene O’Neill playwriting
fellow. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to pursue a writing career.
He is survived by a daughter, Lily Oscar Bergman, and his sister, Wendy
Mr. Bergman got a taste of radio work when he was in high school, according to a
biography on Firesign Theater’s official Web site. But he lost his job as an
announcer on the school radio system, it said, “after his unauthorized
announcement that the Chinese Communists had taken over the school and that a
‘mandatory voluntary assembly was to take place immediately.’ Russell Rupp, the
school principal, promptly relieved Peter of his announcing gig. Rupp was the
inspiration for the Principal Poop character on ‘Don’t Crush That Dwarf.’ ”
December 15, 2011
The New York Times
By JEREMY W. PETERS
DES MOINES — If you’re competing in the Iowa caucuses, there’s a new
obligatory stop on the campaign trail this year, and it’s not a greasy spoon or
an evangelical church.
It’s the WHO-AM radio show of Simon Conway. Mr. Conway, while cutting and often
brash, does not fit the conservative talk radio mold. For one, he is British by
birth, and his thick English accent can be somewhat disorienting as it booms
from stereos here in the heartland. He also happens to be Jewish, a fact that
seems lost on many listeners, especially those who are wishing him Merry
Christmas these days.
“Rick Perry. Had him in last Friday for an hour,” Mr. Conway said in an
interview this week.
Newt Gingrich? “I’ve looked him in the eye. Twice had him in.”
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum, who
stopped in for an hour-long interview on Wednesday, have all been on his
afternoon show several times on WHO. Mitt Romney has yet to agree to come on,
though Mr. Conway said his campaign was mulling a request.
“If you want to reach Iowans, pretty much you’ve got to sit in WHO,” Mr. Conway
On the national stage, Fox News is the media outlet of choice for Republican
candidates, who are sitting for continuous rounds of interviews and spending
considerable sums on advertising, because the network is a surefire way to reach
large numbers of conservatives.
But in Iowa, WHO-AM (1040) plays that role, as the most listened-to and widely
broadcast news radio station in the state.
WHO’s 50,000-watt signal carries easily across Iowa’s mostly flat terrain,
making it available to just about any Iowan with a radio. Unlike the state’s
segmented television markets — which are split into several regions from Sioux
City in the West to Des Moines in the center to Cedar Rapids in the East — WHO
offers the only truly statewide broadcast.
“It’s a 50,000-watt blowtorch,” said Matthew Strawn, chairman of the Iowa
Republican Party. According to Arbitron, nearly 65,000 people across Iowa tune
in during the 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. afternoon drive period at any given point during
the average week when Mr. Conway’s show is broadcast — a small audience but
still the largest in Iowa for talk radio. And given the demographics of talk
radio — the audience tends to skew toward the politically attuned, conservative
type that Republican candidates want to reach — WHO offers a highly targeted way
for campaigns to convey their messages, through interviews or advertising.
Mr. Conway was named in April to WHO’s storied roster of hosts — the station is
where Ronald Reagan made a name for himself as a sportscaster in the 1930s —
replacing Steve Deace, a firebrand religious conservative whose 4 p.m. program
was another must-visit destination for Republican candidates. (Mr. Deace now
hosts a syndicated radio program.) The choice to hire Mr. Conway was a bold one
for the Des Moines station, an institution that has always prided itself on its
Hawkeye heritage. But minus the accent, he seems right at home here.
“He is very good at stirring the pot, and I have some admiration for how quickly
he was able to figure Iowa out,” said Stephen Winzenburg, a professor of
communications at Grand View University here who studies the intersection of
media and politics. “He’s good at working the system, figuring out who the key
players are and inviting them on his show.”
Mr. Strawn of the state Republican Party said that Mr. Conway set sights on him
early. Shortly after Mr. Conway started at WHO, the Republican leader said he
got a text message from him proposing that they meet.
Mr. Conway, who has a broad chest, blue eyes and swept-back brown hair that is
graying slightly around the temples, wears an American flag pin on his lapel, a
gold necklace with a Hebrew letter chai pendant and cowboy boots. He cast his
first ballot in an American election in 2008. “That was for McCain,” he said,
wincing and plugging his nose. His dog, a rescued chocolate Labrador retriever,
is named Reagan.
His interviews, which tend to be free-wheeling and nonconfrontational, have
produced some of memorable moments in the presidential campaign. He prompted
Representative Ron Paul of Texas to acknowledge that his noninterventionist
foreign policy would have precluded him from carrying out the raid that killed
Osama bin Laden. And in comments that grabbed headlines, Mr. Perry, the governor
of Texas, told Mr. Conway that he would fire Treasury Secretary Timothy F.
Geithner and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke.
And Mr. Conway has been known to press candidates on their immigration views. An
immigrant himself, Mr. Conway frequently calls for a more sensible process. “I
handed over my fingerprints 17 times,” he said, sounding exasperated as he
interviewed Mr. Gingrich recently. “I believe we have to simplify the process to
come here legally.”
He often refers to his experience living in Europe to draw unflattering
parallels between socialist governments and what he believes is an American
welfare state run amok. “We’re getting to the point where we’re becoming
Europe,” he said. “I thought I had a lot more time before what I lived through
over there got here. And it’s coming here like a bullet train.”
Though he is Jewish, Mr. Conway has railed against what he sees as the
secularization of American society, particularly as it relates to public
displays of faith. At the opening of his show, he declares his studio “a
‘holiday-tree’-free zone” and wishes listeners Merry Christmas and Happy
Hanukkah. This has not always gone over so well with his listeners; some have
sent him hate mail for referring to Hanukkah.
Mr. Conway spent most of his childhood in London but moved to Israel at 16
because his mother, stricken with cancer, decided she wanted to spend her final
days there. His first job in journalism was with The Jerusalem Post, where he
became a junior contributor when he was still in high school. Living there, he
said, had a profound effect on him. “Israelis live for the day,” he said.
He moved back to Britain and freelanced for tabloids including The Sunday Mirror
and T News of the World, which closed this year. He later ran a corporate
communications firm, but decided to move to the United States in 2001. He said
he initially planned to move the next year, but the Sept. 11 attacks prompted
him to go earlier, his own private act of defiance to the terrorists.
He started out managing properties in Kissimmee, Fla., and later became a real
estate agent. His first radio show in the Orlando area was supposed to be about
real estate, but he said he found himself straying into current events. He drew
the attention of other stations across the South, who soon asked him to fill in
as a guest host.
When WHO offered him the job in April, he said he didn’t have to think about it
for even a second. He said he won’t endorse a particular candidate. And much
like the typical Republican voter, he has issues with all of them. “There’s no
perfect candidate out there,” he said.
As Mr. Santorum settled into a chair across from Mr. Conway in the WHO studio on
Wednesday, the candidate leaned back and stretched out his arms behind his head.
He seemed at ease.
When Mr. Conway thanked him for visiting the show for a third time, Mr. Santorum
replied, “I swear it’s been four or five times.”
The New York Times
By KYLE SPENCER
broadcast booth, at the radio station of the State University of New York
Fredonia, Jud Heussler was presiding over his hourlong comedy show “The Morning
In a barreling voice, he announced that he would soon be throwing a few things
up on the show’s Facebook page: a photo of a drunken moose he had uncovered
online; a YouTube clip used for his segment “The Yoga Minute,” in which he and
his co-host hyperventilate giddily along to the words of an earnest yoga
instructor; and a video clip of the comedian Donald Glover, who was to perform
on campus that night.
“Call, text, Facebook, whatever you want,” Mr. Heussler shouted to his listeners
as he logged onto Facebook to check out who was posting on the show’s wall.
Meanwhile, he sipped apple juice and fiddled with knobs on the audio board,
plotting one of the day’s big activities: the videotaping of a campus
groundbreaking. Who would shoot it? Someone who knew how to operate the
station’s beloved Flip camera — flipping, as it’s called.
If none of this sounds like classic college radio, it’s not. Fredonia, a campus
of 5,700 about an hour southwest of Buffalo, has two stations. And WDVL, the
more popular, is so far removed from traditional radio it can’t even be found on
the FM dial. Instead, that station streams on the Internet, which means
tousled-haired disc jockeys in faded band T’s are constantly encouraging
listeners to check out a rolling supply of podcasts, YouTube clips, photos and
campus news on the station’s Web site.
Mr. Heussler, a senior majoring in audio-radio production, is general manager of
both stations. He pointed boastfully at a printout of the station’s latest
stats. “You could argue that WDVL has a bigger impact beyond the campus than we
do on it,” he said. The station has about 350 online listeners a day; 40 percent
of them live almost 300 miles away in the New York City area, while a mere 4
percent are on or near campus. Other log-in clusters? Los Angeles and the Czech
Republic. “People listen from everywhere,” he said.
Fredonia’s radio station, with its tattered band posters and fading stickers,
rickety desks and swivel chairs, and the occasional forlorn turntable or
microphone jack, is plush by college standards. There is a mustard-colored couch
from the 1960s in the lounge and an oversize banner of the call letters in red
and black draped over an office divide. And nostalgically, a large closet houses
thousands of dusty vinyls and CDs.
