Steven Portnoy, CBS News Correspondent covering the White House, on WMAL’s influence in Our Town while under host Andy O’s direction~
“But it speaks to the influence that the radio station had in this marketplace. I mean this radio station was listened to inside the White House. Harden and Weaver were part of, I’m sure, Ronald Reagan’s morning.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town and I’ve been ordered to do a great intro for this man, but he doesn’t need a great intro because he’s a great broadcaster and a great radio guy and I’m so delighted that one of the WMAL graduates has made it big, big, big time is Steven Portnoy of ABC. That’s the American Broadcasting Company, which is now Disney. Welcome to Our Town, Steve.
Steven Portnoy: Thank you sir. It’s good to be with you. I should amend that. I was with ABC for many years and now I’m with CBS.
Andy Ockershausen: What?
Steven Portnoy: So now I’ve worked for two networks.
Andy Ockershausen: You dumped our network? We’re still ABC people here. I don’t know why, but we are. We go along with the flow of course, but Steven, you’ve had a great, great career both, while you were here and why you left here and now you’re with CBS. But you can look back and think of the great days of WMAL because you were at the tail end of it, but you were here never the less.
Steven Portnoy’s Connection to WMAL and Other WMAL Alumni
Steven Portnoy: Well, I feel like I was saying earlier to the lovely Janice here. I feel like I’ve come back to college because I spent my formative years in our business right here in these studios here at WMAL Radio. Actually, talking through these same Sennheiser microphones.
But I was here for about three and a half years for WMAL Radio news department and then, made the move to ABC network news and was on this radio station still for another 11 years or so. So I have a pretty long connection with this station, and it is-
Andy Ockershausen: You moved down to downtown with another WMAL graduate in charge of news.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Robin Vierbuchen Sproul
Andy Ockershausen: Robin Vierbuchen Sproul started right here in that news room right behind you.
Steven Portnoy: Robin Vierbuchen Sproul. Charles Gibson also another-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yeah, Charlie.
Steven Portnoy: … very famous voice who rose through the ranks from WMAL to ABC News.
Andy Ockershausen: Let me tell you how important I was. I’ll fly in a red eye from Los Angeles and I needed somebody to give me a ride and pick me up. So the news director sent Charlie Gibson. Giving me a ride from the airport. He never forgot it. He loved it. He talks about it now and he remembers the good old days. People love to help each other.
Steven Portnoy: Sure. Well, I mean, very famous names have passed through these halls. I mean, we can talk about the legends of WMAL radio. We just lost one, Bill Mayhugh in the last couple of weeks.
Andy Ockershausen: I know, so sad. But Bill hadn’t been well for a while and Shirley had died before him. But we were just talking with the chief of police at Montgomery County about Johnny Holliday. Another one of our guys out of this studio and working with Janice in the morning. They’re still around, thank God.
Steven Portnoy: Well, Harden and Weaver. We had Trumbull and Core. Big names. Janice mentioned that I came in sort of at the tail end of that epic era of WMAL Radio.
Andy Ockershausen: Era, right.
Portnoy Begins His Career at WMAL at the Tail End of Station’s Epic Era | From General Mass Appeal to Narrow Interest Level
Steven Portnoy: When I first joined, Chris Core was on in the evenings. You had Charlie Warren on in the overnights and the big part of DC history was when the snipers were caught and it was because a listener was tuned in to WMAL Radio and happened to hear Charlie Warren mention the license plate of the Chevy Caprice that they were looking for.
Andy Ockershausen: They got him at a rest stop somewhere.
Steven Portnoy: That’s up in Fredrick. That’s exactly right. At the time though, this was the era of the radio station when it was making the transition from sort of, a general mass appeal talk, sort of the last vestige of full-service radio on the AM band into the much more keenly focused conservative talk radio.
Andy Ockershausen: Narrowed the interest level.
Steven Portnoy: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: From broad to narrow, but they work. That was forced upon by the advent of FM radio. FM radio changed the spectrum and so many stations got on the air, and we were fortunate to have a great signal in AM, but FM was hurting us. Hurting us and the audience went to FM. Younger. You know, I found people under 40 never, ever listen to an AM station. I’m talking about 40 years ago they didn’t listen.
WMAL Continues to Evolve and Remain Relevant Despite Industry Changes
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, that’s kind of crazy and yet, one of the great things about the history of this radio station, which dates back to 1925 is the fact that it continues to evolve and remain relevant-
Andy Ockershausen: Change. Absolutely.
