North East RadioWatch: October 9, 2000

Spinning the Dial in Connecticut

by Scott Fybush

And with the week's meager news out of the way, we move on to the recap of NERW's Labor Day weekend trip to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania and central Ohio.

The trip began in Olean, NY, where we met up with NERW research director and chief cartographer Garrett Wollman (who outdid himself this time with a 100+ page spiral-bound book of tower maps). After a night in the shadow of the WHDL (1450) tower, it was off to the Pennsylvania state line and points south.

First stop: Emporium, where little WLEM (1250) was live and local in the morning with its country format. Sister oldies station WQKY (98.9) has its own studios a few minutes down the road in the larger town of St. Mary's. A mile or so south of downtown St. Mary's sat the little studio of WKBI (93.9/1400), with the AM tower out back. (We didn't hear a legal on the AM, which rolled right through the top of the hour with paid religion). WKBI-FM is CHR "B94" with a logo that's awfully similar to that of Pittsburgh's "B94," WBZZ (93.7). We found the WKBI-FM transmitter southwest of St. Mary's near Ridgway, on the same stick that now also houses WJNG (100.5 Johnsonburg), half of the satellite classic-rock combo based in DuBois and known as "Mega Rock" (the other half is Brookville's WMKX 105.5).

Before moving south, we turned westward at I-80, towards Clarion, where we saw college station, WCUC (91.7), though it wasn't on the air for the year yet. We also saw the studios of the town's commercial combo, WWCH (1300) and WCCR (92.7). And we think we saw the WWCH transmitter -- though the stick on the south side of I-80 seemed awfully short, and the rest of the directional array that was supposed to be there was oddly missing. (We seem to recall having heard about storm damage at WWCH...anyone know anything more?)

DuBois (pronounced "DOO-boyce") was the next stop, as we spotted the downtown studios of religious WDBA (107.3), AC WDSN (106.5 Reynoldsville), and Mega Rock, ending up at the studios of oldies WCED (1420) and country WOWQ (102.1) on the town's north side before getting stuck in a traffic jam that thwarted our attempts to get to I-80 east and Clearfield. (We also caught the WCED transmitter site, a 3-tower deal a few miles west of town).

Moving south again, the next stop was Punxsutawney -- but instead of groundhogs, we found the west-side studios of standards WECZ (1540), CHR WPXZ (104.1), and a new oldies station, WBEU (103.1 Brookville). They're friendly folks, indeed; a mention that we were headed towards the National Radio Club convention produced an entire mailing bin full of bumper stickers and water bottles with WPXZ logos!

Another 45 minutes or so and we were in Indiana -- the town that was home to Jimmy Stewart, not the state -- and on the hilltop north of downtown from which talker WDAD (1450) and modern AC WQMU (92.5) transmit. WQMU is known as "The Planet," as borne out by the globe-decorated satellite dish next to the downtown studios. We heard Indiana University station WIUP (90.1), and saw the four-tower site south of town that's home to oldies WCCS (1160 Homer City).

One more stop before our arrival in Pittsburgh: oldies WTYM (1380), on a remote road south of Kittanning. (Well, two stops, actually: Garrett had never seen the KDKA transmitter, a problem easily rectified with a quick stop in Allison Park...)

We drove into the Steel City to the jammin' oldies sound of Clarke Ingram on "The Beat," WJJJ (104.7), then had a chance to see the station's soon-to-be-vacated North Side quarters (complete with a dynamite view of downtown Pittsburgh at sunset).

And we drifted off to sleep that night trying to figure out the difference between Clear Channel's "Mix 96" (WPHH 96.1) and Infinity's "The Point" (WZPT 100.7), a problem rectified just last week when the frequently-flipped 96.1 spun again, becoming CHR "Kiss" WKST-FM. (NERW wonders: what calls are going to the former WKST-FM, 92.1 Ellwood City-New Castle, an hour away from Pittsburgh?)

The next morning, we checked out the brand-new sports format on "The Burgh," WWSW 970, before leaving Pennsylvania for the Western Reserve and our weekend destination of Lima, Ohio.

First stop: Wheeling, West Virginia, and the historic Capital Music Hall, home to WWVA (1170) and its many sister stations. Across the Ohio river in Bridgeport, Ohio, we found our way up the mountain to the tower that's home to CBS affiliate WTRF-TV (Channel 7), WEGW (107.5), WEEL (95.7 Shadyside), and a wonderful view back over the river to Wheeling. (We'd been warned that the roads to the towers on the West Virginia side, north of downtown Wheeling, were impassable, so we didn't try.)

