The Persian Gulf war has forced area radio stations to beef up their news product. For news-oriented WTOP-AM (1500) and WMAL-AM (630), it was a matter of turning up the pressure a couple of notches and getting local stories with a gulf twist to complement network feeds from CBS Radio and ABC-TV, respectively.
National Public Radio member station WAMU-FM (88.5) bolstered newscasts throughout the day, adding a noon report and the "BBC News Hour" at 5 p.m. The BBC program is normally heard only overnight. Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s "As It Happens" will continue to provide listeners with a foreign view of the day's news at 11, weeknights.
Most stations have adjusted programming to accommodate news specials and bulletins. Oldies-formatted WXTR-FM (104.1), already one of the few FM stations that feature regularly scheduled newscasts through the day, added Associated Press radiocasts around the clock and will air "more as warranted," said Program Director Bob Duckman. "We don't want to become an all-news station, but we want people to know that they don't have to go away to get all the news."
During his afternoon talk show at WNTR-AM (1050) yesterday, Bob Kwesell phoned his brother in Dhahran, Jack Kwesell, a senior executive with Texaco on loan to Aramco, who lives a half-mile from an airstrip where several U.S. Patriot air-defense missiles have been launched. "You ought to hear them. My whole house shakes when they take off!" Perhaps surprisingly, Kwesell said, when Patriots hit Iraqi Scud missiles the noise and vibration are relatively mild. Otherwise, reported Kwesell, life in Dhahran isn't really any different than usual. He and his wife just have to take note of where safe houses are in their area and remember to carry along gas masks when they go out.
Zoo Boys Find CNN Fit to Steal
Apparently WAVA-FM (105.1) "Morning Zoo" boys Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara haven't heard WCPT-AM's (730) frequently aired promo that tells listeners they can find "CNN, on radio in Washington only on 730" and "CNN, exclusively on radio 730." On Thursday morning, the duo picked up CNN's sound and began airing reports on their show. Several times, in hushed, golf-tournament tones, they acknowledged that "we are probably going to get into big trouble for this" but said they felt the news was too important for their audience to miss. Any remorse for stealing another company's product appeared lost when the Zoo boys gleefully accepted listeners' thanks for providing the service.
Geronimo did not want to discuss the matter. WAVA Program Director Chuck Beck said he is not sure how the Zoo team got the unauthorized sound -- it could have been taken off the satellite or television or even WCPT itself. After getting a cease-and-desist order from CNN's representative, Unistar Radio Networks, Beck called a staff meeting to tell them not to let it happen again. (WCPT General Manager Bill Sherard inspired the call with a complaint to CNN.) Currently, WAVA's only news source is the Associated Press wire service and information gleaned from newspapers. Unlike most radio stations, WAVA buys no sound bite service. Depending on how the war goes, Beck said, he will investigate subscribing to such a service.
Unistar President Gary Fries acknowledged that similar incidents happened across the country -- he called them "a testimonial to CNN" -- but said WAVA, like other offenders, has been "notified of intended legal action." Johnson's Jazz
Beej' Johnson is all smiles these days. Five months ago competitors were spreading rumors about a pending format change and staff firings, and radio trade papers began writing WDJY-FM's (100.3) obituary. There were changes looming, all right. The staffers stayed to help the format evolve from urban and the ratings moved up significantly. Last Tuesday the United Broadcasting-owned station's call letters were changed to WJZE to better fit its "Jazzy 100" format, a commercial jazz blend that has progressed over the past year under Johnson's keen ear.
The format is described as "jazzy rhythm-and-blues." Johnson calls it a blend of "traditional jazz, contemporary and new age and world beat music. It's not offensive for a jazz lover and still comfortable for a pedestrian. It's a widening market on both sides." That appears to be true. Since September, when the station began promoting its sound, the ratings have shot up from a meager 1.0 share of listeners 12 years and older to 1.6. While not great, it's an impressive start.
The tone turns to more of a straight-ahead jazz format at night with veteran announcers Bill Clark Monday through Saturday and Yale Lewis on Sundays.
Down the dial, the fall Arbitron ratings gave noncommercial jazz competitors WPFW-FM (89.3) and WDCU-FM (90.1) a .6 share each, up slightly from summer, when they each rated a .5 share.