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The Year in Review: 2009

CENTRAL NEW YORK — There’s no question this was a busy year for the radio industry in Central New York.  Plenty of format flips, quite a few station sales, some great achievements to be proud about, and perhaps most infamously memorable, the economy’s impact on the entire broadcasting industry.  Today, as per our tradition, we recap all the big stories of the year, broken down month-by-month.

See Also:

Which stories got the most “hits” during 2009?  We’ve tallied up the stats to create a Top 10 List.


  • 6th: Syracuse’s Lite Rock 105.9 (WLTI) adds the syndicated Bob & Sheri for mornings, four months after longtime local host Dave Allen exited the station.
  • 8th: WLTI sister station 95X (WAQX) adds syndicated advice show Loveline five nights a week; the show once aired on rival K-Rock (WKLL/WKRH/WKRL) earlier in the decade.
  • 9th: Classic FM (WCNY) hires Bruce Paulsen to fill the afternoon drive hosting slot left vacant after the retirement of 34-year veteran Don Dolloff.
  • 9th: The Mars Hill Network, headquartered at WMHR-FM in Syracuse, announces plans for a new FM station in the Utica-Rome market.  (December Update: it’s still listed on the FCC website as a new construction permit with no official call letters.)
  • 11th: Hot 107.9 (WWHT) morning hosts Marty and Shannon invited listeners to a party to celebrate their 5th anniversary as a team.  Afterwards (1/30), the cake-cutting was featured as a Picture of the Week.
  • 15th: Utica’s WIBX adds Glenn Beck to its weekday lineup, bumping Laura Ingraham to nights.
  • 16th: Former Syracuse broadcaster John Creveling dies — listeners knew him as “Johnny C” and “Johnny Vann” at stations including WNDR, WOLF and WFBL.
  • 20th: Unfortunately, the Clear Channel layoff rumors are true — 1,800 jobs eliminated nationwide.  In Syracuse, the cuts included WHEN sports director Jim “Manchild” Lerch (also ending the show he co-hosted with Bud Poliquin, who commented on the matter in his newspaper column shortly after), WHEN producer Ty Doyle, WBBS promotions director Carole Fargo, and an unspecified number of salespeople and part-time staffers.
  • 27th: Kenny Youngs, longtime host of the “Country Jamboree” on The Moose (WBRV) in Boonville, dies at 83.
  • 29th: Saga Communications, owner of five Ithaca radio stations, executes a 1-for-4 reverse stock split in order to boost its trading price and avoid falling below the minimum required level to remain on the AMEX market.


  • 5th: The Mars Hill Network announces a concert to mark its 40th anniversary.
  • 5th: The former WFBL buildings are slated for demolition after years of legal arguments over the “historic” status of the structures along South Warren Street in Syracuse.
  • 7th: WRVO announces morning news anchor Jason Smith, formerly of WSYR, will take over as the local host of Morning Edition, following John Hurlbutt’s retirement after 40 years of service to the NPR affiliate.
  • 10th: Former Utica and Syracuse host and programmer Nick Caplan resurfaces at an oldies station in western Massachusetts, his first radio job after being let go from MOViN 100.3.  Another CNY connection: his boss is Stew Schantz, former PD of Utica’s Kiss-FM (WSKS/WSKU).
  • 10th: Watertown’s “Real Rock WOTT” moves down the dial, from 100.7FM to a stronger signal at 94.1FM.  A day later, Community Broadcasters launches a classic hits format branded as “The Fox” (WEFX-FM) on the 100.7 stick.
  • 11th: Perhaps an early omen of the financial troubles at Citadel Broadcasting — 93Q pulls its longtime sponsorship of the annual “Balloonfest” at Jamesville Beach park.
  • 12th: More foreshadowing, this time at Buckley Broadcasting — Oldies 1390 (WFBL) morning host Bob Brown is demoted to a part-time substitute, less than a year after being hired.  Management blamed economic conditions.
  • 12th: Yet more foreshadowing, back at Citadel now: 95X (WAQX) midday personality Alexis exits the station after 17 years in the air chair.  She had also served as PD from 2003-2008.
  • 17th: Ithaca classic rocker I-100 (WIII) is next to face cutbacks — with pink slips handed to PD/morning co-host Mark Vanness and afternoon driver Paul Hansom.
  • 18th: Local comedian Joshua Grosvent and some of his colleagues launch a new website and podcast called Walk-Up Radio.  The weekly show is recorded before a live audience at a Syracuse bar, and observers are invited to walk up to an open mic to chime in with their own comments at any time.
  • 20th: Longtime Utica-Rome radio host Bill Keeler launches his own online newspaper, Utica Daily News.
  • 22nd: The “new” celebrates one year since it’s re-launch!  The site had previously been dormant since 2005.  The anniversary is accompanied by the launch of the Station Wiki.
  • 28th: Legendary syndicated broadcaster Paul Harvey passes away at the age of 90.





