North East RadioWatch: July 7 & 14, 2000

Saga Swallows Ithaca; We Go To Ohio

by Scott Fybush

[Publisher's Note: This special double issue combines the material that was to have appeared in the lost-for-good July 7 issue with this week's new material.]

As long as we're venturing out of NERW territory, let's recap the most recent trip we've been on, our late June excursion to northeast OHIO:

We began on the far east side of Cleveland, where we had a chance to check out the broadcast scene (such as it was) in rural Lake County. Our hotel was conveniently near the four towers of Willoughby's "Star 1330," WELW, which spent the weekend doing a very local-sounding AC format (and signed off nightly at midnight to boot!). Just down the road in Painesville was another local AC, WBKC (1460), with a little building at the end of a painfully rutted road. Having thus seen the entire Lake County radio dial, the NERWmobile (complete with rebuilt alternator) moved south to Geauga County and little WATJ (1560 Chardon), cranking out adult standards from its directional array south of town. The other broadcast facility in Geauga County is actually a Cleveland-licensed station, WENZ (107.9), now aiming at the urban market under Radio One ownership as "Z-107.9" (and, judging by the ratings, doing a good job of it despite the remote transmitter location!)

Cleveland itself was a familiar market to NERW, but we picked up a few changes since our last visit a year or so ago. In addition to Z-107.9 replacing the modern rock of "The End," Clear Channel's ubiquitous "Kiss" format arrived in town last year on the extreme rimshot of WAKS (104.9 Lorain). Kiss may be listenable on the west side, but we were having trouble getting it downtown (even on a west-facing upper deck of Jacobs Field), never mind out on the east side where it gets clobbered by 104.7 from the Ashtabula market (WKKY Geneva). Not that we minded; we can hear the same format in Rochester on WKGS...

We took advantage of a free Friday afternoon to visit the transmitter cluster south of Cleveland in the Seven Hills/Parma/Independence area, roughly straddling the rise of land between I-71 and I-77. Our trip started at the multi-tower site shared by WKYC (Channel 3/NBC), WOIO (Channel 19/CBS), WQHS (Channel 61/HSN), and on FM, oldies WMJI (105.7) and soft AC WDOK (102.1). From there, we headed west to a group of towers lining route 94, starting with the short stick of public radio WCPN (90.3) next to a school on the east side of the road. Across the street are the towers of country WGAR (99.5), ABC affiliate WEWS (Channel 5 -- with a nifty roadside sign!), and UPN affiliate WUAB (Channel 43), shared with hot AC WQAL (104.1) and Clear Channel's "Mix" WMVX (106.5).

Just a bit farther south, at the corner of Pleasant Valley Road, is the stick that's now WJW (Channel 8/Fox), but was once both the transmitter and studio site of DuMont affiliate WXEL-TV on channel 9.

A short trip west on Pleasant Valley and then south on Ohio 3 brought us to the picturesque site shared by Radio One leased-time talker WERE (1300), with three big self-supporting towers; classic rocker WNCX (98.5); and public TV WVIZ (Channel 25). Another few miles to the southwest put us alongside the Ohio Turnpike, near the four sticks of Salem's Christian contemporary WCCD (1000 Parma). From there we turned east again on Ohio 82 to the center of North Royalton, where we found the new six-tower, 50 kilowatt WRMR (850) pumping out the adult standards next door to a cemetery (shades of WWSW?)

Continuing east on 82 to Broadview Road and turning south brought the NERW-mobile to rest alongside the four towers and studio of WKNR (1220), which is still sports for now but is being sold again. This was the historic site of WGAR(AM), but the building looked to have been heavily renovated.

Passing the studio and tower of Moody's religious WCRF (103.3) on Barr Road and crossing I-77 next to the four towers of Radio Disney WWMK (1260), we arrived on Snowville Road to gaze at Cleveland's only I-A clear channel, the mighty single stick of WTAM (1100). The original WTAM transmitter building appeared to have been renovated sometime in the seventies and is now home to an engineering firm; a newer building near the base of the tower appeared to hold the transmitters for WTAM, urban WZAK (93.1), and UPN affiliate WBNX (Channel 55 -- though its stick may have moved to the WKYC site, if the FCC database is to be believed).