Steven Portnoy: … to younger people. What’s also amazing in this almost 90th year of the existence of this station is just in the last … We’re speaking … But we should probably mention it just for the hell of it. We’re speaking on October 31st 2018, Halloween. The October ratings just came out for 2018. WMAL has a five share 12 plus, which-
Andy Ockershausen: That’s incredible.
Steven Portnoy: … your eyes just widened. Exactly because the idea that this radio station having been great is now kind of poised for modern greatness with, you know, you’ve got Vince and Mary in the morning. Ben Shapiro is one of the new stars of talk radio. He has a great show that’s on in the evenings on this station.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s happened.
Steven Portnoy: Not to make the entire thing a commercial for WMAL.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen:Why not? Go ahead Steven.
Steven Portnoy: But I was hoping … And as much as I’m returning to my alma mater, to ask you a few questions, sir, in this half hour we have together.
Ratings – Then and Now
Andy Ockershausen: Let me tell you one question. I’ll answer before you ask the question. This used to have a 25 rating.
Steven Portnoy: Right. Fine. That’s fine.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: The good ole’ days.
Andy Ockershausen: But that’s what’s changed. Thank God for five. I bet they’re making a lot of money with a five share. What do you think of that?
Steven Portnoy: Well, I hope so. I mean, if Janice might have some-
Andy Ockershausen: That’s an audience. That’s a lot of people of five share. You’re talking to six million people.
Steven Portnoy: Potentially.
Andy Ockershausen: Five share made sense to me, money.
Steven Portnoy: But let’s talk about the days of the 25 share because this radio station, you ran it from what? 1960 through 1980 …
Andy Ockershausen: Six.
Steven Portnoy: Six. So, that was the period of time when it was owned by the Evening Star Newspaper Company.
Andy Ockershausen: Correct.
Andy O On Running WMAL as Network Affiliate
Steven Portnoy: Co-owned with Channel 7. In the late 1970s, the station was sold to ABC. You became the manager of an ABC O and O. And in the era, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this radio station was the epicenter of broadcast entertainment in Washington. What was your philosophy as you ran this operation through that whole period and basically, helped to transition from the latter days of network radio greatness through the late 1950s, early 1960s?
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, we were a network affiliate.
Steven Portnoy: Well, not just a network affiliate, but a key network station in Washington.
Willard Scott and Ed Walker
Andy Ockershausen: We were something called the red and the blue network. They split NBC. One of the guys I work with was a messenger. Worked with me, a little bald headed guy from Virginia named Willard Scott. I mean, those are the kind of people … And, Ed Walker, they worked in the business. But Willard and I worked in the same building, the Trans-Lux Building. But we transitioned out of the network world of really good radio, but the times had changed into being our own self and that gave us a chance.
Network Radio Included The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet
Steven Portnoy: But when you say really good network radio, we’re talking about like, The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. I mean, that’s what you mean.
Andy Ockershausen: I got the big discs. That’s how we played it. They put a big disc out. They’d send them to us once a week.
Steven Portnoy: The transcription discs, which looked like big LPs.
Andy Ockershausen: Huge.
Steven Portnoy: Right and-
Andy Ockershausen: Well, and they were our network Baukage. We had people that are … Elmer Louis, Fulton Louis Junior, they were all on our air.
Steven Portnoy: Paul Harvey.
Andy Ockershausen: But Harden and Weaver were staff announcers.
Steven Portnoy: That’s right.
Transitioning Out of Network
Andy Ockershausen: Although, Jackson was an actor. He had been a child actor in Buffalo and he came down here and became an actor on radio. We would actually do it in the market, radio programs about The Green Hornet and all that, on local. So we transitioned out of that and said, “We got to have … The secret of a good radio station has to have a strong morning show.” It all begins with the AM, 6 AM and the guy that was hired by Kinsey Company to revitalize the whole Washington Star situation and it’s … Being owned by the Star was a great treat. It was a great newspaper, but they left us alone. They didn’t want anything to do with broadcast except send them the money.
Everybody at WMAL Needed to Be Involved in Community
Andy Ockershausen: But these two guys were on our staff. They were doing a network show called Frank and Jackson. They were doing that for ABC on Saturday night. It was on like, the half hour, an hour. Nobody listened, but a lot of people did and said, “These guys got talent.” So the idea came, “Let’s put them on the morning show.” But that’s only part of what we were after. We had to become a bigger part of Our Town and that is, I believe that we had to be involved in more ways than you thought possible.
