THIS JUST IN: It’s Curtains For WCER

UPDATE (03-31-2011 at 5:29PM): Or is it? We’ve heard from different sources that WCER may have changed their minds about signing off today or tonight. More on this as details emerge…

The original post as follows:

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**This is a developing story… please keep checking back for the latest developments! **

We’ve also received word that another AM radio station in Canton has decided to throw in the towel and go silent.

This time, it’s Melodynamic talk/religious WCER/900 that has decided to turn off their transmitter sometime today or tonight. (As of right now, the station is still broadcasting both on-air on on-line… but we have recieved confirmation that the station’s folding is imminent.)

And no, it’s not because of a giant government conspiracy to silence controversial syndicated host Alex Jones.

Rather, it’s due to former operations manager Jack Ambrozic’s retirement (WCER’s most recent FCC ownership report lists Ambrozic’s new South Carolina address), and Leodis Harris – the other partner in WCER’s owner Melodynamic – has no interest in keeping the station’s rather unique mix of conservative talk and fundamentalist religious preachers on the air.

The move costs United Stations’ Lou Dobbs, self-syndicated Dave Rasmey, “Free Talk Live” and the aforementioned Jones their de-facto Cleveland outlets (Ramsey moved to WCER after being dropped from WHKW/1220 admist a syndication dispute with WHKW’s parent, Salem Radio.) It also comes weeks after another syndicated host – Leerfield Communications co-founder Derry Brownfieldpassed away. In recent years, WCER also aired Dr. Laura prior to her outright departure from terrestrial radio, TRN’s Micheal Savage, and others.

Also on the outside looking in is local big-band host Dick Waco, whose show aired for many years on Saturday mornings.

Of course, WCER’s actions come just three weeks after hard-luck gospel WINW/1520 was off the air for so long, the FCC deleted its’ license and is now known in their respective database as DWINW.  Which brings up an interesting connection: WINW’s one-time FM sister station – Clear Channel active rocker WRQK/106.9 – whose studios were previously at WINW’s ‘little red building’ on Martindale, began as the original sister station to AM/900, even during the late 1960s when both stations were WNYN – aka “Nine.” (No, not this “NINE!”)

If Melodynamic doesn’t elect to donate the license to a regional college (Malone University, perhaps?) or sell it to another party, and turn the license over to the FCC outright, it will be another sad close in Canton AM history. Only two AM stations will remain in the market – NextMedia news/talk WHBC/1480 and religious WILB/1060 “Living Bread Radio”.

URGENT: Bill Ward out at WJW

CORRECTION (04/01/2001 at 3:08PM): Art Lafredo, in fact, did retire from WJW three years ago… the post below has been amended to reflect the change. My apologies for the oversight.

Here’s a sample of Bill Ward’s work from the late 1970s, when he was at WEWS/5:

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OMW has learned that Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 is currently making a series of budget-related personnel cuts. Most of them are or will be behind-the-scenes staff, such as chyron operators and floor directors.

One of the cuts, however, is a very noticeable one… longtime booth announcer/voice-over talent Bill Ward.

Bill was among those dismissed from WJW after nearly 28 years with the station. His tenure at the station dates back to when the station still had the WJKW calls and was a CBS affiliate – and Howard Hoffman still lent his talents to voice the top-of-the-hour IDs. Prior to that, Bill enjoyed long stints as booth announcers for both Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 and at the old WGAR/1220 (yes, back when WGAR was on the AM dial with a Top 40 format).

And fans of the long-running “Big Chuck and Lil’ John” will automatically recognize Bill either in on-camera roles or for voice-over duties, essentially assuming those roles from original co-host Bob “Hoolihan” Wells. (This also means that after director/technician Art Lafredo retired three years ago, legendary meteorologist Dick Goddard is the only connection remaining to “Houlihan & Big Chuck & Lil’ John” left at South Marginal… er, Dick Goddard Way.)

Bill will be replaced by an internet-provided voice (and Bill’s voice will still exist in existing station promos or commercials) but for many viewers, that otherwise subtle change will be more than noticeable.

Assorted Monday News Nuggets

LAFORCE IS WITH FOX 8: It looks like Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 has brought aboard a new sports reporter after former weeknight sports anchor Tony Rizzo’s departure last December.

VermilionOhioNews.com posted on their March 28 issue that Vermilion native Allie LaForce has been hired by WJW as a sports reporter. A recent broadcast journalism graduate of Ohio University (where she also played on the Bobcats’ girls basketball team), LaForce was the Miss Teen for 2005 and also made a guest appearance on the long-defunct NBC soap “Passions.”

