All posts by MAB Staff

Traverse City Broadcaster Phill Orth Passes

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Photo courtesy of the Orth Family.


Longtime Traverse City broadcaster Phillip “Phill” Earl Orth passed away March 6 at age 66 in Traverse City.

In a March 8 article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, it was noted that Phill was “a well-known Traverse City radio disc jockey who was awarded gold records for being an early supporter of songs like ‘Play That Funky Music’ and ‘You Sexy Thing.’ To this day, many people remember him fondly as “Orth of the North.” Later in his career as a sales manager for the MacDonald Broadcasting stations in Petoskey, he enjoyed mentoring his team to help them be successful.

Phill was also involved in Traverse City politics at a young age, serving as both mayor of Traverse City and a Traverse City Commissioner.

Phill is survived by his wife, Linda Weeks; his daughter, Mareesa (Jason Spykerman) Orth; brother, David Orth; and sister, Lois Orth, both of Traverse City; stepchildren, James (Julia) Kreft, of Madison, Wisconsin, and Katie (Ryan) Brang, M.D., of Marquette; two grandchildren, Sonja and Sylvia; and his beloved Samoyed dog, Macy.

WGRY-AM Becomes WMQU-AM in New Partnership

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(Standing L-R) Jerry Coyne and Sheryl Coyne, owners of Blarney Stone Broadcasting, are proud to finalize the agreement for programming on WMQU 1230 AM with Baraga Radio Network’s (sitting L-R), Tom Hornacek, Board of Directors President and Therese O’Brien, General Manager.

Blarney Stone Broadcasting’s WGRY-AM 1230 (Grayling) has become WMQU-AM 1230, after a partnership with Baraga Radio.

Baraga Radio Network – The Catholic Light for Northern Michigan – will lease the station for seven years. At the conclusion of the contract on Feb. 28, 2023, BSB will donate the FCC license and transmitting equipment to Baraga.

“People may know us for our world-class rock station and our sports talk station, but we’re thrilled to join Baraga and help expand faith-based radio in Northern Michigan,” said Sheryl Coyne, President and CEO of Blarney Stone Broadcasting.  “We’re extremely proud to show yet another aspect of our commitment to this community.  “While we liked having our AM station as an alternative during conflicts in our live sports coverage, we feel this is a much better use for it, and we look forward to a tremendous partnership with the good people at Baraga.”

On January 15, the call letters were changed to WMQU (Mary Queen of the Universe); the format change went into effect on March 1.

Baraga Broadcasting, a listener-supported radio network in Northern Michigan, proclaims the Truth and beauty of the Roman Catholic Faith by offering educational and inspirational programming that aims to engage its listeners and encourage them to live out their Faith in Jesus Christ.

“We are so excited to be able to bring Catholic radio to the people of Grayling and the surrounding communities,” said Therese O’Brien, general manager of the Baraga Radio Network. “We have been overwhelmed by the positive interest received from all of the local Catholic churches. Baraga Radio Network will be a spiritual boost and a light in the darkness for these souls and for the many visitors to our area.”

WXYZ-TV Celebrates Anniversary of Downtown Studio

7 Action News anchor JoAnne Purtan at the downtown studio anchor desk.
WXYZ-TV 7 Action News anchor JoAnne Purtan at the downtown studio anchor desk.

On February 26, WXYZ-TV (Detroit) celebrated the one-year anniversary of its downtown street-side studio. The celebration included live coverage and special interviews throughout the day on the station’s newscasts.

The studio is located inside the Qube building on Woodward Avenue along Campus Martius Park. It provides 7 Action News viewers with a unique look at the heart of the city and the year-round activities in the park.

WXYZStudio2_400The downtown studio is home to 7 Action News at noon with JoAnne Purtan. It is also an integral part of 7 Action News newscasts and has become a central location for interviews with the region’s top newsmakers. It’s a premiere location for downtown events and special programming, including musical performances on the patio.

“The feedback from the community and our viewers has been tremendous,” said Mike Murri, vice president and general manager of WXYZ and WMYD. “We are thrilled to be part of the resurgence in Detroit and to provide viewers with this unique perspective on downtown development. The studio in the Qube showcases our goal to be part of the rebirth of the city we serve.”

The downtown broadcast studio takes WXYZ-TV back to its roots. The station first began broadcasting in 1948 from studios inside the Maccabees Building in Detroit’s Midtown. Sixty-six years later, Detroit’s legendary television station returned to broadcast from the heart of the city.

Jermont Terry Joins WDIV-TV

Jermont-Terry_244Jermont Terry has joined WDIV-TV (Detroit) as a news reporter,  bringing 15 years of reporting experience to the station.  He began working at WDIV on February 29.