Most of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System’s 700 college members now stream
on the Internet along with, or instead of, their broadcasting efforts. The Web’s
freedom from Federal Communications Commission regulations is not the point. At
stations like Fredonia’s, the goal is to transform themselves into the
multimedia platforms they believe students with unprecedented tech appetites
actually want, and it is changing the ethos, content and vibe of collegiate
“No one brings a radio to their dorm today,” says Sean Owczarek, a recent Yale
graduate who helped remake WYBCX, the university’s online-only station, during
his time as general manager there.
Instead, students arrive on campus armed with smartphones, iPods and tablets on
which they can listen to music services like Pandora, an Internet station that
uses an algorithm to determine what songs to play. And now that Facebook has
teamed with peer-to-peer applications like Spotify, users can share music right
there on the site. ITunes carries some 225 college stations.
In this crowd, luring listeners, and keeping them entertained, is a matter of
A dispiriting number of college administrators, unclear on the need for radio
stations at all, are selling their coveted space on the AM-FM dial. In the last
two years 14 stations have been sold or have pending sales, according to College
Broadcasters Inc., an industry association.
Despite vociferous protest, Vanderbilt University in June sold the broadcast
license to its indie station WRVU, a Nashville institution that promoted its
music as the kind “you can’t hear anywhere else.” The sale price: $3.35 million.
Brown’s BSR lost its FM spot this summer, too. And after multiple attempts to
scuttle the deal, Rice University recently sold its license for KTRU, which
played everything from Philip Glass to shoegaze, a British rock subgenre
characterized by noisy guitars and motionless musicians on stage. All three
stations are now streaming online. (WRVU and KTRU can also be found on HD Radio,
for hybrid digital, which requires special receivers.)
To improve morale, Rob Quicke, a communications professor and general manager of
the station at William Paterson University, in Wayne, N.J., organized a College
Radio Day on Oct. 11. It was a call to unity in which 365 stations showcased
their best work and played a segment by Professor Quicke on the value of college
Station managers, sounding more business than boho, increasingly meet to
strategize ways to stay relevant. “One of the big things we do is monthly
conference calls with our board of directors where we brainstorm the future of
our station,” says David DyTang, a policy analysis and management major and
general manager of Cornell’s rock station, WVBR. “How do we reach out to
students? How do we access them through modern media?” In one way, the students
are creating an app to access the station’s Web site from a smartphone.
Three years ago, Fordham started up the Alternate Side as an edgier, visually
stimulating option to its FM-based station, WFUV. The Alternate Side streams
24/7 on the Internet, a few hours a day on the FM dial, and on HD Radio. Student
technicians videotape and edit live jam sessions that are e-mailed to listeners
in a weekly newsletter and posted on the station’s page. “We call ourselves a
radio station,” says John O. Platt,WFUV’s communications director. “But we’re
really a multimedia content provider.”
Students at Yale’s WYBCX refer to their station as a “global entity.”
In response to lost listenership in 2007, students voluntarily transformed their
free-format AM station into an Internet-only outfit with a highbrow mix of
pop-electronica and contemporary classical. While WYBCX is like many stations in
that it offers live college sports, its disc jockeys would never be satisfied
streaming for just a dorm buddy. “All our shows are designed for audiences
beyond Yale,” says the general manager, Carl Chen, a junior sociology major who
is as comfortable discussing an 11-member hip-hop collective from Los Angeles as
the “media model” the station ought to be pursuing to compete for listeners. The
plan is to develop niche followings with eclectic interview shows like “The Art
World Demystified,” “A Glimpse of Islam” and “fsck,” on the tech world.
Once upon a time, it was a hyper-local focus that constituted the beauty of the
often unpolished, old-school college radio show. Disc jockeys shouted out to
roommates cramming at 3 a.m. for calculus II exams, played cranky ballads to
ex-boyfriends, and introduced new, underground bands. For those who recall
stations as carefree places where a kid who was into music could play some
tunes, even ones no one was likely to enjoy, this global-minded, strategic
maneuvering is unsettling.
“College radio has traditionally been rooted in a community, a place and a
time,” says Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition,
a nonprofit group that has been involved in the fight to preserve college radio.
“It’s live and it’s local. There is a tremendous romance to that. Without it,
college radio stations risk losing their uniqueness.”
DePaul University’s Internet-only station garners listeners from as far away as
Tokyo, and when a marketing class was asked to evaluate what the station could
do to improve, there was overwhelming consensus: focus more on what’s happening
here, on the Chicago campus.
“We were trying to be a global radio station,” says Scott Vyverman, faculty
manager for the station. “And we were missing that connection at home.”
To rectify this, the station began broadcasting campus sports and beefed up its
local news coverage.
Even at free-format stations like Drexel University’s WKDU, which streams online
but still maintains a strong local presence on the FM dial, students are being
forced to confront issues concerning the station’s distinctiveness. In
free-format programming, D.J.’s are invited to produce a show on just about any
topic or musical genre they please. It’s the kind of station that has captured
the romantic imagination, but in fact many now utilize formal playlists, some of
WKDU has long positioned itself as West Philadelphia’s answer to corporate
music. Playing Top 40 tunes is not allowed. Jake Cooley, a junior and the
station manager, chuckles when he recalls the time, a few years back, when a
D.J. propped a vacuum cleaner up to his microphone and let it roar to mimic the
noisy dissonance of a black metal drone band. It was part musical experience,
part D.J. bravado. Would Mr. Cooley sanction such a performance today? “Probably
not,” he says almost apologetically. “It’s a fine line.”
Larry L. Epstein, faculty adviser to WKDU, has watched the transition up close.
“These college stations are still social environments,” says Mr. Epstein, who is
also an executive board member of Cornell’s WVBR. But students tend to be more
deliberate about their time at them and more demanding of one another. While
some of this has to do with the changing work ethos on American campuses, he
says, it also has to do with the pressure stations are under. “Their programming
has to be relevant to their core audience,” he says. “The days of college
stations that only appeal to the students who work there has come to an end.”
Mr. Epstein is direct. “I tell them: You don’t want to end up another
It wasn’t always like this. As mainstream radio in the 1980s and 1990s became
more focused on profits, and hence more risk averse, college radio became one of
the rare broadcast venues where new sounds could be introduced, according to
Susan Smulyan, author of “Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American
Broadcasting.” “College radio became a hideout,” she says.
And it relished the role. In the 1980s college radio catapulted the post-punk
pop of R.E.M. into the mainstream, and is credited with discovering and
promoting the 1990s grunge bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. In the
early 2000s, it was college radio that helped ignite a garage band revival with
the White Stripes. Even Coldplay was lifted up through the ranks of college
David Hargis, a former student disc jockey at Princeton’s WPRB, says the power
of these stations has been diluted because music blogs like Pitchfork and social
networking sites, which he calls “word of mouth on steroids,” are offering those
same opportunities to discover new music. “There are too many other ways to get
what college radio gives you,” says Mr. Hargis, who was a paid program
coordinator for KUSF, the University of San Francisco’s student station, which
now is found only streaming on the Internet.
Mr. Vyverman, the faculty manager at Radio DePaul, says college radio can etch
out a new role, but online so young listeners can do what they have grown
accustomed to doing: participating. “College students don’t want: You listen to
what we tell you,” he says. “They want two-way communication. They want to feel
that their voice is being heard.”
A VISITOR recently dropped by and heard a lively conversation in the Fredonia
station’s lounge on what live radio stations can offer students that automated
Internet radio stations can’t.
Izzy Jay, a senior and program director for Fredonia’s FM-dial station, paced
back and forth, nibbling on chips and offering her thoughts on how much a disc
jockey really adds to a listener’s experience. “I listen to radio to hear new
music,” she argued. “I don’t need the disc jockey to draw me in.”
But Rob Neves, program director for the campus’s Internet station, leaned
against an office divider in a cobalt-blue “I Love Radio” T-shirt and politely
but vehemently disagreed.
“Music is what brings people to the radio,” he retorted. “Personalities are what
keep them coming back.”
Mr. Neves said later, “It’s an ongoing debate between certain people — what
drives people to come and why iPods and Pandora are different.”
WDVL station heads are confident they can put up a valiant fight against robotic
technologies — not by becoming riskier because they’re F.C.C. free, but by
producing shows that promote real-time connections. “Lover Call,” a late-night
talk show, encourages listeners to instant-message their romantic woes, as one
lovelorn listener did repeatedly last year. “Week after week, we got updates,”
Mr. Heussler said, describing a suspense-packed virtual soap opera.
Last year, “Bonjour Cupcake” featured soupy guitar bands that sang about foiled
love affairs. Meanwhile, listeners swapped cupcake recipes in a live chat room.
“Yup, that’s basically what they did.” Mr. Heussler said, affecting a tone that
suggested even he was puzzled by that show’s success.
