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Posts Tagged ‘Radio’

Bye Bye Old NPR Building

NPR Old and the New

Well, NPR is moving. Most everyone except Newscast, Digital News and Technical Operations has left the old building at 635 Massachusetts Avenue for the beautiful new headquarters building at 1111 North Capital Street. We, the stragglers go last- next week.

What will become of the old building that housed NPR for some two decades? It will be destroyed in just a few weeks; demolished and turned to dust. So….what do a few hundred snarky, already cynical NPR-types do to a building they know will cease to exist in a few short weeks?

Graffiti! Big time Graffiti. On all the walls, the elevators, the CEO’s old office bathroom. You name it. The entire place has been turned into a kind of performance art canvass where features of the building itself are part of the show. We have been unleashed like 6 year-olds with finger paints.

Here’s the old, handy, 3rd floor defibrillator:

NPR Defibrillator

NPR’s Supreme Court/Legal correspondent, Nina Totenberg, is photographed by White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro as she leaves behind her mark…

NPR Nina

Later, an unnamed colleague added their snarky rejoinder:

NPR Nice Things

The old building had its quirks. There was only one elevator that actually took you up to the 7th floor cafeteria. All other elevators took to you to the 6th floor and you’d have to walk up a flight of stairs. But that one elevator that went all the way up was also very, very popular. It could take up to 5 minutes or longer before you’d hear the cheesy little bell that signaled its arrival.

NPR Virtue

This is one of the other elevators. It featured a special guest rider all Friday afternoon. I maintain we are the only major radio network in the world with a headphone-wearing mannequin.

NPR Elevator

And continuing with the elevator theme- some are taking the move rather philosophically:

NPR Elevator 2

We always wondered what this old 3rd floor valve did, exactly. And we still wonder but just to be on the safe side….

NPR Valve

Paul Draisey, 1956-2012

April 18, 2012 13 comments


These words are hopelessly inadequate so please forgive me. But something really needs to be said about Paul Draisey. Professionally, he’ll be remembered as a radio-guy, the voice of Loudoun County, Virginia for some four decades. Hell, he was the unofficial Mayor of Loudoun County.

He hired me into my very first radio job at WAGE-AM, in Leesburg, Virginia in 1977. He successfully trained me for my 3rd class FCC license you used to have to get in those days to go on the air and be able to turn the transmitters on and off. He was one of those handful of people in my life who decided to take a chance on a green, hungry kid who was looking for a future and fell in love, like Paul did, with the medium of radio. It would become a career. It will be 35 years this September. I have him to thank for every penny made and for every accomplishment I have ever achieved in the radio business.

Paul knew everyone and everyone knew Paul. He was tight with the Sheriff’s deputies, the fire and rescue folks, the politicians, teachers, coaches, businessmen and women, just about every charity that ever turned up in Loudoun County. I’ve never really known anyone before or since who so respected, honored and epitomized “community.”

Paul and I kept in touch sporadically through the years, more so when Facebook came along. He read this blog from time to time.

I know he was proud of me as the 19-year-old kid he hired would go on to work at networks like CBS and CNN and ABC and now NPR. In fact, I know, because he told me, that when I took over CNNRadio back in the 1990’s, he had WAGE switch radio networks to CNN. That, my friends, is loyalty.

Let me quote a colleague of Paul’s interviewed for the local Loudoun County newspaper because, really, my own words are beginning to fail me here. These are the observations of Dave Scarangella, another alum of WAGE Radio.

He was a man who cared about Loudoun County and freely devoted his time to a lot of causes, from the USO to the Middleburg Fire Department. He emceed well over a hundred charity events in his lifetime, freely mentored any person who needed help, and seemed to remember ever athlete, coach, politician and businessman he ever met. He was a special person and a great friend.

They say that the measure of a man’s success in life is how many friends he makes along the way. In that regard, Paul was the most successful man I ever knew. He will be missed.

The day Paul died I happened to read something about death that left me deeply moved. The belief by some Native American tribes that a person dies twice in life. The first, is the physical death; the passing of the body. The second death is when all those you ever knew and remembered you also pass; the death of the memory of the individual.

One of those we can do nothing about. But that second death- it is absolutely in our power to pass the word, from generation to generation, to as many people as possible, about the life and good works of those, like Paul, who gave so much of themselves to make their families and their communities whole.

So these words, Paul- are for you, my friend. They are also for your family- your wife, Donna and your kids Brad and Kyle Draisey and Kristen Stennett, to your half-brother, Bill Torrey, and to everyone who never even knew you but whose lives would have been richer if they had.

