Category Archives: Connecting to Local Communities

WWJ Holds Annual “Autism Speaks” Walk September 15

CBS Television Stations’ WWJ-TV (Detroit) is holding its annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks on September 15 at Kensington Metropark in Detroit.

The purpose of the walk is to support autism research and awareness. The station is encouraging viewers to participate with a corporate, school or family team.  The station has put together a page on its site as a guide to the walk for interested participants.  See here.

The annual walk is presented in partnership with the organization Autism Speaks, which is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support,  increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.

WCSX Holds Big Jim’s House ‘Woof Sit’

Photo right: “Big Jim O’Brien and Erin V.

Starting this past Labor Day Weekend, WCSX-FM (Detroit) morning show Big Jim’s House set out to help the Michigan Humane Society with Big Jim’s House Million Penny Woof Sit.

Donations for the the “Woof Sit” began at the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival in Royal Oak and wrapped up September 5 with a day-long “sit” beginning with a live morning show broadcast at 6 a.m. (in the dark!) atop the roof of the Vinsetta Garage in Berkley.

The goal was to raise one million pennies (or 10,000 dollars) to benefit the Society.  UPDATE 9/18:  This goal was met!!!!

The Michigan Humane Society is the largest nonprofit animal welfare organization in the state.

Radio Neighbors Begin 77th Year In High School Sports

By: John Johnson, MHSAA Director of Broadcast Properties

Local radio coverage of high school sports can still be found in a lot of places these days – and for a couple of stations, they’re celebrating 77 years of service to school sports in 2018-19.

Longtime WJMS broadcaster Harry Rizze conducts an interview.

WTCM-AM in Traverse City and WJMS-AM in Ironwood are literally adjacent on your radio dial, but they’re 250 miles apart as the crow flies across Lake Michigan and through a lot of northeast Wisconsin. In 1941, they started their streak of broadcasting the preps into their local communities.

Mind you, there weren’t that many radio stations as you might think back then, when it was the only electronic medium. WJMS had signed on in November of 1931 and was only one of two stations in the Upper Peninsula at the time and one of 19 statewide, according to Federal Radio Commission records. One of the early issues the station faced was interference with its signal because of the density of iron mines in the area.

Late WTCM owner Les Biederman.

When WTCM went on the air early in 1941, there were still only 28 radio stations in our state; five were in the U.P., and WTCM was the only station in the Lower Peninsula north of Saginaw.

Les Biederman owned WTCM and was quickly persuaded by the locals to broadcast a Traverse City High School basketball game.

“So he got the equipment ready and got everything set up, they got permission and everything,” said Jack O’Malley, current program director at the station and a long-time play-by-play voice. “The night of the game, the superintendent says ‘You can’t do the game – the local newspaper is not real happy. They said if people listen to the game, they won’t buy the newspaper in the morning. So you can’t do the game.’

“So the town had already been told – they were promoting it; and when 7 o’clock rolled around, they went on the air and they announced they were going to do the game tonight, but permission had been revoked, so we can’t do it. And then they left the microphones open at the gym so that everybody could hear the basketball dribbling, the crowd cheering, the horns honking.

“About 15 minutes later, the superintendent was at Les’ door, saying that the phones had gone crazy, you’ve got to do the game. They started with the game and we’ve been doing high school sports ever since.”

WTCM added football and other sports to the mix over time, which played well with Traverse City High School being the only public school in town. The station’s focus these days is football, alternating between Central and West High Schools.

“The whole idea is that we’re part of the community, and WTCM has always been a community radio station,” O’Malley said. “High school sports are all about community. People say, I remember when this kid played on that team and you watch all the kids as they grow up. It’s really a connection through the ages.”

The Biederman family continues to serve radio listeners in the north, with Ross Biederman as the president of what has become the Midwestern Broadcasting Company with four stations in the Traverse City market and two in the Alpena area. And yes, one of the Alpena stations is involved in covering high school sports.

The paper trail isn’t quite as tidy when documenting the history at WJMS. The station moved from its original frequency of 1420 to 1450 after being on the air for about six years, then to 630 in 1947 and its present 590 on the AM dial in 1968. Veteran observers of U.P. radio concluded that WJMS began broadcasting high school games in 1941, which was confirmed by several newspaper articles in the old Ironwood Times from that year.