  • 1st: Three Doors Down and Papa Roach are among the headliners announced in the lineup for K-Rock’s 14th annual K-Rockathon.  The concert is set for August 8th at the NY State Fairgrounds.
  • 4th: Good news for Mark Vanness and “Big Jim” Donovan — the men, both sidelined from their full time radio jobs in the past several months, return to the airwaves on a part-time basis.  Vanness is hired by Galaxy’s Sunny 102 (WZUN) and Donovan is back at 93Q (WNTQ).
  • 4th: Nielsen company announces it’s ceasing publication of Radio & Records after 36 years of serving the radio industry.  Some R&R features will be folded into sister publication Billboard.
  • 9th: The sale of WMCR from Warren Broadcasting to Leatherstocking Media Group becomes official.
  • 16th: A family who lives near the recently-relocated transmitter of WOKR in East Floyd claims the tower is giving off dangerously-high levels of radiation.  Two days later, the FCC started an investigation into the matter.  About 10 days later, the FCC says it found no abnormalities in WOKR’s transmissions.
  • 17th: Ithaca’s News/Talk 870 WHCU announces anchor/reporter Todd Messer will soon be getting married and relocating outside of the area; the search for his eventual replacement begins.
  • 19th: Barely a month after he was hired, Eric Thomas is fired from Roser Communications Network’s Kiss-FM duo (WSKS/WSKU).  Thomas blogged about the circumstances surrounding his exit.  The station taps Kenny the Promo Guy to fill morning drive until a permanent replacement is named.
  • 20th: Three months after its debut, Matt Mc’s Sports Fix is expanding to a second hour on Watertown’s ESPN Radio 1410 (WNER).
  • 22nd: Word from Rochester that former Syracuse radio personality Jack Mindy is retiring after a 52-year career in radio.
  • 23rd: Casey Kasem announces his retirement plans.  The Independence Day weekend editions of his weekly “American Top 10” and “American Top 20” countdowns will be his last.
  • 25th: Arjuna Broadcasting shifts syndicated host Don Imus from 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) to ESPN Radio 1420 (WNRS).  The move makes room for local fixture Bill Keeler to move from afternoons to mornings on WXUR.  The station also announces a musical shift from Hot AC to a more rock-based playlist.
  • 25th: Several stations offer tribute to Michael Jackson, after “The King of Pop” dies unexpectedly at the age of 50.  In Syracuse, Lite Rock 105.9 (WLTI) and Power 106.9 (WPHR) quickly replaced their regular playlists to play wall-to-wall Michael Jackson songs.  Many other stations responded by maintaining format, but with more Jacko in their rotations than usual.
  • 30th: Utica’s Kiss-FM adds two locally-produced mix shows on Sunday nights.




  • 1st: WRVO Corporate Support Representative Tom Herbert moves to a similar position with the Mars Hill Network.
  • 2nd: Finger Lakes News Radio begins the search for a News Director to replace Brendan Cooper, who is leaving for a new job in Rochester.
  • 3rd: WSEN(AM) begins simulcasting Oldies 1390 (WFBL).  WSEN had previously been simulcasting Classic Hits 92.1, its FM counterpart.
  • 4th: Clear Channel moves the transmitter for Power 106.9 (WPHR) from Cayuga County to a new location near the Onondaga Community College campus.  The city-of-license changes from Auburn to Solvay.  The intent is to better cover the urban audience toward which WPHR’s programming is geared.
  • 4th: Syracuse University’s WAER pulls “The Funk Show” off its Saturday evening lineup.  The hosts say they were notified of the cancellation via email rather than in person.
  • 9th: Longtime WRVO News Director Chris Ulanowski resigns.  It’s unclear whether his departure had anything to do with Ulanowski being arrested on a drug charge in the City of Fulton in early August.
  • 10th: Doctors say Garrison Keillor is recovering after a “minor stroke.”  They believe the host of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion will be able to resume his normal schedule in about a week.
  • 10th: Saga Communications launches AAA-formatted “98.7 The Vine” (W254BF) in Ithaca.  It’s the second time the cluster has launched a new format on an FM translator, while simulcast on an HD subchannel of one of their primary FM stations (in this case specifically, WYXL-HD3).
  • 11th: Longtime Syracuse radio and TV journalist Jerry Barsha dies at 83.
  • 15th: Utica’s Kiss-FM (WSKS/WSKU) dismisses Jesse Jordan.  She says she was fired because she refused to be reassigned from middays to morning drive.
  • 15th: Local comedian and 93Q (WNTQ) personality Josh Grosvent is hired as a contributing writer for the “Weekend Update” segment on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  But he’ll keep his primary job in Syracuse.
  • 16th: Showing support for recently-fired co-worker Jesse Jordan, Kiss-FM night jock “Intern Dave” Wheeler announces he’s stepping down to part-time status.  A day later, he would be fired from the Roser Communications Network duo (WSKS/WSKU).
  • 16th: Retired Utica broadcaster Jack Fredericks dies at 84.  He got his start in broadcasting at WIBX.
  • 16th: Mark Vanness, who was fired from his PD/morning co-host job at Ithaca’s I-100 earlier this year, lands a new full-time radio job as morning host at Regent Communications’ Hot AC Buzz 105.7 in Albany.
  • 23rd: Arjuna Broadcasting relocates the transmitter for 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) from its longtime home in Frankfort to the more desirable Smith Hill just north of Utica.  Prior to the move, morning host Bill Keeler told he couldn’t hear the station in his own office in South Utica.  The new location is expected to offer a better signal to the Utica metro.
  • 23rd: Rather than hire a replacement for the recently-fired “Intern Dave,” Utica’s Kiss-FM fills the 7p-mid shift with the syndicated “Party Playhouse” hosted by Jackson Blue.
  • 24th: The offices of Keeler Productions, including the studios for 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) are quarantined for several hours after a staffer opens a piece of mail which included a death threat and an unknown “powder-like substance.”
  • 24th: WXUR morning host Bill Keeler announces his search for a new sidekick after Mark Piersma announces his intent to host his own morning show elsewhere in the market.




Past Years in Review

If you’ve still got an appetite for being nostalgic after reading all that, take a look back at past Year in Review articles — including last year’s, as well as 2001, 2002 and 2003 from the original

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