We love you and we will remember you and we will pass your memory on forever.

Summer Doldrums Part 1

June 29, 2011 3 comments

It’s been a pretty boring few weeks in the world of news and I’ve had to do a lot of surfing to find anything to be snarky about. Here are a few items that caught my eye as we make our way through the dog days of summer.

In no particular order (The headlines and links are one and the same):

Newscorp Gets Ready to Dump Myspace at Firesale Prices

Imagine being the genius who came up with the brilliant idea of getting Rupert Murdoch to shell out $580 million six years ago for Myspace. Newscorp is trying to dump it now and was reportedly hoping to get $100 million. Looks like it’s going to go for $20-30 million. But as business bombs go…that’s nothing. I still have my T-shirt from my CNN days celebrating the fantastic, dynamic merger of AOL and Time-Warner. 

I remember a lot of back-slapping and parties with fancy hors’ dourves at the CNN Center. I think TW CEO, Jerry Levin, is the only guy who made money on that turkey; and it was from his golden parachute- not the underwater options the rest of us had to eat.

Just in:  Mudoch sold My Space for $35 million today

British Survey Finds Radio Makes People Happier than TV or Internet 

You know, I think this speaks for itself.

Best Excuse Ever for Losing a Soccer Game 

The head coach of the North Korean women’s national soccer team blames his 2-0 loss to the U.S. on the fact members of his squad got hit by lightening just before making the trip.

Sarah Palin Indecisivness Wrankles Supporters 

Make up your mind, already!  The toe-dipping into the presidential waters is starting to grow old with many.  But she has been really good about breaking the unspoken rule of not stepping on everybody else’s announcement plans. First, there was the appearance in New Hampshire hours after Mitt Romney announced. Then there was last night’s gala premier of her movie in Iowa, the day after Michel Bachman’s announcement. Then she heads to Bachman and Tom Palenty’s backyard in Minnesota today to sit with her daughter, Bristol, for a tag-team book signing at the Mall of America.

Bachman Still Playing Tom Petty’s “American Girl” 

One day after rocker, Tom Petty, had his lawyers issue a cease and desist letter to the Bachman campaign over use of his song “American Girl,” they played it again after one of her speeches Monday…albeit just 29 seconds of it before it stopped abruptly to make way for “Walking on Sunshine.” Oops.

And it’s not even July yet.  Long, hot summer ahead.

Farewell, Larry King!


Announcing his retirement via twitter by saying he was going to “hang up his suspenders” this fall, the end of an era is finally at hand. Though it wasn’t pretty at the end as over 40% of his audience pretty much disappeared (actually, they died), he leaves a considerable legacy and a tremendous body of work.

I blogged a piece back in April entitled “Who exactly is watching Larry King?” in which using government morbidity statistics, I found the following uncanny correlation:

Could it be – and I swear to you I am not exaggerating here- that his audience is dying? Literally keeling over? I mean 2.4 million Americans die every year. In his key 65-74 demographic, about 400,000 people can be expected to lose their lives on an annual basis. Since last year, King has lost about 570,000 viewers.

But all that doesn’t really have as much to do with Larry himself as it does with the folks at CNN who stubbornly refused to put his show to rest. I suppose it would be hard to blame them considering Larry held that cable network up for decades, raking in hundreds of millions in revenues.

The “debate” he moderated via his show between Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot in January of 1993 remains the single most watched program in cable history. The list of celebs, politicians, luminaries and victims of scandal who have graced his set reads like a who’s who list of the 20th century.

Larry, the TV guy

My own connection with Larry dates back to the mid 1990’s when I came to CNN to run their radio network. Westwood One’s radio simulcast of Larry’s TV show hit my revenue line and the graph of his radio revenues was an upside down hockey stick; not good. Working with my buddies at Westwood we tried and tried in vain to get Larry to remember that his contract still included this radio simulcast and that maybe he could cut down on the visual references.

The big highlight in that regard was the night during the OJ Simpson murder trial when Larry had a polygraph expert on to determine the veracity of the testimony of Detective Mark Fuhrman. It was an entire hour of looking at spikes and valleys on polygraph charts featuring such scintillating phrases as, “Wow, look at the spike there, you think that means he was lying?” This made for tremendously underwhelming radio, to say the least. The Westwood folks did their best to replace those shows with more radio-friendly evergreens but it was ultimately a losing battle. It was almost as if Larry was purposely leaving the radio part of his life behind with every “watch this clip,” he uttered on his TV show.

