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Stations Respond to Whitney Houston’s Death

CENTRAL NEW YORK — In various ways, radio stations (even some who don’t normally play her music) went out of their way to respond to the death of singing superstar Whitney Houston.  The winner of six Grammys and one Emmy (and more than 400 other awards) died at the age of 48 on Saturday night, casting a somber mood on Sunday night’s Grammy Awards telecast.

While it didn’t take much effort to gain first-hand observation of stations’ reactions to Houston’s death, reached out to programmers and managers in all three markets we cover, to get a comprehensive list.

The most-detailed response came from Eric Meier at Lite 98.7 (WLZW) in Utica.  Shortly after Lon Edwards announced the news during the station’s Flashback Saturday Night, the station played two Whitney songs per hour for the rest of the night.  “Double plays” aired at the top of each hour on Sunday.  Meier says listener response was strong enough to warrant going all-Whitney for today’s noontime request hour and they’re airing an hour-long special, produced by Cumulus Media, on Monday night at 6pm.  Online, the station has at least 11 Houston-related posts on its website since Saturday night, one of which is a round-up of music videos generated by asking listeners to name their favorite Houston titles on Facebook.

Across town, Dave Silvers, operations manager at 95.5 WUTQ, says Talk of the Town hosts Mark Piersma and Frank Elias “discussed it at length” on this morning’s show, focusing on “the media frenzy angle and how we, as a society, tend to go overboard on these kinds of issues, even if it means glorifying those lifestyles which include drugs, alcohol.”  (If you haven’t heard, many outlets have reported a prescription drug overdose as the likely cause of death.)  Silvers says many listeners also called in with their opinions.

No Whitney Houston music on Galaxy Communications-owned classic rock stations TK99/105 (WTKW/WTKV) in Syracuse or 96.9 WOUR in Utica, but VP Programming Mimi Griswold said, “we recognize her talent.”  She said Houston’s death “was the one and only topic during ‘Entertainia’ with Gomez and Dave and Lisa Chelenza” today.  She says the hosts “had listeners call in with their thoughts on which musicians are ‘icons’ and what defines a music icon.”  According to the station’s website, Gomez and Dave might be dusting off some old Whitney Houston parody songs tomorrow morning.

While we did not receive a response from anyone at Clear Channel, we’ll credit Hot 107.9 (WWHT) with being first to push an email alert to listeners on Saturday night.  AC sister station Y94FM (WYYY) has been posting news and updates on its own website and its Facebook page since Saturday afternoon, and seemed to play Houston a little more than usual for an average weekday.  The homepages of Hot, Y and Power 620 (WHEN) have also featured a special “thank you” graphic with a picture of Houston, with a list of her biggest hits.

Similarly, we didn’t hear back from Citadel, but we know top 40 station 93Q (WNTQ) broke out of its current playlist to play some Whitney Houston songs throughout the weekend.  Morning co-host Amy Robbins was interviewed for a story which aired on NewsChannel 9 (WSYR-TV).  The piece included a quick shot of Mike Cauchon in the studio, talking up the intro of a Houston song on Sunday afternoon. Flashback

Disclaimer: editor Peter Naughton is a weekend part-time DJ for WLZW.  However, the same email requesting information was sent to various station managers at all major clusters in the markets covered by at 11:47am, and this article includes all responses received by 6:30pm.

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