I thought maybe the way through to that was doing charity work on the air. Like, “I want everybody involved in this radio station to do something in the public.” Because if you give it, you get it back in spades.
Charities and Community Service
Steven Portnoy: And that’s exactly right. You’re talking about the community service elements of the radio station. You can think of the things that Tom Gauger did at the Kennedy Center with the Salvation Army. You can think of the Harden and Weaver Charity golf tournaments and that-
Andy Ockershausen: Children’s Hospital, they raised … Never asked for a dime. Did you know that? They bragged about that. People would send them money and they’d go in there and say, “The Fairfax Police Department just sent us a check for $200, going to Children’s Hospital.” Suddenly, other people heard and somebody from Montgomery said, “Well, we’re going to send you money too.” And the thing grew into a huge charity.
Steven Portnoy: You also became an essential part, I think, of local commerce. You were involved with the Board of Trade. You really, as the General Manager of the radio station, got in there with the titans of the community.
Andy Ockershausen: Salvation Army, Police Boys and Girls Club, Fight Night. I could name you 30 charities. Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, The Bethesda-Chevy Chaise Chamber of Commerce, The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Neediest Kids.
Andy Ockershausen: We tried to get involved in everything.
Steven Portnoy: And think of also how important it is, this all to be going on here in Washington D.C. because you have the Congress, you’ve got the FCC, you’ve got national advocacy types all looking to this radio station as a model for what broadcasting is and should be.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And Andy hasn’t mentioned, but the National Association of Broadcasters. NAB, which he was very much involved in.
Former Chairman of the Board for National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, I was deeply involved. I got so involved, I became Chairman of the Board. It was an election fight and I won the election. I beat some TV guy-
Steven Portnoy: I’m not surprised by that.
Andy Ockershausen: But those were the good old days. To be on the Board was as…an honor to be Chairman of the Board. You know, of 50 states that I was in charge of their broadcast lobbying and working with the Hill. It was so great. One of the things, Steven, that I really believed in is that, we’ve got to have to be very careful with the commercial content. I really believe that we had to have … You can’t have good commercials. We just didn’t have any bad commercials and there’s a big difference.
Great Creative Was Top Priority
Steven Portnoy: And explain what you mean by that because you’re not talking about necessarily the types of products or services being advertised. You’re talking about the way they’re being advertised.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. The commercial message had to be delivered with some degree of authenticity. It had to be a good product and we watched that very carefully. We also were very careful of disparaging. We didn’t believe it for a commercial and yet, I believe 25% of what we did was commercial. So it had to be very good. The music had to be great.
Steven Portnoy: The creative.
Great Talent – Personality and News – Also a Priority
Andy Ockershausen: The personality had to be great, and the news had to be great. So they all went together to make a package, and we believed that it was going to take time. It wasn’t going to happen overnight. We had to let some people go. We changed from a Jerry Strong and a Herb Davis and people like that. To talented guys with the Army Band named Bill Trumbull, who was a nervous wreck. He happened to be a good friend of Eddy Fisher. I said, “Well,any friend of Eddy Fisher, we’ll hire.”
Chris Core was a newsman and we put ’em together. You mentioned Gauger. Felix Grant. Some guy would tell me … He said, “Andy, I’m from Dubuque, Iowa. I have been in a taxi cab about six or seven times.” He said, “At night, all I listen to is somebody named Felix Grant. In a cab.” He said, “That’s impossible.” That’s the way it is.
Steven Portnoy: The Album Sound show that Felix Grant did was a nationally known real treasure really for jazz music in the late 1960s, 70s. He kind of, sort of brought bossa nova to America. What was it like to work with-
Andy Ockershausen: How did you know that, Steven, about the bossa nova?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: I’m telling you, this man loves the history of radio. That’s what makes this such a great interview.
Steven Portnoy: And what’s so great about being here with you guys is the fact that I feel like I’m sitting next to a legend of broadcasting who really truly has embodied all of these ethics and principles about what a radio station should be.
Andy Ockershausen: And could be.
Steven Portnoy: And could be.
The Star’s Hands Off Management Style Big Help to WMAL Transition Success
Andy Ockershausen: And that was the fortunate part. We had management at the Star level that let us do our own thing. Didn’t try to make us anything that we weren’t and having Felix and having Bill Mayhugh follow Felix, two different people, but Mayhugh had everybody overnight that cared about radio. There was Music ‘Til Dawn and Bill Mayhugh, and that’s the way it was.