The station’s signal footprint, which would eventually reach from Marquette to well west of Duluth, Minn., by day, was the early stomping grounds for some great broadcasters.

“I can remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, listening to Bob Olson and Joe Blake doing high school basketball and football in the early 60’s,” said Rod Halverson, who currently calls games for the station. “We had four local schools, Hurley (Wis.), Bessemer, Ironwood and Wakefield, which were all in the Michigan-Wisconsin Conference; and we covered those four schools. I remember listening and seeing those guys at the basketball games.”

Bob Olson, who died earlier this year, and Joe Blake went on from WJMS to purchase WMPL in Hancock in 1969. Olson would spend 35 years behind the microphone calling Michigan Tech ice hockey games and was legendary for his high-pitched tag going into commercial breaks: “This is Huskie Hockey from Houghton!” Blake would purchase WCKD in Ishpeming in 1971 (which later became WMQT-WZAM in Marquette) and run its operations until his death in 2004, calling Northern Michigan ice hockey and volleyball games. Both gentlemen received all kinds of accolades over the years.

But it was the style of an another announcer who followed Olson and Blake – Harry Rizze – who Halverson has worked hard to apply as he calls the games now.

“Harry Rizze was doing games when I started playing basketball,” Halverson said. “He made the games really personable. He would get to know the players by their first names – and he would use their first names on the air sometimes – that’s how close he got to the program. I thought it was a really nice touch. I’m doing some of that now, and I’m trying to emulate the two guys before me – Harry Rizze and Gary Aho.”

And in a place like the Iron Range of the Western U.P., there’s nothing like local radio covering local high school games.

“Some of the players I broadcast now, I played against their dads,” Halverson said. “You get to know everybody. Up here, we cover all of the schools the best we can. I feel bad for the areas that don’t have radio coverage.”

Reprinted by permission

WGVU Presents ‘Cool Teacher Contest’

WGVU Public Media (Grand Rapids) is once again holding its “Cool Teacher Contest” for the 2018-19 academic year.  The station has hosted the contest for more than 20 years; and the contest highlights dedicated, creative and resourceful teachers in the station’s coverage area who work hard each day to have a positive impact in the lives of their students and within their communities.

The station learns about the “Cool Teachers” through the nominations from students.  Winning entries qualify for a class party with the station.

For more information, visit the station’s website here.

WWTV/WWUP’s Michelle Dunaway To Bike from Cadillac to Grand Rapids for Benefit

Michelle Dunaway

WWTV/WWUP-TV (Cadillac) News Anchor Michelle Dunaway is once again raising money for the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan, this time biking from Cadillac to Grand Rapids.  The ride is scheduled to take place Thursday, September 6, beginning with a kickoff event at 5:45 a.m. at Cadillac Rotary Pavilion.

The “Red Ride for Families” seeks to increase awareness of the RMHWM and give back to an organization that helps northern and western Michigan families when they need it most.

Last year, Dunaway walked 40+ miles from Traverse City to Cadillac to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House.

Dunway’s cycling journey this year will include stops in Reed City (Reed City Depot), Big Rapids (Swede Hill Park) and Cedar Springs Cedar Springs Brewing Company).  It’s expected that Dunaway will arrive at the Ronald McDonald House in Grand Rapids between 4 and 5 p.m.

Viewers are encouraged to make a donation here.

Lansing’s WQHH Holds Annual Backpack Giveaway

MacDonald Broadcasting’s WQHH-FM (Dewitt-Lansing) held their annual Backpack Giveaway August 16.  The event was held at the Gier Community Center from 4 to 6 p.m.

The station handed out over 1,000 backpacks with school supplies on a first come, first-served basis and also hosted fun games and activities including a bounce house, face painting and other activities.

