The palatial OMW World Headquarters in northwest Akron is ideally situated to catch many of Northeast Ohio's broadcast outlets, but we're not well placed to hear two stations which aired major changes today.
Part of it, at least, was not waking up early enough to catch either WZKL/92.5 "Q92"'s new morning host DeLuca, moving from nights to mornings on the Canton market CHR station. For that matter, our post-morning drive wakeup call also precluded catching Ronnie Duncan's debut as the new morning host on Radio One urban talk WERE/1300 in Cleveland.
But there are also signal issues involved. Down here in the Akron area, WERE fights it out with some distant oldies station somewhere in America...all the way up I-77 until roughly the Route 82 interchange. "Q92", in the meantime, nudges back and forth with the more dominant WXRK/92.3 "92.3 K-ROCK" in the Cleveland market.
Anyway, OMW did manage to make that trek up 77 this afternoon...to get a brief earful of WERE's first day in the new format.
The station is now calling itself "News/Talk 1300 WERE, The People's Station"...the first part of that tagline also used by Salem conservative talk competitor WHK/1420, the last part being used by many other affiliates of Radio One's new urban talk network. We heard the last 30 minutes or so of Rev. Al Sharpton's 1-4 PM debut, and the first 45 minutes or so of the national debut of sports talkers "The 2 Live Stews" - otherwise known as Doug and Ryan Stewart out of Atlanta's WQXI/790.
Rev. Sharpton had a number of first day guests...we heard Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, an appropriate guest for this first day of Pre-Super Bowl Week in the Motor City. He also mentioned an appearance by Rev. Jesse Jackson earlier in the show. Jackson's Premiere-syndicated weekend show airs Sunday evenings on Clear Channel liberal talk WARF/1350 Akron ("Radio Free Ohio").
And we bring that up because Rev. Sharpton didn't sound too bad as a radio host. He's had some experience, doing a weekend show on WLIB/1190 New York City for some time now. (The Sunday show is local, and outside the auspices of WLIB LMA partner Air America.) Is Rev. Sharpton a "Rush Killer"? Probably not...if only due to the limited scope of the Radio One network, and its self-described mission to target African-American listeners. And that doesn't even take into account the anemic nature of many of its affiliates' signals.
Afternoon drive sports talk hosts "The 2 Live Stews" are much more experienced in "mainstream" talk radio, as a top-rated afternoon drive show in their home market of Atlanta. They sounded a bit more disorganized than we'd expected, though certainly that could be due to the new national syndication. But of the Radio One lineup, they're likely to have the most appeal to non-traditional urban talk listeners.
It's also a great week for their debut, leading up to the Super Bowl...one of the Stewart brothers is a former Detroit Lions player, and they'll be broadcasting from Detroit most of the week.
Unlike the debut of liberal talk's Air America Radio, both Rev. Sharpton and the Stews had less technical glitches and more affiliates. When AAR started, the place was mostly run by non-radio people...with little clue how to run a radio operation. Radio One's experience certainly showed with the debut of the "Syndication One" operation. And they're contracting with the folks at Premiere to sell commercial time, so the national spots were filled from day one on Monday.
It's difficult for us to rate this network. Not only has it only been on the air for one day, but we're not really in the target audience for it. (It might help to know that as part of the job, OMW's Primary Editorial Voice once regularly did news anchoring for an urban AC station in the mid-Atlantic...which must have been jarring for regular listeners of the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" in that market.) But it didn't sound like there were any major problems... at least in the time we heard the network.
One note: OMW hears that at least "The 2 Live Stews" picked up Radio One sports talker WING/1410 Dayton as an affiliate on day one, displacing ESPN Radio's "Sports Bash"...a smart move, as they're not only a sports show, but they're syndicated by "ESPN 1410"'s parent company. We don't know if any of the other Radio One network shows found a home there.
Down I-76, Pittsburgh urban AC WAMO/860 will dump that format next month to pick up the Radio One network offerings.