Mr. Heussler believes another way to foster these connections is to help
listeners find information on artists they want to learn more about. To
illustrate this, he told the story of how two years ago, WDVL conducted a phone
interview with an indie electro-pop band from Colorado called 3OH!3. The podcast
included a recording of “Don’t Trust Me,” the band’s catchy, tongue-in-cheek
tune about the perils of hooking up. When that song shot to No. 1 on the music
charts, fans from around the world, seeking news about the band, found the
To old radio heads, what Mr. Heussler was describing wasn’t really introducing
someone to something new. You find what you’re looking for; you don’t find what
you’re not looking for. But he is not the type to get bogged down in what used
When asked which station was WDVL’s biggest competitor, Mr. Heussler, taking a
rare break in the foam-padded interview room, shrugged. “Who are we competing
with? We’re competing with past generations.”
is a freelance writer
based in New York City.
has been revised
to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 5, 2011
A picture caption on Page 22 this weekend
with an article about college radio on
misidentifies a Fordham student shown
videotaping a band for the
university’s station, WFUV.
October 23, 2011
The New York Times
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Robert Pierpoint, the CBS News correspondent who brought a human-interest
touch to coverage of the Korean War and later reported on six presidents, from
Dwight D. Eisenhower to Jimmy Carter, died Saturday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He
The cause was complications of hip surgery, CBS News said.
In more than 40 years with CBS radio and television, Mr. Pierpoint covered the
major news stories of his time, from Korea to the Kennedy assassination to
Watergate, often reporting for “The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite” and
on the magazine-type program “Sunday Morning” with Charles Kuralt.
Mr. Pierpoint’s “special memory” of covering the Korean War involved not a
particular battle but his visit to a Seoul orphanage.
“There are 500 arguments against the war; these kids,” Mr. Pierpoint told
viewers in a report that was replayed on “Sunday Morning” on the 40th
anniversary of the war’s outbreak. “They didn’t start it, they don’t want it,
they don’t know what it’s all about. But they’re the real victims of this or any
other war. And actually what they want most of all is just a little affection,
something they’re never really going to get right here in this spot.”
Mr. Pierpoint’s reporting from Korea was featured on Edward R. Murrow’s first
“See It Now” program, in November 1951, and his voice reporting the Korean
cease-fire for CBS Radio was used on the final episode of “M*A*S*H” in 1983.
Covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Mr. Pierpont
described Jacqueline Kennedy’s emergence from her husband’s operating room at
Parkland Hospital. In an interview this month with The Santa Barbara News-Press,
he expressed regret at having failed to mention that Mrs. Kennedy’s pink suit
was soaked in blood. “I was in shock,” he recalled.
Mr. Pierpoint won Emmy Awards for his participation in CBS reports on Vice
President Spiro Agnew’s resignation and on President Richard M. Nixon’s friend
Charles G. Rebozo.
Robert Charles Pierpoint was born on May 16, 1925, in Redondo Beach, Calif.
After naval service in World War II, he graduated from the University of
Redlands in California, then did graduate work in Stockholm and was hired by CBS
as a freelance reporter there.
He became a full-time foreign correspondent in 1951. After covering the Korean
War he was the CBS Far Eastern bureau chief in Tokyo until 1957, when he became
White House correspondent. He was named CBS’s State Department correspondent in
Mr. Pierpoint, who retired in 1990, is survived by his wife, Patricia; his sons
Eric, a television and film actor, and Alan; his daughters Marta and Kim
Pierpoint; a sister, Ruth Hogg, and five grandchildren.
Mr. Pierpoint was an avid tennis player, something that made for a mixed fashion
statement one Saturday in the early 1970s when he reported from the White House
Mr. Pierpoint wore a suit jacket, dress shirt and tie but, as The New York Times
later reported in an article on men’s fashions in Washington, “what the
television camera did not reveal was that Mr. Pierpoint’s proper attire topped a
pair of tennis shorts, tennis sneakers and bare legs.”
In his memoir “At the White House: Assignment to Six Presidents” (Putnam, 1981),
Mr. Pierpoint wrote that he had hurriedly received a story assignment but was
about to play tennis with Ron Ziegler, President Nixon’s communications aide. He
changed into a tennis outfit he kept in his locker at the White House, in
anticipation of the match, while keeping the suit jacket on.
He wrote that when a photo of his full frame later appeared in a book and
newspapers, “my superiors were far from pleased, apparently feeling that tennis
shorts, a jacket and tie did not provide a dignified image.”
Marta Pierpoint said her father had relished that episode and would be buried in
a suit jacket and tennis shorts.
The New York Times
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Corwin, one of the last living links to radio’s golden age, a producer and
dramatist whose innovative use of sound effects and unusual narrative devices
attracted new audiences to serious programming, died on Tuesday at his home in
Los Angeles. He was 101.
His death was confirmed by Chris Borjas, his caretaker.
Mr. Corwin was a prolific writer and producer for CBS in the 1930s and ’40s,
best known for his dramatizations of American history, vivid human-interest
reports from abroad during World War II, adaptations of American literary works
and dozens of radio plays.
One of his most celebrated broadcasts came eight days after the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor, when four American radio networks simultaneously carried “We
Hold These Truths,” a kind of docudrama produced for the 150th anniversary of
the Bill of Rights, with performances by Orson Welles, James Stewart, Edward G.
Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Walter Huston.
The program, broadcast live from Hollywood, ended with a live speech by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House and a performance from New
York of the national anthem by Leopold Stokowski and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
“It needed brilliant craftsmanship to pack such a story into 50 minutes,” John
K. Hutchens of The New York Times wrote in a review. “The craftsmanship was
there, Mr. Corwin being both artisan and artist. He can take simple, colloquial
speech and make it sing. He has a gift also for those devices that hold a script
together and give it variety and pace.”
In this case, Mr. Corwin invented a news correspondent, played by Stewart, who
traveled back in time to report on the Constitutional Convention and returned to
the present to interpret current events.
During World War II Mr. Corwin delivered compelling reports from Britain and the
Soviet Union in the series “An American in England,” produced by Edward R.
Murrow, and “An American in Russia.”
Life magazine called him “radio’s top dramatic genius.” In 1944 The New York
Post wrote, “He has earned the daring reputation of being the first to credit
radio audiences with intelligence.”
On V-E Day, May 8, 1945, Mr. Corwin presented what may have been his most famous
broadcast, “On a Note of Triumph,” a celebration of the Allied struggle for
victory with a score by Bernard Herrmann.
“So they’ve given up,” Martin Gabel, the narrator, intoned. “They’re finally
done in, and the rat is dead in an alley back of the Wilhelmstrasse. Take a bow,
G.I. Take a bow, little guy. The superman of tomorrow lies at the feet of you
common men of this afternoon. This is it, kid! This is the day!”
The broadcast and Mr. Corwin’s career provided the material for the film “A Note
of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin,” which won an Academy Award for
best documentary short subject in 2006.
“In radio there was never a term equivalent to boob tube or couch potato,” Mr.
Corwin told the reference work “World Authors, 1900-1950.” “The eye is so
literal, whereas the ear makes a participant of the listener. The listener
becomes the set designer, the wardrobe mistress, the casting director. You can
listen to ‘Carmen’ on radio. Carmen in person may weigh 350 pounds, but to the
listener she’s a beautiful, steamy lady with a rose in her teeth.”
Norman Lewis Corwin was born on May 3, 1910, in Boston and grew up there and in
Winthrop, Mass. His father was a printer and engraver who had emigrated from
Determined to become a newspaper reporter, he sent out letters to 80 dailies in
Massachusetts and, after lying about his age, was hired as a cub reporter at 17
by The Daily Recorder of Greenfield.
Within a month he was the paper’s sports editor, writing features and reviewing
films on the side. He moved up to The Springfield Republican, where he became
the paper’s lead writer of colorful features. When the paper was approached in
1932 by the radio stations WBZ in Boston and WBZA in Springfield to prepare a
nightly 15-minute news report. Mr. Corwin, who spoke in a pleasing baritone, was
handed the job.
In 1937 WQXR in New York accepted his proposal for a radio show of poetry
readings and dramatizations, “Poetic License,” which ran for 40 weeks. The show
came to the attention of executives at CBS, who put him to work producing
cultural programs with Gilbert Seldes, including “Americans at Work” and “Living
Soon he had virtual carte blanche at the network. As part of his series “The
Pursuit of Happiness,” he presented Paul Robeson singing Earl Robinson’s cantata
“Ballad for Americans,” the first performance of Maxwell Anderson and Kurt
Weill’s “Ballad of Magna Carta,” and an adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet’s
poetry performed by Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester.
In 1945 he directed “The Undecided Molecule,” his play about a molecule that
wants to determine its own destiny and that argues its case in the Court of
Physio-Chemical Relations, presided over by Groucho Marx. Also in the cast were
Robert Benchley, Vincent Price, Sylvia Sidney and Keenan Wynn.