Steven Portnoy: Well, and Larry Krebs on the police feed.
Andy Ockershausen: Do you believe that story?
Steven Portnoy: Well listen, the whole idea is-
Andy Ockershausen: Nobody else had overnight radio.
Steven Portnoy: Well, that’s true. You had competitor that was doing all news. But the idea was with Larry Krebs, that he would keep listeners who were tuned in to American popular standards or other kind of music on the radio station. Aware of what was going on even in the depths of the city, in the suburbs-
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town.
Steven Portnoy: … all over Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: And he lived it. His life was that radio job that he had at WMAL. I can tell you, he didn’t do it for money, but he was available 24/7.
Andy O’s Philosophy of Spending Money for Talent and Creative
Steven Portnoy: Well, speaking of money. I mean, that’s a question I have for you. I know you made this radio station a lot of money because of the quality of the programming. The quality of the commercials. The relationships that you had with business leaders. The relationships that the talent had with the audience. What was your philosophy about spending money?
Andy Ockershausen: I believe that the stock holders deserved a return on investment. I didn’t believe in overpaying and I can tell you this without a shadow…. We never lost anybody before money. So whatever they were offered and you know, Harden and Weaver were romanced by NBC New York. They flew them up there and did everything in the world. Money never was an issue. It never dawned on them to come back and demand more money because they were happy. They were doing radio, which they believed in and they had been doing it very successfully. They said to each other, “Why should we go to New York. It’s going to be a fight.”
Jingles – Portnoy Self-Described “Jingle Freak”
Steven Portnoy: One of the things that radio stations do and this radio station has done to this day, to its infinite credit for a guy like me, is play jingles to kind of, sort of bring the audience in. I brought with me today a very small montage.
Andy Ockershausen: Uh-oh.
Steven Portnoy: Of just some of the jingles that air on this radio station for about 20 years. Starting in the mid to late 1960s through the mid 1980s.
[Plays WMAL Jingles]
Andy Ockershausen: And there it is.
[Plays WMAL Jingles]
Steven Portnoy: So let me just tell a couple of stories about these jingles. I style myself as a jingle freak and there are few of us in this business who really, truly kind of, sort of really get the history of all this. What you just heard was four separate jingles. The first one was by a company called the Heller Corporation in Los Angeles.
Andy Ockershausen: Heller Ferguson.
Steven Portnoy: Heller Ferguson, that’s right. The gentleman’s name was Hugh Heller and he was a jingle composer who worked with another composer named Dick Hamilton who to this day now lives in Sarasota as renowned as a composer and musician down there. But he had a studio … They had a studio on Hollywood and Highland, just near where the Oscars are given out each year and you, sir, commissioned some jingles from them in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Do you have any remembrances of that?
Andy Ockershausen: Hugh Heller was a friend of a friend of mine who was not a broadcaster, but is a rep, Ralph Guild and Darren McGaver. They were our rep, but Ralph was a friend and he knew Hugh Heller. So he opened the door for Hugh Heller who we saw on a package of advertising that you’d go to somebody and they’d sponsor it and they would give us these jingles.
Steven Portnoy: We call this-
Andy Ockershausen: And the jingles came second.
Steven Portnoy: In the business, we call this barter.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, correct. They were barter. But we wanted something different, so Hugh grasped what we were about Our Town and he grasped what WMAL was and he spent a lot of time in town listening and talking to people and he became a very dear friend. I visit him in Highland. I visit him Los Angeles. I know all about it and Alan Ferguson was a lyrist I believe and Hugh did the music and they went in their studio in Los Angeles and came back and presented us with a package of jingles that just knocked me right over my head. Things I never thought about.
I had listened to them. They did KMPC Los Angeles. They did KSFO San Francisco. They had a list of clients out of this world and they put us in the big time with those jingles.
Steven Portnoy: Well, they’re the ones who wrote the, “We like to be in Washington DC.”
Andy Ockershausen: That is correct.
Steven Portnoy: Anthem of the station that lived for almost two decades on the air.
Andy Ockershausen: We still use it. Janice and I do it ….
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: We play it on a regular basis.
Steven Portnoy: So I mean-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s incredible when you listen to that. He captured what we are.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: He had every style.
Andy Ockershausen: Memorials of marble and monuments of stone.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And every style of music. He did a version in every … in the bossa nova.
Andy Ockershausen: He did Big Band.
Steven Portnoy: And beautiful intricate harmonies too with the-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Beautiful, deep, gorgeous, full symphony music, yep.