The day's star attraction was still to come, though: the three towers of WWVA itself, on a side road northeast of St. Clairsville, Ohio. WWVA's Art Deco transmitter building still has the big blue "W W V A" letters proudly displayed over the door.

Another hour or so west on I-70 brought us to Zanesville, a bit of traffic, and eventually the tower southeast of town that carries the WHIZ stations: WHIZ (1240), WHIZ-FM (102.5), and NBC affiliate WHIZ-TV (Channel 18). The radio stations and the TV are in two separate buildings near the base of the tower; both radio stations were live and local, too.

We skirted Columbus and its Friday-afternoon traffic, turning north at Newark (with stops at religious WSFJ-TV 51, just off I-70, and at WCLT AM-FM's big self-supporting tower south of downtown) and heading across to the town of Delaware, Ohio. There we found the little towers of WDLR (1550), just where US 36 and OH 37 branch off. (The town's college station, WSLN 98.7, wasn't up and running yet, and the Delaware-licensed commercial FM, WXST 107.9, is a Columbus rimshotter from a site southeast of town.)

US 36 took us towards Marysville, where we saw the seven towers of WUCO (1270) long before we heard a clear signal from the station. From there, it was north and west to Lima, dinner, and the start of a fun convention weekend.

Saturday morning found us touring Clear Channel's Lima operations: news-talk WIMA (1150), country WIMT (102.1), "Mix" WMLX (103.3 St. Mary's), and oldies WBUK (107.5 Fort Shawnee), all squeezed into the WIMA/WIMT studio building downtown. The nice folks there also took the club for tours of the WIMA and WIMT transmitters south of town.

The rest of the afternoon was spent north and east of Lima. Findlay provided locally-owned WFIN (1330) and WKXA (100.5), as well as another Clear Channel cluster: "Buckeye Country" WCKY (103.7 Tiffin), rock "Eagle" WQTL (106.3 Ottawa), and oldies "Majic" WIMJ (107.7 North Baltimore). The Buckeye and Majic formats are Clear Channel voicetracked, supplied from central studios in Columbus, Cleveland, and other big cities to smaller stations statewide (in fact, the WIMJ jocks are those of Cleveland's WMJI!)

Down the road in Upper Sandusky, we found locally-owned WYAN (95.9) and religious WXML (90.1), then headed to Marion, which is another Clear Channel town. In addition to Buckeye Country on WMRN-FM (106.9) and "Mix" on WDIF (94.3), there was local AC, of all things, on WMRN (1490), from a nice brick building on the north side of town.

Two more stops on the way back to Lima: AC WKTN (95.3) on the side of Route 309 near Kenton, and Ohio Northern University's WONB (94.9), a commercial station on the college campus in Ada -- the only tower we've ever seen topped by a U.S. flag!

Saturday night brought the NRC banquet and auction, more fun with "WNRC" AM & FM, and the usual late hours talking radio, sharing photos, and trading stories.

Sunday took us towards Columbus, with stops en route at locally-owned WBLL (1390) and WPKO (98.3) in Bellefontaine, the WUCO studios in downtown Marysville, and the side of US 33 halfway from Marysville to Columbus, where the Marysville-licensed WZAZ (105.7) rimshots Columbus as "105.7 the Fox."

In Columbus itself, we found an unusually interesting city to tower hunt, simply because there seems to be a lot of history still standing there.

We started on Olentangy River Road, near the Ohio State campus, at the studios of NBC O&O WCMH (Channel 4). This was once part of the WLW family, as WLW-C, and out back stands what appears to be the original tower.

Just down the road and behind a cemetery sat a mystery we still haven't solved: a well-maintained guyed tower with a batwing antenna on top and the backup antenna for WOSU-FM (89.7) on the side. The original site of channels 6 or 10, perhaps? We don't know...

A block or so south, we found the OSU conference center that's also home to the WOSU stations: news, talk, jazz, and folk on AM 820, classical on FM 89.7, and public TV on channel 34.

WOSU(AM) was once a daytimer, and the daytime site is a single tower on the OSU golf course a couple of miles away. There was nobody at the building that doubles as the transmitter shack and maintenance shed, but peering through the window we clearly saw an old RCA transmitter with a custom "WOSU" logo in place of the circular RCA logo. Classy...

