Sunday, December 03, 2006

To The Times-Reporter - Again

Another tree gets killed in Dover as a result of OMW. We're sorry, environmentalists, we didn't do it!

Seriously, your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm) has once again been invoked in the Dover/New Philadelphia newspaper, courtesy of an editorial comment in the Times-Reporter.

This time, they're defending their use of this very blog as a primary source for recent items about the impending move of the station now known as WJER-FM, the 101.7 signal which will - soon - be broadcasting from a tower site under construction in Canton. (More on that later.)

Quoting T-R editor Dick Farrell:

Let me answer the apparent concern with a question: Why wouldn’t we?

We’ve monitored the Internet, including Ohio Media Watch, for months for information in connection with WJER-FM signal move to North Canton, not by choice but out of necessity. Neither the station management nor owner Clear Channel Communications has been forthcoming with details.

So, when primary news sources dry up, reporters turn to secondary sources. In a murder case – when the cops aren’t talking – a secondary source might include a neighbor, who heard or saw something. When one of the community’s radio stations is poised to move out of town, one might turn to an industry Internet blog for information. So be it.

Some points here:

We understand what Mr. Farrell is saying here. We do happen to have cultivated some sources in the radio industry that the T-R is unable to duplicate.

Our previous record of accuracy is, well, pretty good. We're not perfect, but we've rarely been wrong.


We were just surprised that a newspaper would use an anonymously-published Internet blog as a primary source, basically reprinting our items verbatim without additional reporting, that's all.

We've said our piece on this, so moving on to the news, which will likely end up in the T-R tomorrow:

OMW hears that the target date for the 101.7 move is now being pushed back to closer to the end of the year.

There's nothing sinister or odd about that. Basically, the logistics of putting together the new tower site for WRQK/106.9 and the incoming 101.7 signal are such that it can't possibly be finished by December 11th.

For one, last we heard from people who drove by the site late last week, they still need to pour the concrete base for the pad which will hold the tower and transmitter building. We're no construction experts, but we know it takes a few days for concrete to set...and December 11th is 8 days away.

So again, it's still in the works, as our photos here have shown...but we've also always said that the timing we've given is "weather permitting". We're not sure, for example, that any construction work could have been done in Thursday's rain or Friday's high winds.

And anyone who's ever watched a construction site, radio or otherwise, knows that other factors can slow down progress to a "target" date.

Now, we've taken some heat from people in the Dover/New Philadelphia area over all of this, including from a WJER staffer who added a comment to our most recent item about the station:

i hope everyone at OMW, the T-R and everyone else who takes pleasure in throwing stones around here knows that there are good people in these wjer hallways who work hard to support their families. and we're going into christmas wondering if we'll have jobs next year. if we'll have health insurance. if we'll be able to make our car payments and afford vacations. THIS IS MY LIFE you are talking about. yet you take great pleasure in batting it around like a cat with a ball of string...just because you're unhappy with someone or something from your past. i really appreciate it. you don't know me. you don't know my co-workers. you don't know what it's like.


Let's make one thing clear here. We do NOT "take pleasure in throwing stones" at WJER or its employees. We've made a couple of humorous comments towards WJER owner Gary Petricola and his response to these items, but...

1) OMW, the blog itself and your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) does NOT take pleasure in talking about potential loss of jobs, benefits or whatnot.

We are, as we've said more than once, "pro-jobs" in radio and TV. We started in this business back when stations had at least twice or three times the staffing most stations currently have. We remember when most stations had a live overnight personality, for crying out loud!

We are also "pro-local full service radio". We think communities like Dover/New Philadelphia are better served by fully staffed, locally-oriented, locally-owned stations which are an intregal part of their community. (WJER competitor WTUZ/99.9 Uhrichsville would also be a good example of this, by the way.)

Please separate this blog from some of the more snarky anonymous comments which are attached to it. When your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) adds comments, we always, always sign them.

2) We were always under the impression that the "do they have jobs after 101.7 moves?" scenario is solely under the domain of one man, current WJER operator/former owner/future WJER(AM) owner Gary Petricola.

The stations have operated basically as one for the past few months, give or take a morning show and occasional periods where sports are run only on AM 1450.

The future employment status of current WJER employees would seem to depend on how Mr. Petricola continues to operate AM 1450 after the FM moves north. If you're worried about if you're going to have a job, please ask your boss.

The FM move has been in the works for years, when your boss, the aforementioned Mr. Petricola, voluntarily decided to sell it to one of the largest broadcast conglomerates in the world. We're pretty sure Clear Channel didn't hold a gun to his head to force him to sell the stations.