Returning to Cleveland via I-77, we hopped off at the Pleasant Valley Road exit to see the towers for rocker WMMS (100.7) and religious WHK (1420), amidst a suburban development a few hundred feet off the road.

A few more Cleveland sites completed our tour: gospel WJMO (1490 Cleveland Heights) off Euclid Avenue at East 118th Street (behind a bus stop), and the single tower of daytimer WABQ (1540) next to a church at 8000 Euclid. Finally, heading down to our next destination of Youngstown, we saw the self-supporting tower of jammin' oldies WZJM (92.3 Cleveland Heights) and classical WCLV (95.5), above the new WCLV studios alongside I-271.

As for Youngstown, we'd seen the big sticks during a previous rainy excursion a couple of years ago, so this was a catch-up trip to see some of the smaller towers and view firsthand the effects of consolidation.

We started downtown, at the apparently once-majestic studios of WFMJ-TV (Channel 21), now mired amidst the shuttered storefronts of depressed central Youngstown. Just like the city's business community has apparently done, we soon fled south to Boardman, passing the WFMJ tower, the stick of WBBG (93.3)/WBBW (1240), and the WKBN-TV (Channel 27) towers, not to mention the studio/tower of WYTV (Channel 33) on Shady Run Road, before arriving at WHOT-FM (101.1) on Simon Road. Where WHOT once sat in solitude, the Simon Road complex is now home to most of the Connoisseur group (being swallowed by Cumulus Media). CHR WHOT-FM (101.1), classic rock WYFM (102.9 Sharon PA), sports WBBW (1240), and country WQKX (105.1 Salem) all share the two-building complex.

Heading south down South Road, we arrived at the former restaurant that's now home to Clear Channel's Youngstown group: news-talk WKBN (570), standards WNIO (1390), oldies WBBG (93.3, with a diverse mix of oldies that pleased Mrs. NERW as we drove around town), country WICT (95.1 Grove City PA), modern AC WTNX (95.9 Sharpsville PA), "Mix" WMXY (98.9), rhythmic CHR WBTJ (101.9 Hubbard), and classic rock simulcast WNCD (106.1 Niles)/WRTK (1540 Niles). (And for all that, we left with a grudgingly-given collection of four bumper stickers -- one each for WKBN, WMXY, WBTJ, and WNCD!)

Still more driving to the south brought us to WKBN's majestic six-tower array, and just beyond that, the night site of talker WASN (1330 Campbell). We'd seen the WASN day site at the Campbell studios on the 1998 trip; the four-in-a-row night facility sits close enough to the WKBN towers to look like a big Canadian directional from the proper angle.

(We also made a detour to the south and east, to see the two towers of Cumulus adult-standards WSOM 600 Salem, the very tall stick of public TV WNEO 45 Alliance [on the Salem-Alliance Road, US 62, about halfway between Canton and Youngstown], and to hear the rather bizarre CHR mix of WZKL 92.5 Alliance while meeting some radio friends for Mexican food.)

Back to the north, then: We drove through Niles (birthplace of William McKinley), then south of Warren to see urban WRBP 1440 (four towers at a site that had seen better days) and religious WANR 1570 (a station that's definitely known more interesting incarnations). North of Warren, we found the tower of WNCD 106.1 before heading far to the north to see the single stick of WKTX 830 Cortland, an unusual blend of oldies and ethnic programming.

Turning south again and heading for the border with Pennsylvania, we drove past the short stick of WTNX before arriving at the four towers of religious WPAO (1470 Farrell PA), hidden among the trees overlooking State Line Road.

From there, we pointed the NERW-mobile towards home, stopping to see the very old-looking self-supporting tower of WYFM (and fellow Cumulus station WPIC 790 Sharon, doing local adult standards) on PA 518. The vintage brick building at the base of the tower appeared to be the studio of WPIC, as well as Cumulus' smooth jazz WLLF (96.7 Mercer) and country WWIZ (103.9 Mercer).

Last stops were at the hilltop studio/transmitter of WEXC (107.1) and simulcast WGRP (940), churning out a diverse blend of hits overlooking Greenville PA, and a gas stop in Erie that gave us an opportunity to hear the sports programming on WFNN (1330), ex-WFLP.

And THAT is it for the past three weeks of radio happenings in and out of the region; we'll see you (on schedule) in a week's time!

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