Most recently LaForce worked as a sideline reporter for Sportstime Ohio during the 2010 Mid-American Conference’s football season and the 2011 MAC men’s basketball tournament, and if memory serves this Secondary Editorial Voice ™ correct, LaForce also made a contribution and fill-in or two for WJW a few weeks ago.

Not sure if her duties also will lend to weekend sports anchoring or fill-in for 30-year WJW veteran John Telich, who has been the lone remaining regular sportscaster at the station. Whenever Telich has had a day off, veteran anchors Bill Sheil and Lou Maglio, and web/tech guy Dan Jovic have done the sportscasts in his place, usually on the weekends. (And yes, Rizzo and Dan Coughlin will most assuredly return for Friday Night Touchdown next fall.)

TIME WARNER MOVES: Next Monday (April 5), much of Time Warner Cable’s extensive system in Northern Ohio will make yet another significant realignment to their channel lineups. It’s the most significant realignment since March of last year, when the HD channels were all reassigned to the 1000+ channel allotment.

Of special note is that the greater Akron, Mansfield, Kent and Medina areas will have the following Cleveland broadcast channels move so that their channel name and channel position match:

• Channel 3, WKYC, will be on 3 or 1003 (HD)
• Channel 5, WEWS, will be on 5 or 1005 (HD)
• Channel 8, WJW, will be on 8 or 1008 (HD)

Most other areas – including the Cleveland metro systems – are already “on-channel.”

ShopNBC, the Travel Channel, truTV and SPEED will also be made available in digital format only (joining Oxygen), and can only be seen with the aid of a digital cable converter box. Soapnet and Science Channel will move to the Digital Variety Package (in areas where the two channels are not there already).

All Time Warner Cable customers will have new lineups mailed to them seven days prior to when the channels changes occur – which would be within the next few days. To see how your service area is changing, check twcguide.com, and select your respective state and city. Rich Heldenfels’ blog at the Akron Beacon Journal’s the330.com has in detail the updated Akron lineup.

VIRGIL DOMINIC JOINS THE U OF A: Respected long-time newscaster, news director and general manager Virgil Dominic is still active in the television medium, even after retiring from WJW/8 over 15 years ago (in the wake of the longtime CBS affiliate’s switch to, and eventual purchase by, Fox).

Recently, Dominic joined the University of Akron’s School of Communication as a lecturer, and is now teaching “Broadcast Newswriting” for the Spring 2011 semester for the university’s telecommunication students.

On how much teaching students relates to his time working in commercial television, Dominic said:

“I had so many mentors throughout my career. They helped me so much and teaching is my way of honoring them… In many ways, by teaching I find myself learning all over again. For me, that is a wonderful feeling.”

For those who don’t know, Dominic entered the Cleveland market in 1965, joining then-NBC O&Os WKYC/3 as their lead news anchor – and also did work for then-sister station WKYC/1100 (even serving as a anchor for NBC Radio News when the now-defunct network had their radio O&Os each produce one newscast daily). After a successful stop as news director for Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, he was hired by then-WJKW/8 to institute the “Newscenter 8” format for the Storer-owned station, and eventually became the station’s general manager.

In addition to his work with the University of Akron, Dominic still serves as a consultant with his Virgil Dominic Communications, with former employer WKYC (now a Gannett-owned NBC affiliate) as one of his main clients.

MATT WATROBA AT FOLKALLEY: Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7’s FolkAlley.com has added another host (or “folkie,” as they put it) to their stable.

Longtime folk music personality/singer/songwriter/educator/performer Matt Watroba recently joined FolkAlley – which features traditional folk, contemporary singer/songwriter, Americana, Celtic, bluegrass, world and acoustic instrumentals – bringing aboard a well-respected, multitalented “music geek” to the internet and HD2 sub-channel service. (Again, that’s how they put it.)

Prior to joining FolkAlley, Watroba hosted the popular “Folks Like Us” program for over 22 years on Wayne State University NPR outlet WDET/101.9 Detroit, where it was dropped in late 2009 in a programming philosophy shift. He already had a presence on FolkAlley.com as they carried the nationally syndicated radio program “Sing Out! Radio Magazine,” a show that featured his interviews, live and recorded music.

Watroba will produce streaming content for FolkAlley.com, in addition to live broadcast hours and will contribute to the Folk Alley blog. Watroba will also appear as a guest host for “The Folk Alley Radio Show,” and for WKSU itself.

FolkAlley.com is (naturally) heard over the Internet and on the HD2 streams of the Kent State University-owned station’s full-power outlets (WKSU/89.7 Kent, WKSV/89.1 Thompson, WNRK/90.3 Norwalk, WKRW/89.3 Wooster and WKRJ/91.5 New Philadelphia).

REMEMBERING MARY HOLT: We’d be remiss not to mention the passing of a landmark music personality in the Cleveland market.