“Fortunately for myself, radio was then in a period of relative freedom —
freedom to experiment, freedom to speak, freedom from the vulgarity, venality
and even cowardice that, in later years, was to blight the medium,” he told
In 1947 he married Katherine Locke, a Broadway and film actress, who died in
1995. He is survived by their children, Anthony and Diane.
A liberal internationalist, Mr. Corwin grew disillusioned with radio as the
chill of McCarthyism gripped the United States. He left CBS in 1949 after an
argument over rights to his work and no longer worked in radio after 1955.
His politics made him an object of suspicion in the entertainment industry,
which, as he later put it, “graylisted” him.
He wrote screenplays for less than memorable films like “Scandal at Scourie”
(1953) with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, “The Naked Maja” (1958) with Ava
Gardner and Tony Franciosa, and “Madison Avenue” (1962) with Dana Andrews and
His greatest Hollywood success came with his adaptation of “Lust for Life,”
Irving Stone’s biography of van Gogh, played by Kirk Douglas. His screenplay was
nominated for an Academy Award in 1957.
In 1959 his dramatization of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, “The Rivalry,” opened
at the Bijou Theater on Broadway with Richard Boone as Lincoln and Martin Gabel
Mr. Corwin taught creative writing at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts
in Idyllwild, Calif., for many years and had been a writer in residence at the
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern
California since 1979.
In 1999 he produced a half-hour broadcast distributed by Public Radio
International, “Memos to a New Millennium.” Walter Cronkite provided the
introduction. The music was by the eminent film composer Elmer Bernstein.
“I’m governed by the potentialities of radio,” he told The New York Post in
1944. “Even in the best shows, they’re only dimly realized. Radio has given us,
for the first time, a selective ear, just as the movies gave us a selective
The New York Times
By SUSANNE CRAIG
N.Y. — In these days of smartphones and social media, a small-town radio D.J.
like Big Jay Fink may seem like an improbable source of emergency information.
But as the banks gave way and the power went down across wide swaths of the
Catskill Mountains during Tropical Storm Irene, Mr. Fink served as a lifeline
for thousands of people who were cut off from just about all forms of
communication and information.
As floodwaters rose on the morning of Aug. 28, Mr. Fink interrupted the regular
Sunday programming on WRIP-FM (97.9); instead of a classic Casey Kasem
countdown, listeners found Mr. Fink — beginning what would be a 13-hour on-air
marathon. He calmly fielded calls from people trapped by the surging waters and
doled out information on makeshift shelters.
For many of the 49,000 people spread out over the 650-odd square miles that make
up Greene County, Mr. Fink became the voice of the storm.
“The worst of it was the calls from Prattsville; people saying, ‘I am on the
roof of my trailer,’ and asking where their rescue was,” he said.
Mr. Fink, 54, is an old-school radio guy who got his start at a university radio
station. He was supposed to be on vacation when the storm hit; he could not
afford to go anywhere, so he opted to just hang out at the radio station, which
operates out of an old bowling alley not far from Windham’s main street.
On Saturday night, as the storm began to rain down, a friend dropped off a cot
so Mr. Fink would be near the microphone if things took a turn for the worse. On
Sunday morning, as the water kept rising, he began breaking into the station’s
programs, giving updates throughout “Direct Connection,” a Christian radio show,
and the Casey Kasem program.
About 9 a.m., power and a number of the region’s cellphone towers were knocked
out, leaving thousands without any way of communicating. WRIP’s backup generator
kicked in, and the phone, an old-fashioned land line, started ringing. It has
not stopped since.
For days Mr. Fink, who was soon joined by his colleague Joe Loverro, played
matchmaker, soothing stranded residents, taking down numbers to relay to rescue
workers and passing on information about makeshift shelters and closed roads.
The two personalities and other WRIP employees guided listeners through the
arrival of the National Guard, carrying emergency supplies, to towns like
Prattsville, and kept people apprised of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s trip on
Wednesday to that community, which was devastated by the storm.
People listened, first from radios powered by batteries or generators, and later
from their cars as they drove around to survey the damage, which may top $1
billion in New York alone, Mr. Cuomo has estimated.
“I don’t know any emergency numbers, and I really would love to know if anybody
can tell me what is happening in Hensonville,” one frantic caller, Joan, said
that Sunday. “My son I know is in his house, probably on the second floor, and
the neighbors are in their house and I don’t know any number.”
Mr. Fink’s apartment is above a garage near the banks of the Batavia Kill, which
overflowed and flooded much of downtown Windham. He said that on Sunday night,
he fed his cat and rented a room nearby on higher ground.
Mr. Fink typically takes listeners through the day “playing the mountaintop’s
best music mix, on ‘Midday in the Mountains.’ ” And even during the peak of the
storm’s damage, Mr. Fink would play music between listeners’ calls, giving him
time to try to find out what stranded residents could not.
He said he was careful in the music he selected. “I didn’t want sad songs; I
didn’t want happy songs,” he said. “I wanted songs about being together.” He
played tunes like Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl”; “Hold On,” by Michael
Bublé; and the Four Seasons hit “December, 1963” (it begins with the lyrics “Oh
what a night”).
This is not the first time people have recently turned to radio in times of
disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, two radio stations temporarily combined
operations, becoming the United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans. Nor is radio
the only conduit for information; in the Catskills, the Web site Watershed Post,
which provides news on the region, started a live blog, connecting residents and
concerned New Yorkers alike searching for information.
But there is no doubt that Mr. Fink and WRIP— named after Rip Van Winkle, the
Washington Irving character whose home was in the Catskills — served a need.
“This is just what we do,” he said. “We are not a big operation, but we are
here, and right now that is what matters.”
August 19, 2011
The New York Times
By DENNIS HEVESI
Bob Sherman, who as executive vice president of the New York radio station
WNBC in the late 1970s and early ’80s played a role in fomenting the irreverent,
boisterous and sometimes profane “shock jock” genre by hiring Howard Stern and
rehiring Don Imus, died on Sunday in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. He was 69.
The cause was cancer, his son Tate said.
WNBC was slumping in the ratings when Mr. Sherman was appointed executive vice
president in 1979. One of his first moves was to bring back Mr. Imus, who had
been fired two years earlier for what the station deemed a lack of
professionalism, and who was working in Cleveland. With Mr. Imus back in the
morning drive-time slot, ratings and advertising revenues rebounded.
By the summer of 1982, Mr. Sherman and WNBC’s general manager, Dom Fioravanti,
had hired Mr. Stern, who, as New York magazine said in 1985, was “flapping his
gums weekday mornings in Washington, D.C., provoking tempers, grabbing headlines
and quadrupling his audience.”
Soon after, WNBC was promoting the two in print and television ads, often with
the slogan “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”
“By hiring Imus and Stern, Sherman laid the foundation for shock-jock radio,”
Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media, said
in an interview on Wednesday.
Mr. Imus’s show featured fictional, satirical characters like the Rev. Billy Sol
Hargus, a profane religious zealot, while Mr. Stern “made himself the lead
character in his sex-obsessed universe,” Mr. Simon said. “There’s no doubt that
they transformed what was considered taste in radio, and others soon followed.”
In an affectionate article about Mr. Sherman on The Long Island Press’s Web site
on Wednesday, his friend and former business partner Jerry Della Femina wrote:
“Bob never tired of telling the hilarious story of when Imus stumbled into the
Greenwich Village lair of the Hells Angels and challenged the Hells Angels to a
fight. In this way Bob Sherman and Don Imus were a perfect match in those days.
Don was fearless and liked to start fights and Bob — a strong, big, tough
ex-military policeman—was there to finish them.”
Mr. Sherman was, in a way, born into the radio business. His father, Paul, was
heard for many years on WINS in New York, first as a disc jockey and later, when
the station switched to a news format, an announcer and reporter.
Robert Barry Sherman was born on June 28, 1942, in Jersey City. His family
eventually moved to Great Neck, on Long Island, and Bob began selling
advertising for his father’s station and attending nearby Adelphi University,
graduating in 1963.
A series of advertising sales jobs over the next decade led to his hiring as
general sales manager at WCAU in Philadelphia, and, in 1974, to his promotion to
station manager. Five years later, he was hired by WNBC.
Mr. Sherman left WNBC in 1982 to co-found the advertising agency Della Femina,
Travisano, Sherman & Olken. He later helped start two radio networks that serve
small markets, was an executive at AOL-Time Warner and, in 2003, became chairman
of the Double O Radio network.
Besides his son Tate, Mr. Sherman, who lived in Chappaqua, N.Y., is survived by
his wife of 28 years, the former Amanda Tomalin; two other sons, Luke and Scott;
and three daughters, Jessica, Tess and Nell Sherman.
When WNBC hired Mr. Stern in 1982, the station knew what it was getting into,
Mr. Sherman told New York magazine.
His new bosses, he recalled, told Mr. Stern to steer away from sex and religion.
But his first month on the air, the article noted, Mr. Stern “did a bit called
‘Virgin Mary Kong,’ about God’s new video game in which a bunch of guys kept
chasing the Holy Mother around a singles bar.”