JAM Creative Productions – Jon Wolfert
Steven Portnoy: So that’s the Heller jingles that basically were on the … those were on the air through the mid 1970s and then, you folks took your business to a fantastic jingle composer and producer named Jon Wolfert down in Dallas. A good friend of mine at JAM Productions.
Andy Ockershausen: Right. I remember that.
Steven Portnoy: And JAM did two packages, well, three real packages for WMAL Radio but the ones that we heard in that short little montage were from Focal Point. A package that Jon put together for you in 1979 and then the Number One Voice in 1983.
Steven Portnoy: What was it like to work with Jon Wolfert in Dallas?
Andy Ockershausen: Unfortunately I was a dead duck by then. I had moved into, where did I go? Cable television.
Steven Portnoy: This is the late 1970’s early 80’s?
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, no, I left here in ’86.
Steven Portnoy: All right well you were probably..
Andy Ockershausen: . . .had a whole thing.
Steven Portnoy: There’s a good chance that you probably had your PD, maybe kind of sort of took that ball and ran with it.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: It would have been Mark Kuhn, it would have been Jim Gallant and Eileen Griffin.
Andy Ockershausen: All the names you know.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, sure.
Andy Ockershausen: They were here. But I enjoyed it, I was still a part of it because of Janice. I had an interest …
Steven Portnoy: You also signed the checks too.
Andy Ockershausen: Steven, we better take a break here so we can take a deep breath.
Steven Portnoy: Speaking of which …
Andy Ockershausen: And this has been a wonderful conversation with Steve Portnoy who is Mr. WMAL. This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town. This is Andy Ockershausen along with Steven Portnoy, Mr. WMAL.
Steven Portnoy: Oh geez. You’re Mr. WMAL.
Andy Ockershausen: I wish so, I think that because I fell into it. I really didn’t have any training. I just did it because I worked here as a page. I was here, I made 21 dollars a week when I started.
Steven Portnoy: Wow.
Andy Ockershausen: And when I finished I made 25, so. . .
Impact of Network Association on Local Radio Programing
Steven Portnoy: Yeah right. So you ran this radio station, WMAL radio from 1960 to 1986 and you presided over a tremendous broadcast team that sort of helped Washington live through the tumultuous period of the 1960s and the 1970s and the early 1980s. With a newsroom that blanketed the city and kind of sort of also helped walk the audience through Vietnam, and Watergate, what was that –
Andy Ockershausen: The shootings, that Puerto Rican shooting up the white house, or shooting the Blair house. These guys were involved in everything because they loved being news guys.
Steven Portnoy: Well and also you mentioned it earlier in the show about the commitment you made to news. How important was it that you had, not just an association with the network, but a strong local radio . . .?
Andy Ockershausen: Well I had a lot of disagreements with ABC, because they wanted us to force us to take more of the fee, and I would say we carry everything we carry, and we didn’t carry anything. We tried to keep them off the air to do our own local stuff. They were taking up our valuable air time selling a cheap commercial and we didn’t want that. We wanted to sell our own commercials.
Steven Portnoy: For the audience’s benefit, in the late 1960s, ABC as the radio network actually split off into four demographically targeted –
Andy Ockershausen: Four networks.
Steven Portnoy: That’s right, sub networks, so the primary network was the ABC Information Network and then there was the Entertainment Network, the Contemporary Network, which was heard on top 40 stations like WABC and WALS and then there was something called the FM Network that would have been for –
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, that was gonna be us too.
Steven Portnoy: Right. So the information –
Andy Ockershausen: Vanilla.
Steven Portnoy: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: Very vanilla.
Steven Portnoy: But the information network in that era was very bold and big and brassy and also long. You had an issue with taking all the network content in that era.
Partnering Up with WMCA to Sell WMAL – “Brilliant Strategy”
Andy Ockershausen: Right, correct. We would take their commercials but we didn’t take their programming, because we wanted to help them make money, that was important that they made money, but we also wanted to make money. So we became partners really in WMAL. Everybody in New York loved our radio station. One of the things when we first started, we wanted to impress them and I did this with our advertising reps, we took a segment of the Harden and Weaver program and bought time on WMCA in New York at 9:15 in the morning, 15 minutes, and had all the sales people go around and take little radios to advertisers and what do you call them, time buyers in New York and tune it in at 9:15 to WMCA and there was WMAL radio.