Prior to moving to Detroit, Terry worked as an investigative reporter, where he led the I-Team unit at WTMJ, which is the Milwaukee NBC affiliate’s investigative team. He also spent time working at WXII, the NBC affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina, and four years working as an investigative reporter at WKYT, the CBS affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky. Terry also worked as a producer and reporter at WLFI, the CBS affiliate in West Lafayette, Indiana. Terry started his journalism career on the AM/FM dials in his home state of Illinois, while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Chicago native graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in broadcast journalism from the College of Communications at the University of Illinois. In 2015, The Milwaukee Press Club honored Terry with a first place award for best investigative series. Throughout his career, he has been honored with numerous awards including an Associated Press award for Best Enterprise/Investigative Story. His work and contributions at WKYT and WXII led to the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. Jermont is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Investigative Reporters and Editors.

FCC’s Jim Bridgewater Retires

Jim_Bridgewater_200A name many Michigan broadcasters have come to know over the years, James A. Bridgewater, District Director of the Federal Communications Commission’s Detroit office, retired on February 29, following a 37-year career.

Karole White, MAB President/CEO writes about Jim:

“One of the first people I met when I came to work for the MAB in 1985 was Jim Bridgewater, of the FCC Detroit Office.  MAB EAS Chairman Larry Estlack wanted me to meet Jim. I was quite nervous; after all it was the FCC. We went to Detroit and I met a tall man with a kind, warm face and intense eyes. He spoke about helping broadcasters meet the rules of the FCC. He extolled the virtues of the broadcasting industry and what a great job our members did in serving their communities. Jim was a real cheerleader for our industry. He would point out when we were wrong and work with us to correct any errors that we may have inadvertently made. You could always call the Detroit District Office and ask Jim a question without fear. He always said he would rather answer a question than dole out a citation.

Over the next 31 years, Jim and I would speak many times and work together on several projects. He was always helpful, efficient, and a man of his word. He was kind but decisive, not just in Michigan but throughout his region, which included Michigan, Ohio, and Eastern Kentucky. Jim spoke at MAB conferences, helped us set up our Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program (ABIP), went on tour with us when we did our DTV Transition meetings and seminars, and assisted us in shutting down some very notorious pirate broadcasters.

Jim was a graduate of Purdue University and began his career with the Detroit Special Enforcement Facility in 1977 and transferred to the FCC Detroit Field Office in 1979.”

In 1994, he was promoted to the District Director’s position, having served in that capacity until retirement. With retirement, Jim and his wife will travel, visiting their son in the Los Angeles area and their daughter in the Orlando area, while also keeping busy with various hobbies that includes Bikram yoga and amateur radio.

In leaving, Jim said, “It has been an honor and privilege to work with the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and to serve the great state of Michigan”.

Karole White concludes:

“No Jim the honor was ours, to know such a kind honorable individual as you. You have helped to shape the Michigan broadcasting industry and the MAB into the strong organization it is today through the guidance you gave to our volunteer leaders and staff.

Thank you my friend and enjoy your well-deserved retirement.”
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WWJ-AM Raises $1.5 Million for THAW

WWJThaw3_500On February 12, CBS Radio’s WWJ-AM Detroit raised $1.5 million in the 13th annual “Winter Survival Radiothon” for The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) . The money was raised over a 14-hour period.  THAW provides emergency energy assistance to families in financial crisis due to job loss or serious illness.

THAW’s utility partners match every dollar raised.

Since 2004, WWJ’s Winter Survival Radiothon has raised more than $12 million in cash and utility match for THAW.  Photo credit: Marisa Fusinski/WWJ

Michigan TV Stations to Host Telethon for Flint

Flint-water-crisis-telethonOn Tuesday, March 15, five Michigan television stations will come together to host “Flint Water Crisis: For Our Families,” a telethon that will air from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. to raise funds for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint’s Child Health and Development Fund.

The telethon will be hosted by WDIV-TV (Detroit).  It will air on WEYI-TV (Flint), WOOD-TV (Grand Rapids), WILX-TV (Lansing) and WWTV/WWUP-TV in northern Michigan.

WDIV-TV General Manager Marla Drutz told the Detroit Free Press that the idea came up during a station staff meeting:

“As we became more and more involved in our coverage of Flint, it became more and more important that it had to be more than coverage that we’d be involved in.  Every TV station we called….didn’t wait even five seconds to say yes.”

The telethon will be hosted at Art Van Furniture in Flint.