Mary Cordelia Brown, best known as Mary Holt, was the first African-American female announcer in Cleveland radio and television, beginning her long career at the old WSRS/1490 in 1952. From there, she found long success at WJMO/1540 (which swapped dial positions with WSRS in early 1959 to become WJMO/1490) and at WSRS’s successor, WABQ/1540, throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

To dampen complaints from other WJMO staffers who felt forced to ‘babysit’ the control board while she on the air, Holt successfully studied up on broadcast engineering and became a pioneering engineer in her own right.

Holt also made contributions to WJW/8, WEWS/5 and KYW-WKYC/3 at various points; most notably at KYW-TV as host of “Spirituals,” a gospel music program on Sundays. A radio version of “Spirituals” also aired on WJW/850 during the mid-to-late 1950s.

Holt also was one of the first announcers in the market to play what was then known as “hillbilly music” (otherwise known as “country and western”) under the pseudonym “Cindy Lou.” Consequently, as many people mistook pioneering rock-and-roll disk jockey Alan Freed for a black announcer, listeners to Holt also made the incorrect assumption that she was white.

Holt passed away back on March 9, at the age of 89, at the Eliza Bryant Nursing Home. The Plain Dealer obit offers more into her fascinating life, and even then, it doesn’t do much justice…

Skip Hornyak Passes Away

Skip HornyakOMW has learned that WHBC/1480 Canton personality Skip Hornyak passed away early yesterday.

Hornyak was a fixture at the then-Beaverkettle-owned WHBC starting in 1967 as morning host, then moved to the midday slot, and finally hosted overnights until his retirement in 2000. Hornyak also hosted “Tradio” on WHBC for many years.

Prior to joining WHBC, Hornyak also served as the program director for WTIG/990 Massillon (of course, WTIG now operates as an ESPN Radio affiliate).

The Formet-Clevinger-Gordon Funeral Home will be handling the funeral arrangements.

BREAKING: Joe Tait to Return as Voice of the Cavs this March 27th

Very good news for Cleveland Cavaliers fans that have had to deal with much change and turmoil this season:

Joe Tait will be making his return to calling home games for the Cavs this Sunday, March 25, against the Atlanta Hawks – his first official game for the team since being sidelined on October 11 for pneumonia… that eventually resulted in a successful cardiac surgery and rehabilitation which took him out of service for the rest of 2010.

Of course, Tait’s iconic sign-on of “It’s basketball time at the Q!” will air over WTAM/1100 and the entire Cavaliers Radio Network.

But Tait’s return only applies – for now – to the remaining home games on the Cavaliers’ roster this season. Tait’s stand-ins for this season (and for all intents and purposes, his heir apparents) Mike Snyder and Jim Chones, will call the remaining six road games.

Tait’s recovery comes right at the near-twilight of the 2010-2011 season, which was originally slated to be his final one with the team even before these medical setbacks occurred.

FOX Sports Ohio is also set to honor Tait with Have A Good Night, Everybody! an hour-long special honoring Tait’s non-consecutive 39-year tenure as the Cavaliers’ main play-by-play voice on both radio and television. Among the people that will pay tribute: Bill Fitch (who strongly recommended Tait to the team’s original owner, Nick Mileti), Mike Fratello, Mark Price, Jim Chones, Campy Russell, Danny Ferry and Wayne Embry.

The FSOhio special will premiere following the conclusion of the final game of the Cavaliers season – an April 13 home game with the Washington Wizards – that will also be Tait’s final game ever as an announcer.

A Youngstown Two-For-Tuesday

Two big news items impacting the Mahoning Valley today:

WHTX’s “Fabulous” Turn: Back in January, Whiplash Media’s WHTX/1570 Warren formally announced plans to convert the station to adult standards, in response to Youngstown standards stalwarts WSOM/600 Salem and WNIO/1390 Youngstown to spoken word formats (WSOM went all-talk; WNIO went all-sports).

After some contractual hang-ups with the TKO Radio Network – providers of the now-former “Classic Top 40” format – WHTX finally made the switch to standards this past afternoon at 3:00PM.

PhotobucketThe redubbed “Fabulous 1570 WHTX: Youngstown’s Original Hits” is affiliated with Dial-Global Local’s “The Lounge” service, and came complete with an upgraded automation system. An affiliation deal with Accu-Weather for both WHTX and sister station classic country WYCL/1540 Niles has also been reached.

(Their website is slated to move to 1570whtx.com in the coming days, but for now is still accessible at 1570theblizzard.com – complete with live streaming audio.)