August 15, 2011
The New York Times
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Nat Allbright was around 8 when he began memorizing lineups for one of the
day’s big-league ballgames. He then pretended to broadcast the baseball game he
imagined the men played.
Mr. Allbright, who died last month, went on to be a master of what is now a
lost, almost hard-to-imagine art. Like a young radio broadcaster named Ronald
Reagan, he took bare-bones telegraph messages transmitted by Morse code (“B1W”
for Ball One Wide); embellished them with imagination and sound effects; and
then broadcast games that sounded as if he were in the ballpark hearing,
smelling and seeing everything, from steaming hot dogs to barking umpires to
swirling dust at second base.
Over a decade, Mr. Allbright broadcast 1,500 Brooklyn Dodgers games without
seeing a single one. When so-called progress killed this splendid occupation, he
came up with a new business: taping vanity broadcasts of imaginary sporting
events, where the customer became the star. Just insert a name.
One customer got to vicariously fulfill his dream of catching Dizzy Dean in
1934. A 240-pound would-be jockey rode Secretariat to victory in the Kentucky
Derby. Another customer fought Sugar Ray Leonard, saying realism demanded that
the customer himself be knocked out. All this for $40 for a 30-minute tape.
Mr. Allbright created games even when the seasons were suspended because of
labor strife. In 1981, he narrated the All-Star Game that wasn’t played in
Cleveland, on a breezy summer night perfect for baseball, on a Washington radio
station. The next year, he deployed his gravelly voice to broadcast Washington
Redskins games that weren’t played because of a player strike.
So you can believe, disbelieve or half-believe the following quotation,
referring to the longtime owner of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Walter O’Malley once said I was so good at it,” Mr. Allbright said in an
interview with The Washington Post in 1982, “they should just let me make the
whole damn thing up and forget about playing the game.”
Nathan Matthew Allbright died July 18 in Arlington, Va., at 87, his daughter,
Amy Allbright, said. He was born on Nov. 26, 1923, in Dallas.
Growing up in Ridgeway, Va., he drew inspiration from Red Barber, the legendary
Dodgers broadcaster, for his phantasmagoric games. Mr. Allbright served in the
Army, attended a broadcasting school in Washington, worked as a disc jockey and
broadcast both live and “recreated” sports events. He later sold advertising and
Mr. Allbright was broadcasting minor league games in 1949 when Mr. O’Malley
decided to create a network to broadcast games beyond New York City, which was
covered by broadcasts by Mr. Barber and Vin Scully. The idea was to reach fans
of the nationally popular Dodgers in the barbershops, cafes and homes that
dotted the midsection of the Eastern United States.
The Dodgers president, Buzzie Bavasi, heard about Mr. Allbright and invited him
to join the team in spring training. He got to wear a uniform and bat against
Carl Erskine; more important, he learned how the players led off first base,
brandished their bats and hitched their pants. He later used the descriptions in
broadcasts from a Washington studio that were transmitted to an area stretching
from Cleveland to Miami. Fifty-two stations carried the Dodger Network in the
first year; the number doubled in 1950.
Cost was the reason the Dodgers and other teams refrained from live broadcasts
of out-of-town games (or, in the case of Mr. Allbright, of any games). They also
followed a long tradition: no broadcasters were present at the park when the
World Series was first broadcast in 1921. Ronald Reagan got into the act in the
1930s by broadcasting Chicago Cubs games from the studio of a Des Moines radio
station. Almost a half century later, he told what he had learned: “The truth
can be attractively packaged.”
There was one truth Mr. Allbright, and probably Mr. Reagan, were adept at
disguising — the seeming deception that the broadcast was live. Mr. Allbright
began broadcasts by quickly saying they were recreated, as the Federal
Communications Commission required. Then he exclaimed, “Welcome to Ebbets
Mr. Allbright proudly wore the World Series ring Mr. O’Malley gave him after the
Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series, in 1955.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Allbright is survived by his wife of 58 years,
the former Angela Lombardi, and his son, Robert.
In retrospect, it all seems so wonderfully corny. Mr. Allbright had pictures of
each National League stadium so he could add a destination to the telegraph’s
terse “FB” (foul ball). He had a way of snapping his tongue against the roof of
his mouth that sounded like bat striking ball. He had tapes of the tidelike
murmur of the crowd, and others of its wild eruptions.
And he was ready for anything. If the machine that printed out the telegraph
sputtered, he might decree a long succession of imaginary foul balls. If it
needed an emergency repairman, he could make rain by crinkling a cigarette
He knew few noticed and fewer cared that no newspaper would mention the rain
delay. “People listened to the network because they wanted to hear a ballgame,”
he said. “We gave ’em a ballgame.”
January 10, 2011
The New York Times
By SAM DOLNICK
and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
TUCSON — During Tucson’s first rush hour since a weekend shooting left six
people dead and 14 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, talk
radio hosts pushed back against arguments that their heated political rhetoric
had played a role in the tragedy.
Phone calls poured in to stations across the AM dial to denounce Sheriff
Clarence W. Dupnik, who said at a news conference over the weekend that Arizona
had become “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry” and that local TV and radio
hosts should do some “soul-searching.” “I would say that his comments have
incited stupidity around the world,” said Garret Lewis, host of The Morning
Ritual on 790 AM. “People have the image now that we’re a bunch of racist bigots
and there are shootouts in the streets. Again he has absolutely no proof that
any of this is true.”
Steve, a caller on the Jon Justice Show on 104.1 FM, said Mr. Dupnik’s
statements “showed him for the buffoon he is.” Later, a called named Lee called
the sheriff “a blithering idiot.” Caller after caller came up with their own
In the incredulous language of the AM dial, Mr. Justice defended his show, and
dismissed the notion that Arizona’s heated political culture served as the
backdrop to the shooting or an inspiration for the suspect, Jared L. Loughner.
“This is a crazy person!” he said. “Politics is out the window — you’re a
nutbag! No amount of controlling talk radio is going to change that!”
“People need to go and point fingers,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but some
people do. They have to find somebody to demonize.”
Some callers however made it clear that they believed the state’s
conservative-leaning radio hosts bore responsibility.
“You ought to be ashamed,” said a caller named Dale to Mr. Justice’s program.
“You are part of the problem.”
Mr. Justice, his voice cracking, responded: “There’s nothing I have said on this
radio station that could have inspired” this guy.
A caller who identified himself as Rick told the host Mike Gallagher of KKNT,
960 AM, in Phoenix that “individuals like yourself instill fear” in people.
“Was Jared Loughner a Mike Gallagher listener?” the host asked. “You’re
On Wake Up Tucson on 1030 AM, the hosts said their political conversations were
more reasoned than inflammatory.
“When we take an issue on, we really, really understand where we’re going,” said
“Ninety-nine percent of the stuff that we’ve ever talked about, we’re dead on,”
said his partner, Chris DeSimone. “We’re constantly doing our homework.”
On the Morning Ritual, it was barely light outside when Mr. Lewis began knocking
down arguments that after the shooting, gun control laws should be tightened.
“We can’t always depend on the police, the sheriff’s department or anyone else
to protect us,” he said. “At some point, we have to do it ourselves.”
Most callers to the shows agreed with the hosts and defended their right to
“I don’t know what you did wrong,” said a caller to Mr. Justice’s show named
John. “Keep the freedom of speech going.”
October 15, 2010
The New York Times
By DENNIS HEVESI
Jerry Marshall, who lent a velvet voice to the AM airwaves of the New York
metropolitan area in the heydays of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Judy Garland,
died on Wednesday at a hospice near his home in Delray Beach, Fla. He was 91.
His daughter, Carolyn, confirmed his death.
During more than 30 years on the air, Mr. Marshall hosted hit shows like “Music
Hall” and “The Make-Believe Ballroom” on WNEW and “Record Room” on WMGM, as well
as shows on WINS, WNBC and WCBS. His “Jerry Marshall Show” was eventually
syndicated in cities along the East Coast.
In 1948, while hosting “Music Hall,” Mr. Marshall gave a major boost to the
career of Nat King Cole when he was the first D.J. to play Cole’s version of
“Nature Boy,” with its eerie minor melody about a “strange enchanted boy” whose
wandering led him to conclude that “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn/Is just
to love and be loved in return.” The song was an overnight sensation.
Jerome Saul Jaffe (he chose Marshall as his last name after becoming a radio
host) was born in Far Rockaway, N.Y., on April 15, 1919. Besides his daughter,
Carolyn, he is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Geraldine Schwartz;
a son, Michael; a sister, Ruth Berg; and two grandsons.
Mr. Marshall graduated from Cornell in 1942 with a degree in political science.
While at Cornell, he worked on the school radio station and at stations in
Ithaca, N.Y., and Kingston, N.Y. A law school accepted him, but he could not
afford the tuition. Instead, he went to Newark and was hired as an announcer at
“I just had to be a mouthpiece one way or another,” he said in 1954.
Himan Brown, who long before there was television created immensely popular
radio dramas like “The Adventures of the Thin Man” and “Dick Tracy,” employing
an arsenal of beguiling sound effects that terrified or tickled the shows’ many
listeners, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 99.
