Category Archives: May 2019

WLNS Continues its Partnership with Habitat For Humanity

Nexstar Broadcasting’s WLNS-TV (Lansing) this week partnered again with Habitat for Humanity Capitol Region’s “Women Build” program to renovate a home on Lansing’s north side.

Women Build is a program that celebrates women eliminating inadequate housing by building or repairing homes and improving communities.

This year’s project is working on a home rehab for Congolese refugees Suliman & Najat’s family.

They look forward to seeing their children grow up in their new home, graduate from school, and fulfill dreams of their own.

Also this week, the station reflected upon its efforts over the past five years.  In 2017, Habitat took a trip to Africa in order to help a family in need there and WLNS-TV anchor Sheri Jones went along as a volunteer.

One woman and her four grandchildren lived in a small house made of mud in Kenya and it only had two rooms.

There was no ventilation, a leaky roof and dirt floors. Hamilton-Allen remembers stepping inside the home for the first time with tears.

“Investing one week of what habitat for humanity calls, “sweat equity” to help improve the lives of future generations,” Jones said back in 2017.


WKZO’s Retired John McNeill Receives State Tribute

Kalamazoo County Commission Board Chair Julie Rogers with WKZO’s John McNeill. (Photo credit: Julie Rogers via Twitter)

By: Jeana Gondek, WKZO

WKZO’s newly retired John McNeill was recently recognized for his 40-plus years of radio reporting.

At Tuesday night’s Kalamazoo County Commission meeting, McNeill was presented with a special award.

The state tribute was created and written by Senator Sean McCann. It was also signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the entire state House and Kalamazoo County delegations.

It read, “For the past 50 years, John has been a dedicated radio broadcaster serving Kalamazoo and Battle Creek citizens with enthusiasm. His absence will be strongly felt by his employer and colleague, who greatly esteem his journalistic integrity and work.”

John began as a weekend broadcaster in Michigan City Indiana, was a co-founder of Western Michigan University’s WIDR-FM, and worked at a couple music radio stations before coming to Midwest Communications where he worked in news for 40 years.

Even though he’s hanging up the headphones, John says he’ll find ways to stay busy.

He hinted that he’s looking at other opportunities to stay involved and active in the community.

Scotty Gunther Joins Up North Radio’s WCDY

Scotty Gunther

Up North Radio’s WCDY-FM (Cadillac) has teamed up with Comedian, Author, and Speaker Scotty Gunther to create a very different PM Drive show on the station.  Gunther, simply known as “Scotty” will host the show weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

“We are experimenting to find a completely different style of radio content,” says Up North Radio owner Dom Theodore. “I’ve been very vocal about the need for radio to recapture its experimental roots, and Scotty and I have talked for years about the opportunity to completely change how radio content is done. Think of this as a laboratory for personality radio.”

“It was worth it for me to come out of the woods and upend the notion that radio personalities can’t be true performers,” said Scotty, “This industry needs a dose of actual entertainment, and this is the best place to do it without rules.”

Scotty’s previous work includes hosting the #1 rated PM Drive show on WKST/Pittsburgh, and Morning Host on WIOG and WTCF in Saginaw, MI, as well as many other stations across the country.

WKAR-FM Names New Morning Edition Host

Mary Ellen Pitney Photo credit: Northwest Public Broadcasting

WKAR Public Media has announced that Mary Ellen Pitney will join the station as the Capital Region host and local producer for NPR’s Morning Edition on 90.5 FM WKAR-FM at Michigan State University.

The announcement was made May 23 by Reginald Hardwick, Digital News Director at WKAR. Pitney joins the WKAR news team on June 10, and will debut as Morning Edition local host later this summer.

“Mary Ellen is truly a connoisseur of public radio,” said Hardwick. “She grew up in a military family and learned to count on familiar voices of public radio whether she was in Texas or Hawaii. Mary Ellen brings energy, curiosity and a passion for our industry that comes across in her delivery.”

Pitney comes to the Capital region after three years as Weekend Edition host at Northwest Public Broadcasting in Pullman, Washington. She is a graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

WZZM’s Janet Mason Announces Retirement

Janet Mason

WZZM-TV (Grand Rapids) President and General Manager, Janet Mason, has announced her plans to retire this summer after 22 years at the station and 44 years in the broadcasting industry.

Mason was named President and General Manager of WZZM 13, the TEGNA owned ABC affiliate in Grand Rapids and West Michigan in January 1997. She has spent more than 40 years with Gannett, now TEGNA, in a variety of executive and on-air positions.

“When I began my Gannett journey at WTCN-WUSA-KARE in Minneapolis/St Paul in January 1979, I didn’t know where that journey would take me or how long it would last,” said Mason. “It has been a wonderful and rewarding adventure.”