I remember this very issue escalated into a knock-down-drag-out between me and Wendy Walker Whitworth, Larry’s long-time Executive Producer. The venerable, then Senior CNN Vice President, Gail Evans, intervened to bring peace to the family. The issue was quickly resolved. Larry got his way and I gave up getting him to acknowledge he still had a radio audience.

Larry, the Radio guy

He did great radio. That’s how he got the TV gig, remember? It helps explain the large radio microphone on his desk. Larry’s overnight show on the Mutual Radio network was really good. I’ll always remember the night John Lennon was shot. I was doing morning-drive newscasts then for a local Washington radio station so I always listened to Larry’s radio show on the way in to work. The program that morning was complete and poignant and totally did justice to the importance of that moment in our lives- I’ll never forget it.

As a TV talk show host, Larry was often ridiculed for throwing softball questions at his guests. I always thought that criticism was unfair. He never pretended to be Edward R. Murrow (Murrow actually did his share of soft celebrity interviews in his time). Larry asked the questions your average folks sitting on the couch watching the show would ask. I would argue that was his appeal in the first place. He was the “everyman” of interviewers.

Thank you Larry

There will be many tributes to Larry King in the weeks ahead and he richly deserves all the kudos he gets for becoming an American icon and mastering his particular style of interviewing. He became a part of our national consciousness. We should be grateful to CNN and to Larry for finally figuring out that his exit was necessary and inevitable. And we should be grateful to Larry for gracing our living rooms for so many years- back when people still watched live TV in their living rooms.

Days Gone By- My 1st Radio Station Bites the Dust

February 4, 2010 2 comments


I started my broadcasting career at WAGE-AM Radio in Leesburg, Virginia a little over 32 years ago. I learned recently that last August, it went dark. I felt like a little piece of my life kind of died. Certainly, a piece of Loudoun County died too.

The station had a strong tradition of local news and did remotes at local businesses, covered High School sports, and kept what was then a fairly tight-knit, agricultural community very well informed.

One of our most popular features was the obituaries we read after the local noon news. I remember the time new management rode into town and thought reading the obits was too quaint and tried to kill them. It didn’t last long. The station was overwhelmed with angry complaints. The people of Loudoun County demanded to know which of their neighbors were no longer among the living and that was that.

But you could see the end of WAGE Radio coming like a freight train barreling down the tracks. First, development took its toll and where there were once 63 dairy farms in 1977, there were just three by the turn of the millennium. Houses, McMansions, country clubs, and ribbons of highways and overpasses were testament to the fact Loudoun had turned into one of the fastest growing counties in America.

It also morphed from a community where people said hello, nodded and smiled at one another into another faceless, sprawling Washington suburb. The mom and pop shops that used to advertise on the station gave way to Wal-Mart conglomerates and their ilk.

You gotta laugh

We not only informed the people of Loudoun County, we gave them a few grins too. My favorite blooper was the time an unnamed news anchor, trying to explain the cause of a recent heat wave, pinned the blame on a “stagnant mare’s ass.”

Another anchor, while reading the community events calendar, referred to an appearance at the Sterling Park library by the famous author of the Three Faces of Eve and actually called the book the Three Feces of Eve. I was in the studio at the time and nearly fell to the floor in barely stifled laughter.

The station was owned for many years by Huntington Harris, as in the Harris Bank of Chicago. He loved classical music and gave himself his own time slot on the weekends to spin his albums. This also required that he read liner cards. The station’s motto used to be WAGE- in the Heart of the Hunt Country. Regrettably, Mr. Harris gave a memorable rendition of the phrase that would have made a sailor blush. The very next week WAGE became the Sparkling Sound of Loudoun County.

And, yes, I had my own contributions to the blooper reel. Like the time I was doing the noon news live at the 4-H Fair near the hog pavilion, complete with an audience of farmers and their kids and referred to the “23 million dollars in crap damage” the county had suffered in a recent drought.

RIP

But all hilarity aside, it was here I cut my teeth as a journalist. I covered school board meetings, raging barn fires and car accidents. I covered a small plane crash. I got dirty looks from Senator John Warner back when he and his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor threw annual dinners at their Atoka mansion. Apparently I asked a political question during what was supposed to be a social event and it didn’t go down very well. I moderated a live on-the-air clash between the Board of Supervisors and representatives of a very angry Loudoun County Taxpayer’s Association.

I have one of their pay stubs framed as a reminder of my humble roots. I made $155 a week. WAGE Radio, I used to joke- a contradiction in terms. But as I think back on it, I would have worked for them for free if it would have added just another two weeks to its once central and intimate role in the life of Loudoun County. How sad and ironic that I have just written its obituary.