The station will still maintain the flagship status for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and still serve as the Youngstown affiliate for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and high school sports primarily with Warren Harding and Warren JFK. However, lost in the move was John “Cappy” Capanaris afternoon “Tip Of The Cap” sports talk show, which was canceled back in late February. Capanaris moved the long-running show to 1570 in late November 2009 from Cumulus sports WBBW/1240 “ESPN 1240.”

WHTX will also be adding many boutique and specialty shows during the weekend hours. Already on the new Saturday lineup is “Ohio Valley Outdoors” at 8am, followed by a 50s/60s oldies show hosted by longtime Pittsburgh oldies personality Frankie Day (current morning host for oldies/talk WKFB/770 Jeannette) from 9am-11am.

Lash is still looking for more experienced sales personnel to join him at the Mineral Ridge Radio Ranch. Any interested applicants can e-mail him at fishfm1(at)hotmail.com.

Low-Power HD for WYFX: New Vision Television’s low-powered Fox affiliate WYFX-LP/62 Youngstown made the flash-cut from analog to digital at RF 19 earlier today.

WYFX, as of right now, is still simulcast on the digital subchannel of its’ much larger sister station – CBS affiliate WKBN/27 – at 27.2 (RF 41.2), and from all indications, the simulcast on 27.2 could still continue for the long-term future, if not to help maximize WYFX’s coverage area… which is far more limited as a low-powered digital TV station.

Of course, a long time ago, WYFX was paired with a repeater in Mercer, Pennsylvania – WFXI-CA/17 – but that station signed off for good in October 2009, and its’ license was returned to the FCC.

WINW, R.I.P.

One recent story that had been extremely problematic to report on recently has been the fate of tiny daytimer WINW/1520 Canton.

Actually, make that DWINW/1520 Canton. That is the official call sign in FCC records, as the Pinebrook Corp.-owned gospel station last known as “Joy 1520” was officially yanked from FCC records on March 3.

The details as to how and why this happened were and still are hard to figure out.

For one, neither the Primary Editorial Voice ™ nor yours truly were ever able to receive the station. WINW’s signal was always pointed decidedly away from any point north of the Canton city limits. Blame the folks at the FCC who failed to closely examine the short-spacing issues from hell that always faced both WINW and the other 1520 signal a few miles north… WJMP/1520 in Kent. That alone makes WINW’s ratings success as a Top-40 giant in the late 1960s – when it was known as “Win-Wonderful” – even more astonishing.

WINW Canton OHThe station sadly saw a long streak of bad luck starting in September, when copper thieves and vandals pilfered the ground system of WINW’s transmitter site during the nighttime hours – and cut guy wires that held the four towers in place. WINW, naturally, was thrown off the air for over a week until a temporary wire antenna was set up. (And factoring in the fact that WINW’s four towers sit on a flood plain in-between a creek – and the stability of the tower array had always been suspect – cutting off the guy wires made a bad situation worse.)

What complicated matters is that few people (including contributors and regular OMW readers) admittedly tuned into WINW that often during the station’s last few months of its’ existence, so it’s impossible at this point to nail down a date as to when WINW signed off for good.

It has been confirmed that WINW did return to the air with that wire antenna, but at some point, the station went silent again. For a prolonged period, apparently, as the FCC sent a letter of inquiry to Pinebrook asking why WINW was apparently silent for such an extended time. (h/t to radio-info poster “gabigley.”) That would lead to the suggestion that Pinebrook simply just gave up on the station, and allowed the FCC to simply delete it.

(It’s very well possible that the temporary wire antenna fell apart right when – or before – winter came, and the continual streak of nasty winter storms, and subsequent flooding simply prevented the setup from being repaired.)

Ironically, the station that will benefit the most from WINW’s removal, WJMP/1520 Kent, will likely never make any attempt to adjust their signal so as to make it passable in both Akron and Canton. It’s been noted on here that many reasons as to why Media-Com and Kaiser Bill would never consider such an investment, after all, WJMP last grabbed headlines in 1995 with their infamous “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” looped stunt. Not to mention adjacent signals like WLKR/1510 Norwalk and the trio of regional 1540s – WYCL/1540 Niles, WWGK/1540 Cleveland and WBTC/1540 Uhrichsville still box in WJMP for any possible improvement to ever take place.

A postscript to WINW will come in the next few weeks.

The “little red building” alongside 4111 Martindale Rd that once housed WRQK and WINW is also up for sale. (The above photo, by Flickr poster “Radio Daze” is of said building in the late 60s – much happier times for WINW.) Obviously it is of little use for former WRQK owner Cumulus (WINW’s final studios were located in downtown Canton, having moved out years ago), and the photo tour inside give a hint as to its’ former past.

Part of the sale description: “Property currently has four radio towers that can be removed. Lots of potential!”