There were many firsts in Mason’s career. She was part of the first wave of women who became television newscasters in the 1970s. She became Gannett Broadcasting’s first woman and person of color News Director in the 1980s and the first woman and person of color TV General Manager in West Michigan in the 1990s.

Mason spent 17 years at KARE 11 rising through the ranks from general assignment reporter to local Today Show news cut-in anchor to St Paul Bureau Chief to Assistant News Director to the last eight years as Vice President / News. She was part of the leadership team that took the station from 4th to 1st.

In 1996, she was promoted to Vice President / News at Gannett Broadcasting where she worked with station General Managers and News Directors to help improve their news programs.

A year later, she was named President & General Manager of WZZM 13 (now known as 13 ON YOUR SIDE).

During her 22-year tenure at WZZM 13 ON YOUR SIDE, she significantly expanded the number of hours devoted to news, created the 13 Watchdog Investigative Team, provided in-depth coverage of many significant events, ushered West Michigan into the digital age of journalism and high definition television, and built a legacy of community involvement.

“As caring people, you have rallied our viewers to truly make a positive difference in West Michigan,” said Mason to her staff. “It’s been a true joy working beside you collecting toys for needy children, saving lives through our breast cancer and safe driving campaigns, collecting water for Flint and tons of food for the hungry, and countless other community projects”.

A favorite project was rescuing a West Michigan and Grand Rapids icon, the Weatherball, from a scrapyard and bringing it back to its glory. The 13 Weatherball is a stainless-steel sphere that is 16 feet in diameter, wrapped in 288 neon lights, and sits on top of a 100 feet pole. The ball changes colors to represent the next day’s weather.

She plans to stay with the station until mid-July, so there is a smooth transition for her successor.

Before Gannett/TEGNA, Mason worked for television stations in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Over the years, Mason has served on a variety of industry and community boards, including the ABC Television Affiliates Association, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Club of Grand Rapids. She has been a guest instructor for the National Association of Broadcasters Management Development Seminar for TV Executives and University of Missouri / RTNDA News Executive Seminar.

Mason has received multiple honors over the years, including the Silver Circle from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – Michigan Chapter, Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and Certificate of Commendation from the Governor of Minnesota for her work on diversity issues.

Meet Your MABF Board Member of the Week: Marla Drutz

Marla Drutz

Marla Drutz is Vice President and General Manager of WDIV in Detroit. Prior to joining Graham Media Group (formerly Post-Newsweek Stations) in July 2008, Drutz had been with E.W. Scripps Company. In January 2002, she was named director of programming and special projects, responsible for the programming purchased, production and scheduling of five Scripps TV stations across the country, including WXYZ, the ABC affiliate in Detroit. She also oversaw a series of Scripps Television Productions.

Drutz joined E.W. Scripps Company in January 1988 as research director at WXYZ. She was named program director in 1994. Previously, Drutz worked at WJBK in Detroit and at WJW in Cleveland.

A graduate of Leadership Detroit XIII, Drutz serves on the board of the NBC Affiliates Association, the Southeast Michigan United Way, New Detroit, the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau and Oakland Family Services.

Drutz holds a BA in journalism and communication from Ohio University . A native of Louisville, KY, Drutz lives in Bloomfield Hills with her husband, Ron, and their son.

Jumpstart Your Radio Station’s Blog With This Simple Formula

Seth Resler

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

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

To keep listeners coming back to your radio station’s website over and over again, you’ve got to continually pump out content. There’s no shortcut. If you stopped playing music on the air, listeners would stop tuning in. Your website works the same way. Unfortunately, so many radio broadcasters are stretched so thin these days, that when you ask them to write blogposts on top of all their other duties, they groan with exasperation.

Often, the biggest challenge is not the writing itself, but coming up with a topic to write about. There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank computer screen trying to think of an idea. If you can eliminate that issue, blogging becomes much easier.

The way to overcome writer’s block is to develop blog topic formulas — repeatable topics that produce different content every time they’re used. When radio stations are looking to start blogging for the first time, there’s a simple blog topic formula that I like to suggest:

“5 Things To Do Around Town This Weekend”

I love this formula because any radio personality can use it, regardless of their station’s format or their market size. All it takes is a couple of introductory sentences followed by a list of five linked subtitles, each supported by two or three sentences of description. Remember, blogposts don’t need to be long to generate traffic — 300 to 700 words will do the trick. This formula a great way for a radio station to support what’s happening in the community, whether it’s the college football game, the arts and wine festival, or the new restaurant opening.