As we've stated here before, it did not take the proverbial rocket scientist to find out that Clear Channel has a long-established pattern of moving signals into larger nearby markets when it is feasible to do so.

If Mr. Petricola had been paying attention or doing due diligence, he would have uncovered Clear Channel's moves of other small city FMs to larger markets all over the country, including in Ohio. It isn't exactly a secret - it's been in every radio trade publication that's out there.

Simply put, if Gary Petricola wanted to ensure that WJER-FM would stay in Dover, he should have sold the station to another company - no matter what impression or even assurances he claims he was given.

We are not at all going after the employees of WJER here. They are fine, hard working folks that deserve to continue serving the people of Dover/New Philadelphia on whatever frequency they can do so.

But the transaction has been known for some time, and it has been known for some time that 101.7's uprooting was not likely to take jobs north with it...due to the mere nature of the FM station's new incarnation.

Anything else would appear to be up to Mr. Petricola.

As for our part?

We didn't sell the WJER stations to Clear Channel.

We didn't plan to move 101.7 to the Canton market.

And we don't hold the future of the current WJER staff in our hands.

We're just the messenger.


Former WJER Broadcaster said...

Every great story has a beginning and ending. For WJER-FM, the story is about to end. While it may not be the fairy tail ending we were all hoping for, it's the end nonetheless.

It's well known that WJER-FM will cease to exist very soon. Gary and Bob will continue their fine tradition of broadcasting to Dover - New Philadelphia on WJER-AM.

Speculation is the Times-Reporter is attempting nothing more than to find ways to keep the WJER move in the news for monetary reasons. The theory being if they can write enough negative articles about WJER leaving town, radio ad revenues will leave the studios on the Boulevard and move to print. It’s laughable.

…and their story is inaccurate.

WJER is not leaving town, 101.7 is. WJER will continue our traditions of serving the Tuscarawas Valley with information and entertainment on AM 1450.

Are we bothered by the move? Sure. While I’m no longer at WJER, I still continue my friendships and relationships that began from the moment I walked in the door there. We were all shocked to find that despite outcries from the TR, and a whopping 4 residents of Tuscarawas County who took the time to write the FCC, not too many people were up in arms. City Council meetings were held, but they quickly realized it was a fight they could not win. Only 4 letters? Do you realize that not a single employee of WJER wrote to the FCC? Not one!

It appears all but Gary knew the minute the deal was announced what would happen. We don’t harbor ill feelings for Gary. He did what he thought at the time was a smart business move. He reaped the rewards of his life’s work into a nest for retirement as every smart businessman should and deserves to do. To his credit when he realized what would happen, he began the fight, but it was too late. There was nothing that could be done.

Many believe the LMA was in effort to save 101.7 from being moved, when in essence it was nothing more than a matter of convenience. Clear Channel was not ready to move the signal, nor were they in a position to operate it as a station in Dover – New Philly. Giving Gary the keys back did two things, kept Gary in a positive light with the community and gave CC an instant income source on their new property. From the minute the move was filed, Gary and Bob have known they will be keeping the AM…for a price. They now know that price and have agreed to terms.

Imagine this scenario: purchasing a property then renting it back to the former owner. Then selling the leftovers you don’t want back to the original owner and recouping almost all of your initial $4.2 million dollar investment! In hindsight you have to admit, it’s a savvy business move.

The ending is not about to be written for WJER. The community will still receive the service from WJER the have come to depend on for generations.

The ending will sadly be written for 101.7 in Dover. The new story will begin when 101.7 hits the air in Canton.

In an odd way, having this transition at the end of the year, is appropriate. As we take the final weeks of the year for reflection and to focus on the future, we should all be very proud. WJER-FM was a truly unique radio station and it was fun for every minute of it.

Yes, the future is uncertain, but like the coming of every new year it hold promise and opportunity.

Anonymous said...

We will all see what happens to the soon to be departed fm 101.7 and 1450 am in 2007. We all have to remember "Today's News" is "Tomorrow's Memory". If I said that correctly and no, I have never worked for WJER.

Tuscarawas County Resident

BTW.. I have the right to remain anonymous in my postings and will choose to remain that way..


Anonymous said...

On the 5 o'clock report tonight, WJER reported that on December 26th the FM side will go off to be operated by Clear Channel under new call letters and staff, while the AM will be bought back by Gary and some others and remain in Dover.

Gary P. said...

I'm losing control of the FM on December 26th? I hadn't heard that.

Anonymous said...

I live in Akron, and I've been able to receive the FM signal on 101.7. It's truly a unique station, and it serves the Dover/New Philadelphia area well. There aren't many stations like it today. Good luck to all the employees of WJER-AM.