His granddaughter Melina Brown confirmed the death.
Another of Mr. Brown’s creations was the radio drama “Grand Central Station,”
but probably his most memorable was “Inner Sanctum Mysteries,” whose ominous
opening of a creaking door and menacing farewell of “pleasant dreams” became
signatures not just of the show but also of the heyday of radio itself, when
listeners sitting on the family sofa or curled under quilts attached their own
fanciful images to the sounds coming out of a box that had no screen.
While radio dramas are now celebrated as wistful nostalgia by people in their
70s and 80s, Mr. Brown never stopped believing in the form. In 1974, when radio
drama was all but extinct, he began a nightly series called CBS Radio Mystery
Theater that ran until 1982 and even revived the creaking door. He continued to
produce radio dramas about influential Americans into his 90s for Brooklyn
“I am firmly convinced that nothing visual can touch audio,” Mr. Brown said in a
2003 interview, his eyes sparkling. “I don’t need 200 orchestra players doing
the ‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ I don’t need car chases. I don’t need mayhem. All I
need to do is creak the door open, and visually your head begins to go. The
magic word is imagination.”
In his prime, in the 1930s and 1940s, he was a jack-of-all-trades, once
estimating that he produced or participated in over 30,000 shows. He wrote and
doctored scripts, sold shows to advertisers, and directed actors like Orson
Welles, Helen Hayes, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. As a teenager, he was the
voice of the first Jake, Molly Goldberg’s husband, in the earliest version of
the show about the Goldbergs, a homespun Jewish family in the Tremont section of
the Bronx. But he also played the Italian father in another ethnic soap opera
called “Little Italy.”
He became an expert in sounds that could instantly epitomize a character or a
city. Foghorns and the clang of Big Ben became London. A belly laugh was a fat
“Grand Central Station,” an anthology show, was one of Mr. Brown’s first big
hits, with its portentous opening declaring that the terminal was “the
crossroads of a million private lives, a gigantic stage on which are played a
thousand dramas daily.”
It was characteristic of his self-confidence that when listeners complained that
the chugging sounds of a steam engine were not what you ordinarily heard at the
terminal, he would reply: “You have your own Grand Central Station.”
Mr. Brown grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the son of immigrant tailors from
the outskirts of Odessa in Ukraine. Yiddish was the dominant sound in his
neighborhood, but also important was a violin, which his parents insisted he
learn to play well. He was entranced by the idea of catching the next wave to
success, and a shop teacher at Boys High School told him, “There’s a new thing
now, radio.” He was told that he could hear WLW in Cincinnati with a copper wire
wrapped around a Quaker Oats box.
“What a revelation that was right here in Brooklyn,” Mr. Brown said.
Having done some acting at a local synagogue dramatic club, he persuaded the
young NBC station WEAF that he could read a newspaper column in a Yiddish
dialect. One of his listeners was Gertrude Berg, the resourceful inventor of the
Goldbergs. Within a year, and with his help packaging the show, “The Rise of the
Goldbergs” started a run that with its conversion to television would last 30
years. But after six months, Mrs. Berg fired him, buying him out for $200, he
Mr. Brown continued to work in radio as an independent producer while attending
Brooklyn College. At a time when companies financed shows and attached their
names to them, he would try to sell a potential sponsor, like the Goodman’s
matzo company, on an idea for a radio play and, if successful, put the show
together. One result was “Bronx Marriage Bureau,” about a matchmaker.
The degree Mr. Brown received from Brooklyn Law School aided his ascent: it
helped him acquire the rights to fictional characters like Dick Tracy, Flash
Gordon, Bulldog Drummond and the Thin Man. “The Thin Man” also had a typical
Brown touch: the sound of a pull on a lamp chain as the self-styled detectives
Nick and Nora Charles went to bed. “It was as sexy as I could get,” he said.
As he prospered in radio, Mr. Brown became a perceptive art collector. The
eight-room Central Park West apartment he shared with his first wife, Mildred
Brown, and his second, Shirley Goodman, a force in the growth of the Fashion
Institute of Technology, was filled with paintings by Renoir, Degas and Picasso.
Mr. Brown owned a weekend home in Stamford, Conn., where he once rented a studio
out to a young writer, J. D. Salinger, who at the time was working on “Catcher
in the Rye,” according to his granddaughter.
Both of Mr. Brown’s wives died before him. Besides Melina Brown, he is survived
by a son, Barry K. Brown; a daughter, Hilda; another grandchild; and four
Mr. Brown did not weather the shift to television. He turned “Inner Sanctum”
into a syndicated TV show, but it did not last. Once characters were visible,
viewers were no longer enchanted. The creaky door had lost its spell.
The longest-serving star
of BBC Radio 4's The Archers
– or any single soap
dies after 60 years in role
Thursday 29 October 2009
This article was published
on guardian.co.uk at 15.49 GMT
on Thursday 29 October
Norman Painting, who played Phil Archer on long-running Radio 4 drama The
Archers for nearly 60 years, has died at the age of 85, the BBC said today.
Painting had played the character since the show was first broadcast in 1950,
developing from a young farmer to a family patriarch, and is featured in the
Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap opera.
He also wrote more than 1,000 scripts for the show between 1966 and 1982 and
penned a best-selling book on the programme, first published in 1975. His
autobiography, Reluctant Archer, was published in 1982.
In recent years Painting's appearances on The Archers have been limited due to
ill health. In 2000, the actor revealed he had been diagnosed with bladder
cancer but said it would not stop him recording episodes.
"I see no reason why this illness should prevent me from continuing doing what I
love ," he said at the time.
Over the years Painting's pragmatic character has been involved in numerous key
storylines. One long-running plot strand revolved around who would inherit
Phil's farm after his retirement.
One of his most dramatic moments, meanwhile, occurred in 1955 when his first
wife Grace died in a barn fire while trying to save a horse. It is widely
believed the BBC scheduled the death deliberately to clash with ITV's first
"Even when I'd read my script, I didn't really believe it was going to happen,"
Painting recalled on the 50th anniversary of the famous episode.
In more recent years, the character - a former president of the National
Farmers' Union - had been enjoying a quiet retirement, playing the church organ
and photographing the heavens.
Appointed OBE in the New Year's Honours for 1976, he was vice-president of the
Tree Council and the only honorary Life Governor of the Royal Agricultural
Society of England.
December 2, 2008
The New York Times
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Bill Drake, who transformed radio programming with a syndicated format that
delivered more music, fewer commercials and high-energy “Boss Jocks” — D.J.’s
big on personality but economical with words — died Saturday in Los Angeles. He
The cause was lung cancer, said Carole Scott, his companion.
In the 1960s, Mr. Drake, an up-and-coming disc jockey and programmer from south
Georgia, revolutionized radio when he and his partner, Lester Eugene Chenault
(pronounced Sha-NAULT), decided that radio stations could make a lot more money
and reach more listeners if they cut back on D.J. chatter, accelerated the pace
of their programs and gave audiences more of what they presumably tuned in to
hear: hit songs.
He and Mr. Chenault introduced a formula, eventually sold as a syndicated
package with prerecorded music, that would revamp — and homogenize — radio
stations across the United States.
Under the slogan “Much More Music,” KHJ in Los Angeles, an early client, began
playing 14 records each hour, far more than the competition. Commercials were
limited to 13 minutes and 40 seconds each hour, a third less than the
competition had. Station-identification jingles (usually performed a cappella by
the Johnny Mann Singers) were cut to one and a half seconds. A new breed of disc
jockeys, billed as Boss Jocks, were drilled to keep their patter to a minimum,
and to standardize it.
The results were startling. KGB in San Diego went from last to first in its
market in 90 days. KHJ, with Boss Jocks like the Real Don Steele and Robert W.
Morgan at the microphone, leapt from 12th place to first in 1965. In New York,
critics howled when Mr. Drake and Mr. Chenault forced out the legendary D.J.
Murray the K from WOR-FM, but the station doubled its audience.
In its heyday in the early 1970s, the two men’s consulting firm, Drake-Chenault
Enterprises, served about 350 client stations with makeover advice and totally
automated packages in six different formats.
“He took Top 40 radio and turned it into a machine,” said Marc Fisher, the
author of “Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution That Shaped a
Generation” (Random House, 2007).
“He pared it down to the essentials and made it a vehicle for selling
advertising rather than an entertainment form, something you tuned in to for
music, the news, the time and the weather, all in a slickly designed format,”
Mr. Fisher said. “It is common to think of radio that way now, but in the 1960s
it was revolutionary.”
The standardized formats influenced other AM and eventually FM stations
nationwide to lose not just their individualized D.J. stars but also to some
degree their independent voices. The comedian George Carlin joked about Boss
Radio as early as 1972 on the album “FM & AM”:
“Hi gang. Scott Lame here. The Boss jock with the Boss sound from the Boss list
of the Boss 30 that my Boss told me to play.”
The Boss D.J.’s drew their own followings, however, and younger fans who grew up
with them attend reunions to meet their favorites.
