It is so sad to see IHeart Radio’s continuing cutbacks at radio stations across the country, cutbacks that have hit our Rhode Island stations that are owned by the nation’s largest radio conglomerate. IHeart’s stations in southern New England are Coast 93.3; WHJY-FM, WHJJ-AM, and B-101. Best wishes to those whose careers have ended or changed almost overnight. They deserve better as media changes at the speed of sound. As the late talk show host Tom Snyder once said many years ago: “If you are an on-air personality you can be guaranteed two things. You will be fired at least once in your career…and it will be for the wrong reason.”
I got my start in local radio when local radio was big, very big. And it was local radio, very local, in much the same way WADK-AM in Newport is local. But as everything else in the media has changed, so has radio. And that’s not good in so many ways. Those local radio personalities and staff members whose jobs have ended did not come as a complete surprise. The writing has been on the wall for years. A sad reality for talented people.
Much of this is the result of the federal government, years ago, allowing broadcasters to own many stations in one community and permitting monopolies across the country. Two giant companies own most of the stations around the country—IHeart Radio and Cumulus. Local stations were bought out or squeezed out by these behemoths who often cared more about shareholder value than community value. We are the worse for this and these changes have gradually stolen “the beating hearts” of our communities.
We have lingering memories of those who entertained us, made us laugh, made us think while reminding us each day of our uniqueness, our strengths, and our eccentricities. That’s the value of local personalities on locally-owned stations. We are missing that now, more and more.
A walk down memory lane will easily illustrate the point.
(Photo credit: Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and John Rooke)
Remember these great voices and talents (and yes, some of these legends, at times, were broadcasters you loved to hate): Sherm Strickhouser, Salty Brine, Jones and Joan, Gene and Gary DeGraide, Arlene Violet, Charlie Jefferds, Steve White, Big Ange, Chuck Wilson, King Arthur Knight, Carolyn Fox, Bobb Angel, Jim Mendes, Norm Jagolinzer, Chris Clark, Steve Kass, Harry McKenna, Jack Comley, Roger Bouchard, Ron St. Pierre, Mike Sands, Helen Glover, Chuck Stevens and so many more. I knew, worked with, and was on the air with many of these local radio personalities. Good people. Talented people. They helped us question, love, or just appreciate this unique state.
The yet-to-be-discovered local personalities who will NOT get to create new memories for us will make Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts a little less fun and a little less aware of whom we are and why we all love it here. Syndicated voices of “people we don’t know from somewhere else” will replace many of them…as we are already seeing on local stations. This will just continue the daily homogenization of America that dilutes our sense of place. We will lose those daily reminders of how Rhode Island is different from “somewhere else.” We should be grateful for what we have had but saddened by what we will be missing in the future.
This can’t be overcome by relying on our local newspapers anymore because they are going away, too. We are not the better for any of this.
Say it isn’t so as………“the hits just keep on comin’.”
Dave Layman is a Rhode Island communications consultant, former news anchor, reporter, managing editor at NBC10 and ABC6 but began his career as a radio personality in the midwest. He can be reached at Davelayman1@gmail.com.