Editorial: The Most Important Question You Can Ask People Who Come to Your Website

Seth ReslerBy: Seth Resler, Jacobs Media

One of my favorite ways to evaluate radio station websites is a usability test. The goal is to get a feel for how real people use the website, and to figure out if there are any aspects of the site that present difficulties.

Usability tests are fairly simple to run. I recruit three people to evaluate the site. This test is not an exact science, so I am not concerned with their age, gender, or any other demographic characteristics; I just want people who know how to use the internet. (The only exception is for sports radio stations, where I want testers to have at least a casual interest in sports.)

I prefer to use testers who come from outside the radio station’s market because I want them to react to the website, not any prior knowledge they may have from listening to a station. If the site performs well with people who don’t know the brand, then it’s sure to do well with people who do.

One at a time, we bring these people in, sit them in front of a computer, and ask them to think out loud while they perform specific tasks on the website. For example, we may ask:

  • “You want to know more about the morning show. What can you tell me?”
  • “You’ve won a prize from the station. How do you get it?”
  • “You want to advertise on this station. How can you learn more about that?”

As we watch what they do, we learn a lot about what’s working on the website and what’s not. Inevitably, the first question I always ask in a usability test is this:

“What does this organization do?”

I have never seen a website pass the question on the first try. Not even websites that I’ve built myself, knowing that this would be the first question. Don’t take this for granted. In one test I performed, it took the tester ten minutes to figure out that they were looking at a radio station’s website.

The Tagline

I am in the process of developing a new website for Jacobs Media. We’ve already performed two usability tests on the forthcoming site. Sure enough, people struggled to answer that first question.

On an early version of the site, we used the tagline “Over 30 Years of Media Expertise and Innovation.” When asked what we do, one tester replied, “This company coaches people who are about to go out on a publicity tour, like an author of a new book.”

Fail.

So we learned that we needed to tell people that we worked with media companies, not individuals. We also felt that we needed to describe the specific problem that we solve for our clients. In the coming weeks, you’ll see what we came up with.

By the same token, the main text on a radio station’s website needs to clearly state what they do. If your station logo includes a dial position and frequency (“103.7 FM”), people will usually figure out that you’re a radio station. But if your station has a name that isn’t as obvious (“The Falcon,” “92X,” or “Harry FM”), you may need to reinforce the radio station message with an appropriate image, such as a tuner or sound waves.

Your station’s tagline is equally important. If your station uses a tagline like “Today’s Hottest Country” or “The Best Hip Hop and R&B,” people will have an easy time figuring out what type of music your station plays. But while a tagline like “Today’s Best Variety” or “Mix Music” may make sense sandwiched between songs on the air, it can lose that context on your website.

The Image

We struggled with the homepage image on the forthcoming Jacobs Media site. We provide “strategy and research for media companies.” Unfortunately, none of those words are particularly visual. (Quick: Close your eyes and think of “strategy.” What picture popped into your head?) This challenge prompted a lot of back and forth with our graphic designer. You’ll see what we settled on in the coming weeks. For now, here’s one of the images we rejected:
SethArticle-031416_400Fortunately, for radio stations it is much easier to come up with an image that illustrates what they do. The simplest way is to offer up an image featuring a handful of recognizable core artists. If you play the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters, and Coldplay, stick them in a montage and make it the central image on the website.

Too often, radio stations use a slideshow on their homepage. As a result, the first image people see when they come to a station’s homepage is a coffee sponsor logo or a photo of the C-level band playing in town this weekend. These images do not help visitors answer the question, “What does this organization do?”

Don’t take this question for granted. It’s not as straight-forward as you might think. We’ve been giving it a lot of thought here at Jacobs Media, in no small part because what we do for clients has evolved as technology has evolved. Soon, you’ll see how we chose to express it on our new website.

If you have any questions about website performance and usability testing, please reach out to me.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the above article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

MAB’s Clack Re-appointed to MCCERCC

Clack_300Alisha Clack, Manager of the Emergency Alert System and Development Coordinator for the Michigan AMBER Alert Foundation, was re-appointed by Governor Snyder to the Michigan Citizens-Community Emergency Response Coordinating Council (MCCERCC) for the term expiring December 31, 2019.  This will be Alisha’s second term in the position.

The mission of MCCERCC is to support and enhance Michigan’s homeland security, community health, public safety, and all hazard and emergency preparedness with responsible leadership and planning. This includes: public education and awareness campaigns; coordination of programs, information and resources; development of structural and non‐structural projects to enhance emergency response and volunteer coordination capabilities at the state and local levels and within the private sector; and establishment of collaborative public/private partnerships to identify, develop, and implement specific opportunities of local, regional, or statewide application.