Not only is this blogpost easy to write every week, it can also be paired with an automated email campaign. On your website, invite your listeners to sign up for the email database to get weekend activity suggestions. Set up an RSS-to-email campaign to automatically send these suggestions out on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. Ta-da! Now you’ve got content that can be shared on social media, indexed by search engines, and will also drive traffic via email.

Once you’re pumping out a weekly list of activities, you’ll see how this content marketing strategy can build website traffic, and you’ll be ready to experiment with other blog topic formulas. Here’s a list of ideas. Happy blogging!

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

NAB Files Comments Supporting Voluntary All-Digital AM

NABOn May 11, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed comments with the FCC supporting a petition to allow AM stations to broadcast an all-digital AM signal on a voluntary basis.

In late March, Texas-based Bryan Broadcasting filed a Petition for Rulemaking asking the commission to initiate a proceeding to authorize the MA3 all-digital mode of HD Radio for any AM station that chooses to do so.

Permitting such modernization would “give AM broadcasters a needed innovative tool with which to compete” without harming others in the spectrum ecosystem, it wrote.

In its comments, the NAB said that “we agree with the Petitioner that all-digital AM service will allow broadcasters to provide substantially improved sound quality that could help AM stations to retain and attract listeners in the increasingly competitive audio marketplace. Experimental testing and real-world implementation of all-digital AM, and industry interest in launching all-digital AM
services all support further consideration of rules to facilitate broadcasters’ voluntary transition to all-digital AM service.

Radio World notes that “All HD Radio receivers in the market that have AM functionality would be able to receive such all-digital signals. But legacy AM receivers would not, which has long been a barrier to serious discussion of all-digital. Now, some observers say, the availability of FM translators for AM licensees has made something that once seemed unthinkable at least worth discussing.”

Currently there is one station in the country that has been experimenting with an all-digital AM signal, under FCC experimental authority. Hubbard Radio’s WWFD-AM (Frederick, MD) has turned off its analog signal while remaining in all-digital mode.  NAB says that it understands that WWFD’s digital signal is robust and far more listenable than analog service. Hubbard has said it received encouraging feedback from listeners and informed NAB that it would consider transitioning additional AM stations to all-digital broadcasting, if permitted.

NAB Demands Answers from FCC for 20% Higher Annual Fees

NABAccording to a report in Inside Radio, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has issued a letter to the FCC stating that because it has offered no explanation for the “remarkable” increase for its size, it’s nearly impossible for the industry’s trade group to offer any feedback on the proposed assessment.

Under the FCC’s proposed menu of fees, most stations would see a double-digit increase in what they’d have to pay to the FCC, according the Inside Radio report. For the biggest FMs in the largest markets, the annual fee would jump to $22,650 compared to $18,880 last year. On the AM dial the FCC has taken a similar approach, proposing the biggest AMs see their annual fee go up to $17,950 from last year’s $15,050. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking approved by the Commission two weeks ago offered no explanation for why radio’s annual fees would suddenly increase just a year after they were reduced by an average 13% in 2018.

In a letter to the Commission, the NAB said the notice made no attempt to explain or justify the increase and will bring “an unexpected and substantial burden” for many broadcasters.

The FCC is giving broadcasters until June 7 to file their first round of comments on its proposal. Reply comments will then be due by June 24. It’s likely to adopt the final order later this summer and the new fees will be due on or before October 1.

Nessel Declares Major Components Of Petition Changes Unconstitutional

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

On May 22, Michigan Attorney General announced that the key portion of the 2018 law establishing new requirements for groups wanting to put referendums, initiative petitions and constitutional amendments before voters are unconstitutional.

Gongwer reports that Nessel said the most contentious part of the bill, that no more than 15 percent of a group’s signatures come from a single U.S. House district, is unconstitutional.  The language is tantamount to cutting voters out of the process by saying no more than 15 percent of a group’s signatures can come from one district.

Ms. Nessel also held that the requirement for paid signature-gatherers to file an affidavit with the state indicating they are being paid before circulating petitions is unconstitutional. It could lead to circulator harassment and impinge on free-speech rights, she said.

However, Ms. Nessel said some portions of PA 608 of 2018 are constitutional, such as having challenges of Board of State Canvassers decisions go straight to the Supreme court as well as false or fraudulent information provided by a circulator on a petition sheet leading to invalidation of all signatures on a petition sheet. Additionally, any form or content mistakes invalidate all signatures on the sheet, an addition by the law that also meets constitutional muster, Ms. Nessel said.

“Several senior staff contributed to the research, analysis and preparation of this opinion,” Ms. Nessel said in a statement. “Based on our review, this new law clearly violates the Constitution on several – but not all – fronts. With these issues resolved, Secretary Benson and her team can now go forward in the work they need to do in managing Michigan’s election process.”