Philip Taylor Yarbrough grew up in Donalsonville, Ga., and began working at a
local radio station as a teenager. While attending South Georgia Teachers
College in Statesboro, he worked the 9 p.m.-to-midnight shift at WWNS, where his
sign-off theme was Hugo Winterhalter’s version of “Canadian Sunset.”
“If you were a freshman girl and were off campus somewhere and heard that, you
knew you were in deep trouble unless you could get back to the college before
the song was over,” said Ramona Palmer, whom he married in 1959 after taking a
job at WAKE radio in Atlanta and changing his name to rhyme with the station’s
call letters. The couple divorced in 1966. Two later marriages also ended in
divorce. He is survived by a daughter, Kristie Philbin of Delray Beach, Fla.
At WAKE, where he began as a D.J. and rose to become program director, Mr. Drake
began tinkering with the programming so successfully that the station’s parent
company sent him to California to work some magic on its San Francisco station.
In 1962 he was hired by Mr. Chenault, the owner of KYNO in Fresno, who also had
innovative ideas about packaging radio. Together they created Drake-Chenault
Enterprises, rescued KGB in San Diego, their first client, then struck gold with
“We cleaned up AM radio,” Mr. Drake told The Los Angeles Times in 1990. “We put
everything in its place. It was radio that was designed for the listener. Before
us, disc jockeys would just ramble on incessantly.”
No longer did D.J.’s introduce songs, or spin yarns about teenage romance, or
project a quirky personality, in the style of Wolfman Jack. “His insight was
realizing that you could turn these D.J.’s into household names even if they
didn’t really do anything on the air,” Mr. Fisher said.
Songs got the Drake-Chenault treatment, too. Regardless of the stature of the
artist, two minutes was just about the limit, which meant that even Beatles hits
were trimmed to fit. The Top 40 list was shrunk to the Top 30. Another
Drake-Chenault innovation was to program the news at odd times, like 20 minutes
after the hour, so that their stations would be playing music, and enticing
listeners, when others were broadcasting the news.
By cutting down on commercials, the stations were able to sell advertising at
higher rates. “Everybody else was choking the goose laying the golden egg,
jamming in as many commercials as they could,” he told www.radioandrecords.com
last year. “When our slots were sold, that was it.”
Mr. Drake gained a reputation as a ruthless, detail-minded operator. Special
phone lines in his Bel Air home allowed him to monitor his client stations by
punching in a code and listening. If he did not like what he heard, things could
“When that phone rings, you know it’s death time, man,” a battle-scarred D.J.
told Time magazine in 1968.
Mr. Drake sold his interest in Drake-Chenault Enterprises in 1983, and the
company dissolved in the mid-1980s. In recent years, Mr. Drake developed “Top 40
Time Clock,” a syndicated cavalcade of more than 1,800 hits aimed at the baby
“It has a great hook,” Mr. Drake wrote in a Web site promotion. “You can’t wait
to hear what comes up next. It’s the History of Top 40 Radio without the
In other words, no D.J. chatter. As Mr. Drake told
www.radioandrecords.com , “I always
said if you’re going to say nothing anyway, say it in as few words as possible.”
May 6, 2007
The New York Times
By JACQUES STEINBERG
weeks after CBS Radio fired Don Imus for his racially and sexually demeaning
remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, Nick Di Paolo opened his talk
show on another CBS station in New York by mocking a manual that, he said, one
of his bosses had given him that morning.
The booklet was entitled “Words Hurt and Harm” and, as described by Mr. Di
Paolo, it urged him and his brethren to avoid the sort of stereotypes that had
not only upended Mr. Imus but had also just gotten two colleagues on WFNY (92.3
FM) suspended for broadcasting a six-minute prank call littered with slurs to a
“Right away, we’re starting with a false premise,” Mr. Di Paolo told his
listeners on April 25, just after noon. “Because words don’t hurt.”
He then proceeded to refer to someone in the studio who was apparently of
Colombian descent as “a drug dealer,” before using an exercise in the manual as
a springboard to the following observations: that “enough” Native Americans
drank to make them fair game for a joke; that waiters in Chinese restaurants
were “efficient” and “better than most, you know, other ethnic groups as waiters
and waitresses”; and that Jewish mothers were “bad cooks and a little hairy.”
The part of the radio spectrum where Mr. Di Paolo holds forth each day — shows
in which commentary and entertainment fuse, sometimes under the rubric of a
morning or afternoon “zoo” — remains as arguably and insidiously untamed in the
days after Mr. Imus’s collapse as it was before, based on a New York Times
screening of nearly 250 hours of shock-talk radio broadcast over the last week.
Gay men and lesbians, and women and Muslims, among others, were frequent targets
of ridicule; coarse, sexually explicit banter, particularly descriptions of anal
and oral sex, proliferated, much of it reminiscent of the routines that once
drew Howard Stern heavy penalties; and meanness appeared to be a job
prerequisite, whether a host was belittling someone who called in or the
unwitting subject of a prank call.
In a sense, the hosts of these shows are juggling live grenades each day,
putting the companies that broadcast and sponsor them at the greatest risk of
collateral damage, particularly as the smoke clears from the Imus affair.
After being told of Mr. Di Paolo’s comments, for example, officials of the New
York State Lottery said they had decided to discontinue all advertising on his
show. They also said they would no longer sponsor “Opie and Anthony,” a morning
show on the same station, after being apprised of a line uttered by a comedian
who is a regular guest. “Would it be possible, could you whistle ‘Singin’ in the
Rain’ while I rape a girl?” the comedian had asked another guest, a professional
whistler, in an old interview replayed on April 25.
All told, The Times listened to a dozen prominent shows on so-called terrestrial
radio for five weekdays in a row. Some, like “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse,” out of
Chicago, and “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” a Spanish-language program originating
in New York, draw tens of thousands of listeners each day on multiple stations
across the country. Others tend to reach a more regional audience, including
“The Jersey Guys,” an afternoon talk show that is among the most popular in New
Jersey, and “Steve and D.C.,” which has similar reach in St. Louis.
In one respect, Mr. Imus and the hole he dug for himself were unique: a
nationally syndicated radio host who interviewed the powerful used his bully
pulpit, not just on radio but also on a cable news network, to make a racially
charged aside about largely defenseless victims.
And yet, in the weeks after his firing, the nation’s AM and FM airwaves have
continued to crackle with the kind of crude remarks, off-color bits and
unfiltered rage that might well run afoul of the standards that Mr. Imus was
said by his employers, and critics, to have violated.
One morning late last month, for example, Mancow, the syndicated talk show host
whose real name is Erich Muller and whose audience was estimated at 1.5 million
by Talkers magazine as recently as last fall, could be heard dismissing a caller
as a “brain-dead fetus” and a “late-term abortion that somehow crawled out of
the Dumpster” after the man’s phone connection gave out.
Mr. Muller — whose show is heard prominently on AM talk radio in South Florida
(the station call letters are WMEN, a nod to its format), as well as in Houston,
Indianapolis and San Francisco — also suggested on the same broadcast that
“radical Muslims” would not stop until they had flattened American religion like
His children, he predicted, “will probably be killed because I’m bringing them
up Catholic, and maybe their children will be brainwashed and put into some sort
of situation where they’re wearing a burka and they follow Shia law, because
that’s what these radicalized Muslims want.”
He also mused about several other matters, including, “I just wonder why we care
so much about Virginia Tech kids.” He quickly qualified the remark by saying,
“Don’t pull that out of context,” before indicating that soldiers killed in Iraq
deserved comparable gestures of mourning.
And that was just one day’s show.
Asked about the appropriateness of that host’s remarks in a post-Imus world, a
representative for the company syndicating the show — Talk Radio Network, which
also distributes the hosts Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham — said he would
pass on the question to the company’s chief executive, Mark Masters, and to the
show’s producer. Neither responded.
Meanwhile, a representative for one of the show’s advertisers — the American
Council on Education, an association of colleges — said that the group had been
unaware that its spots promoting higher education had run on the show. The
commercials are part of a public service campaign created and donated by the Ad
Council, said Terry Hartle, a spokesman for the college group.
“We will certainly talk with the Ad Council about that particular placement,”
Mr. Hartle said.
Still, no targets on such shows — which are overwhelmingly, though not
exclusively, led by disaffected white men like Mr. Muller — are fired at with
greater frequency than women.
Last Monday Mr. Di Paolo, a stand-up comic whose show on 92.3 “Free FM” in New
York is heard by nearly 160,000 people each week (ranking it 27th in the market,
according to Arbitron), proposed that homeless women be employed to monitor
“Go to the women’s shelter,” he said. “Get a bunch of chicks with black eyes and
On April 27, in an extended rant in support of Alec Baldwin’s right to lose his
temper in private, he wondered about the last film role of the actor’s former
wife, Kim Basinger. “What did she play?” Mr. Di Paolo asked. “An old tampon?”