Along the river west of downtown, we found a row of studios, starting with WMNI (920), WCOL (92.3), and WFII (1230) at 1458 Dublin Road, continuing with WTVN (610) and its Clear Channel sisters at 1301, then with the former WTVN-TV 6, now WSYX-TV and its duopoly partner, WTTE-TV 28, next door, and winding up with Paramount's UPN station, WWHO 53 (licensed to Chillicothe). Around the corner on Twin Rivers Drive, we saw the studios of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) and the Ohio News Network (in an attached set of trailers!) and the towers that sit behind. An old self-supporter for WBNS-TV seems to have been supplanted by a candelabra that carries channel 10, channel 4, and most of the city's big FMs.

Skirting downtown still, we stayed on the west side of the Scioto River to see the single stick shared by WRFD (880) and WFII, then the tall tower of WSYX-TV (as well as WOSU-FM and Christian contemporary WUFM 88.7).

We chased the sunset south of town, checking out the five towers of WMNI (with the old WCOL antenna on the tall tower #1), the six-tower night site of WOSU(AM), and ending up at the six towers of WTVN (610), which apparently hasn't yet built its new 50-kilowatt site some 35 miles south of Columbus near Chillicothe.

Listening to the folk show on AM 820, we heard numerous mentions of the sunset site change, then heard the change itself from a spot southwest of Columbus as the solid daytime 5kw gave way to the very directional 790-watt night signal.

Labor Day morning itself began north of Columbus, at the tall tower that was built for WOSU-TV and now also holds WTTE (Channel 28) and Westerville's WEGE (103.9). We saw the old WTTE studios near Westerville, then headed for downtown.

WNCI (97.9) was owned for years by Nationwide Insurance, and its transmitter still sits atop One Nationwide Center (though the studios inside the building were traded off to WLVQ (96.3) in a big Jacor/Infinity swap some years back.)

Parked outside the Ohio Statehouse, we could see the Art Deco tower that's capped by public radio WCBE (90.5), a darned fine AAA station indeed, as well as the office towers that are home to WCKX (107.5).

And the best came last in Ohio's capital city: the one site on the east side, WBNS (1460). It's not just the really cool twenties-style transmitter building, or the two self-supporting towers in the rear of the array. No, what makes WBNS special is its status as one of the last half-dozen stations in America using a Blaw-Knox diamond-shaped tower, in this case complete with WBNS lettering midway up.

Thusly thrilled, we fought our way through I-70 construction eastbound, passing Zanesville to arrive at Cambridge, one of the communities we'd skipped on our westbound trip. A whole cluster of stations operate from a little building on a hill west of town, led off by WILE (1270), WILE-FM (97.7 Byesville), and WCMJ (96.7), all operating from the tower out back. We also heard college station WMCO (90.7 New Concord) from nearby Muskingum College, asking for new DJs to join the staff.

More construction, more closed roads, another swing through Wheeling, and we ended up in Weirton, West Virginia, then across the bridge to Steubenville, Ohio and up the hill to WTOV-TV (Channel 9). Its commanding mountaintop site is also home to the transmitters of former sister stations WSTV (1340) and what's now WOGH (103.5), one of Keymarket's several "Froggy Country" stations in the region. (Both WTOV, now a sister station to Pittsburgh's WPXI, and WOGH hold CPs to move to a transmitter site much closer to Pittsburgh itself.) We found the WSTV/WOGH studios in downtrodden downtown Steubenville, then pressed north to East Liverpool as the hour grew later.

We saw the tower of WOHI (1490) and WOGF (104.3) behind the trees on the ridge above the Ohio River west of town, and saw the studios behind a shopping plaza north of downtown. WOHI is oldies, and WOGF is another "Froggy."

A quick stop in Youngstown finished the day, as we revisited (in Garrett's case, visited) the big transmitter sites and heard some of the changes since our June visit (NERW, 7/14-21/2000). Oldies WBBG has indeed moved from 93.3 Youngstown to the much weaker 106.1 Niles, and is now simulcast on WRTK 1540 Niles as well. The former 106.1, WNCD "The Wolf" is now "CD93 The Wolf" on 93.3. Clear Channel's CHR "Beat" has indeed moved from 101.9 Hubbard to 95.9 Sharpsville PA, formerly WTNX, and the 101.9 signal is now simulcasting standards WNIO (1390 Youngstown). And the talk simulcast on 1330 (WASN Campbell) and 1440 (WRRO Warren) rolled over the top of the hour with no local ID.

On that note, we packed the radios away and settled in for the long, dark drive up OH 11 to I-90 and home...where we're still going through the tapes and pictures!

That's it for another week. See you next weekend, with (we hope) more actual New England news.

As of market close, October 6, 2000
NERW's Northeast Television Index 93.22

Previous issues of North East RadioWatch

The Boston Radio Archives
The Upstate New York Radio Archives