WKHM Spends Summer Supporting Jackson Charities

It has been a giving summer for Jackson Radio Works.  On July 19, K-105.3 (WKHM-FM) and NewsTalk 970AM/101.5FM (WKHM-AM) hosted their annual “old fashioned” radio charity auction live on-air during the morning show, 7 – 10 a.m.  Seventy auction items were donated by area businesses, which were then auctioned off live on the air by on-air talents Jared Hammond a.k.a. J-Rod, Greg O’Connor, Jason Smith, and special guest Jeff Kinstle of the Relay for Life in Jackson.

“Our goal was to raise more than we did last year, and I’m so excited to announce that we did just that. We more than doubled it and raised over $7,600 thanks to the businesses that donated and the individuals that placed such generous bids on these amazing items. It couldn’t happen without them,” said Ashley Smith, Promotions Director for the radio stations.

Proceeds are to be split between these three causes: Relay for Life of Jackson County, JDRF One Walk-Jackson, and holiday baskets for the Salvation Army.  The JDRF One Walk Jackson wrote on their Facebook page: “Our hearts are full with joy for all that K-105.3 and NewsTalk 970 / 101.5 have done for the Jackson walk over the years…. We are honored to be among the Jackson charities chosen to share the $7,600 raised yesterday!”

They were not the only ones to comment. The Salvation Army of Jackson, MI posted: “What an honor it is to be a non-profit
recipient of K-105.3’s Charity Auction… A portion of that will help buy healthy food items for thousands of individuals this

Less than one month after the charity auction, K-105.3 partnered with title sponsor Community Choice Credit Union for a backpack giveaway event. The credit union helped K-105.3 provide the backpacks themselves, and co-sponsors helped cover the cost of standard school supplies like paper, folders, pencils, glue sticks,
crayons and more.

500 backpacks were filled with these school supplies and handed out to families August 13th at Community Choice Credit Union. K-105.3 and CCCU staff members were on hand to direct traffic and hand out backpacks in the 4 drive-through lanes at the credit union, all while doing a remote radio broadcast.

All 500 backpacks were given out in under an hour. Bridget Simone, local branch manager, remarked, “At Community Choice Credit Union we have a ‘Give Big Culture;’ supporting education and giving back to our communities is so important to us, and part of who we are. The team members look forward to the backpack giveaway every year, it is an awesome day!”

WWTV/WWUP-TV Holds 2nd Annual Family Field Day

On August 2, Heritage Broadcasting’s WWTV/WWUP (Cadillac) held its second annual Family Fun Day outside its studios.

The event featured sword swallowing, balloon animals, potato sack races, hopscotch and more!  Anchors Michelle Dunaway and Charlie Tinker took part in the activities too, throwing Frisbees and racing in potato sacks.

The event was presented as part of Cadillac Mayor Carla Filkins’ Fit City Challenge, which runs through September 18.

WLEN Raises $11k for Neighbors of Hope

On July 13-14. Lenawee Broadcasting’s WLEN-FM (Adrian) hosted “Hoping for a Home,” a 24-hour event that raised funds and awareness for the new Neighbors of Hope Women and Children’s Center. The center is being formed to assist homeless women in Lenawee County with housing and transition while keeping their families together. Over $11,000 was raised in 24 hours.

WLEN staff, Neighbors of Hope board members, NOH men’s mission residents and area business people stood curbside and collected funds. The funds will support the renovation of the center which is located in Tecumseh, Mich., as well as on-going center expenses. County National Bank supported the effort as the title sponsor. Neighbors of Hope is a Lenawee County non-profit organization that supports the community through the Men’s Ministry Fresh Start and Life Change Programs, Blessings and More Resale Store, Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry, the Third Day Farming Program and Word Made Flesh Radio Ministry which airs Sunday mornings at on the station.

More information on the organization can be found at

WCZY Holds ‘Hometown Showdown’

Stephan J. Wilson

On July 23, WCZY-FM (Mt. Pleasant) held its 10th Annual “Hometown Showdown” at the Isabella County Fairgrounds.  Eleven contestants competed for two $500 cash prizes in the talent contest.   Stephan J. Wilson, currently attending CMU, became the first ever “Grand Prize” winner, taking home  prizes from Audience Choice and Judges Choice categories.

Wilson won with his rendition of the Josh Groban song “You Raise Me Up.”