Asked about the propriety of Mr. Di Paolo’s comments — especially in light of
the action taken by CBS Radio against Mr. Imus and “J.V. and Elvis,” the hosts
suspended over their prank against the Chinese restaurant — Karen Mateo, a
spokeswoman for the company, declined to comment. Reached on Friday night, Mr.
Di Paolo said he knew that in the current climate, his reluctance to filter his
harshest opinions could ultimately cost him his show, which began on WFNY in
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take,” said Mr. Di Paolo, 45, who has been working
as a comedian for nearly two decades. “It’s got to stop somewhere. And I’m
hoping they say enough is enough — not as far as what I do, but as far as
He added, “At least with my show, I take shots at everybody.”
Across the Hudson River earlier in the week, the hosts of the “Jersey Guys” show
on WKXW (101.5 FM) in Trenton, among the most popular in the state, were
imagining the sex life of Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
Having decided a few days earlier that the governor’s girlfriend had surely
cleared his hospital room to give him “a little servicing” after his car
accident, they were now encouraging the governor, as he continued his recovery
at his mansion, to find additional female companionship.
“I’d get bitches, wouldn’t you?” said Craig Carton, one of the hosts, on their
April 30 program, which was simulcast live on the radio station’s Web site.
“Poolside bitches ... with big leaves to fan the governor down after exhausting
physical therapy, maybe a little massage.”
“That should be his new mantra,” Mr. Carton added. “I’m the governor, I’ve had a
reawakening, I now believe everyone should have poolside bitches.”
Such talk was mild, though, when measured against what is offered every morning
on Spanish-language radio, the Wild West of the medium.
Just as Mr. Imus’s show might have featured an interview with a presidential
candidate followed by a bawdy imitation of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, “El
Traketeo,” a morning show on an FM station owned by Univision in Miami (its
title roughly translates as “the uproar” or “the hoax”) toggles between weighty
discussion of matters like immigration and chatter that borders on the
On April 26, for example, the show, heard by an estimated 142,000 listeners each
week, broadcast a parody of a salsa song in which a man pleaded with his
girlfriend for anal sex.
“I understand that you’re afraid,” he said. “Relax a little.”
A day later the show’s hosts conducted a phone interview about rising property
taxes with Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami who is speaker of the State
House of Representatives. Sometime after Mr. Rubio hung up, the show broadcast
another song parody, this one about a man whose life is being cramped by the
taxes Mr. Rubio is trying to cut.
I had to have sex in a bus, the singer laments, because “I couldn’t afford the
Asked if Mr. Rubio had been aware of the shenanigans that are part of the show’s
daily diet, a spokeswoman for him, Jill Chamberlin, said that he appreciated
“the opportunity Univision has given him to get the cut-property-tax message out
to the citizens.”
Whether the Federal Communications Commission or Congress will step up sanctions
against radio programs after Mr. Imus’s firing remains unknown. The commission
does not actively monitor such shows — it relies on listener complaints to
initiate investigations — and even then, harsh or racy speech is often protected
by the First Amendment.
Which is not to say that the F.C.C. is not paying attention: in 2004 the hosts
of “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” a show that until recently originated in Miami on
WXDJ FM, were fined $4,000 by the commission for broadcasting a prank call to
Fidel Castro, who apparently thought he was speaking to Hugo Chávez; they have
since left the station.
Emmis Communications, which had broadcast Mr. Muller’s show on its FM station in
Chicago, let him go last summer, two years after it had agreed to pay $300,000
to settle indecency complaints against his show.
Still, employers may not wait for the government, choosing instead to apply
their own standards, particularly if advertisers begin to object.
After Mr. Imus’s comments about the mostly black Rutgers team, the hosts on two
predominantly black stations in New York — WQHT (97.1 FM) and WBLS (107.5) —
have made references on their programs to the need to police themselves, and
their callers, better.
Tarsha Nicole Jones, who as “Miss Jones” is host of a show on WQHT that reaches
nearly 700,000 listeners a week, has taken to using “wenches” and “itches” as
substitutes for harsher words, and she reprimanded a caller on Monday for using
a common racial slur twice.
Later the show ran a stentorian public service announcement that said, “Due to
new regulations regarding the use of language, the ‘Miss Jones Show’ has made
the appropriate adjustments.”
An interesting controversy has recently developed in the United States in
regard to certain aspects of radio advertising. To understand its significance
one needs to know a little of the background of this industry.
Radio broadcasting in the United States is almost entirely a private enterprise.
There are about 1,000 stations and of these all but half a dozen are conducted
The advertising agency which prepares the "commercials" also prepares the
remainder of the programmes. Programmes written for this sole purpose are often
objectionable in the extreme to intelligent listeners.
A cynical saying among radio men is that the ideal programme is one which
successfully sells a product costing 15 cents or less to people with a mental
age of not more than twelve years who use up the product at once so that it has
to be bought again within a few days.
The most objectionable aspect of radio advertising is the "singing commercial."
A familiar old song is usually appropriated and new words exploiting the glories
of somebody's soap or toothpaste are written to a few bars. Then these are sung
on the radio over and over again. The old song has been desecrated. The rush of
advertisers results from the policy of the United States Treasury which permits
commercial firms to spend almost unlimited sums for business expenses which
would otherwise have gone to the Government in excess profits tax.
Within the past few weeks the first organised protest against vulgar and
excessive radio advertising has been witnessed. The "St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
has been the leader in the crusade. The "St. Louis Post Dispatch" raised
objection to the "commercial" in the middle [of news programmes]. The newspaper
made the point that Americans listening in their homes to the account of battles
in which their own sons might be engaged ought not to be interrupted while an
announcer expatiates upon the virtues of medicines which no one would dream of
mentioning at a dinner-table.
Most of the popular news commentators are heard on the national networks, and
their talks come from New York or Washington. Nevertheless, the revolt of the
"St. Louis Post-Dispatch" and its numerous echoes in other parts of the country
have shaken the complacency of the great radio networks, and it seems possible
that some reform may be expected.
And from the standpoint of the unhappy listener, who often finds the
"commercials" well-nigh unendurable, any degree of reform is welcome.
Among the attractions planned
for a wireless exhibition at
were pre-set radios
and home television sets
SETS which tune themselves are likely to be one of the
features of the radio exhibition which it to be held this autumn in the National
Hall, Olympia. It has gradually come to be recognised that many listeners are
totally unable to tune their receivers centrally without some form of aid. In
the new “press button” models, the listener has, at his choice, a number of
well-known stations, at home and abroad, and by pressing the relevant switch the
receiver quickly and automatically selects the station required and remains
correctly tuned to it.
Olympia will also have facilities for the visitor to assess the large number of
home television models which are now available. The sale of television receivers
is increasing, and there is no doubt at all that, now there has been such an
enormous improvement in the material and presentation of television programmes,
home viewers are uniformally enthusiastic about the service.
Viewers are also to be able to see for themselves how television programmes
originate. A glass-walled studio is being erected in which there will be
repetitions of two shows, Cabaret Cruise and Queue for Song. Picture Page will
also be presented and there will be fashion forecasts daily. There will also be
fashion broad- casts daily. There will be two mobile television units in
operation during the Exhibition, one to transmit the Olympia programmes to
Alexandra Palace and the other to relay the Test match at the Oval and the new
series of zoo broadcasts.
Readers of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards
may remember how the citizen of Utopia, waking from sleep each morning, had only
to touch a button near his bedside and at once his chamber was flooded with
strains of exhilarating music.
According to Bellamy they managed these things
rather well in Utopia. The orchestra, which thus distributed its music among
thousands of homes, would choose for its morning programme music that was likely
to invigorate the mind of the community.
In the evening the touch of a button, this time in the drawing-room, would bring
forth music of another kind, or perhaps a homily by some learned divine.
Of course all things are possible in a dream of Utopia, yet a dream may not be
all baseless fabric.
If the enterprise which the Metropolitan Vickers Company have in contemplation
for Manchester be realised we shall have attained a considerable step towards
this refinement of life.
Before many months have passed a "broadcasting station" may be completed near
their works at Trafford Park, and all who possess themselves of the proper
receiving appartus will be able to share in the service of news, music,
lectures, sermons, and so on despatched from this centre.
This is a technical alliance between the Westinghouse Company, which opened the
first broadcasting station of this kind at Pittsburg, and the Metropolitan
In the early evening the station may be sending out stories for children, tales
to send the young folk off to bed in a happy frame of mind. Later there may be a
lecture. Music there will almost certainly be on most nights.
Here one can picture an immense development. It is not extravagant to imagine a
concert party or orchestra being engaged to give regular performances. Some
great vocalist or instrumentalist visiting Manchester may make a flying visit to
broadcast his divine art. The gramophone has helped us revise our notions of
propriety in such a matter.
On Sunday, perhaps, there will be a sermon. One fears that the politician cannot
be altogether excluded. Where is the politician who would neglect the means to a
So it is not unlikely that Ministers of State, arriving hot-foot from London,
may occasionally supplement the regulation performance from the platform of the
Free Trade Hall with a visit to the "broadcasting station" at Trafford Park.
These are some of the ideas in the minds of the promoters of the scheme.