Steven Portnoy: That’s incredible. That’s insane. I can’t believe WMCA sold to you like that.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Steven Portnoy: Wow. But what a brilliant strategy. It’s a whole lot easier than taking cassette tapes all around New York City.
Andy Ockershausen: It was impressive. I mean it just worked, it wasn’t a big deal but it showed all these dipsy time buyers like I said I’ve got 12 year olds buying air time, but they had no idea about what we were. They’d say call letters and by playing that and getting that publicity, it was worth it’s weight in gold.
Steven Portnoy: Brilliant, what a great story. I’d never heard that story before. Janice notes that this radio station in the late ’60s, early ’70s, into the ’80s, was going up against a full time all news radio station, which as we now now, owns this market. What was it like to go up against that station, which at the time was not as popular as WMAL and what was the idea of competing against an all news station.
News Talent with Great Voices Made WMAL Competitive In All News Space
Andy Ockershausen: Well our news stood on its own feet and the fact that they were all news and we were partial news, every time the awards ceremonies came out, we were winning all of the awards because of the quality of the broadcaster, not of the news. The news stays the same. But we had people delivering the news with great voices, Ed Meyer, Bob Gneiser.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Bud Steele
Andy Ockershausen: They were all professionals and they were broadcasters and WTOP didn’t have that, they had a bunch of announcers reading news and there’s a big difference. Our guys, we had 100 people in the News Department at one time. I said we gotta get rid of some people.
Steven Portnoy: I guess that goes back to spending money.
Female Broadcasters at WMAL – Another First in Industry
Andy Ockershausen: But the voices were incredible when you think about it and it was all about delivery and the guys loved it. We had a lot of females on the air. That was another first. What was her name –
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Milagros Ardin, Karen Leggett, Carol Preston, and were all led by the news hen Dorothy Jones.
Steven Portnoy: Wow.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But the female announcers were unique to radio.
Steven Portnoy: Sure in that era, absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: Female broadcasters oh yeah and they were great. Part of the team.
On-Air Editorials Unique to Local Radio Station at the Time | Issues Important to WMAL News Reporters
Steven Portnoy: What was also unique, well I guess not necessarily unique to the industry, but probably unique to local radio in that era was that you’d see it and you can go on YouTube and you can sort of watch these things, but local television and radio managers, but not as often in radio, would provide editorials on the air. And you took that on as a responsibility. Why? Was it difficult working with corporate on this? Or did you just kind of sort of have free reign to do it?
Andy Ockershausen: Well we just did it. We did what we thought was best for Our Town. And we had I believe a brilliant News Director named Len Deibert who wrote all the underpinnings of the editorial, he would give me the editorial outline and we’d sit in the studio and record it, but there were local issues. They were issues that our people who were on the street felt very strongly about as news people and they wanted some action, and they’d go to Len Deibert and say we’ve got a problem here, we’ve got a problem there and we could get on it as an editorial. I can tell you that it works wonders. It wasn’t easy because we didn’t do it frivolously. We only did it for … but one of the people that suffered was our news guy who was Mr. Capitol Hill, name Joseph McCaffrey, but we felt strongly about National Airport. And the parking at National Airport, a big part of it was taken for the people up on the Hill. So they could park.
Steven Portnoy: So they could park for free at Reagan National what was then National Airport.
Andy Ockershausen: The staff, the members and so forth. And we took it on as a project and the people up on Capitol Hill took McCaffrey’s parking place away.
Steven Portnoy: Really?
Andy Ockershausen: We had no parking up on Capitol Hill because of our editorial. We loved it. We told McCaffrey to take a cab. We really had so much success with editorials. I mean people would crawl out of the woodwork and say we want you to do this, we want you to do that but it was all on Our Town and it was all important about Our Town. We didn’t try to take on world wide issues. We stuck right here.
Steven Portnoy: But it speaks to the influence that the radio station had in this marketplace. I mean this radio station was listened to inside the White House. Harden and Weaver were part of, I’m sure, Ronald Reagan’s morning.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. You know George Bush lived here as a Congressman. Did you know that?
Steven Portnoy: Sure.
Former President and First Lady Bush Regular WMAL Listeners
Andy Ockershausen: His family listened, and Barbara, they listened to Harden and Weaver in the morning. They told me that. The chief who was just here, the chief Tom Manger, his father had it on so loud it hurt his ears every morning. He was younger, but he said I went to school my dad listening to Harden and Weaver and that’s the way it was, and the people at the White House. We had a campaign here, Trumbull and Core, called So Others Might Eat. We were big with charity. That was there. And I got a phone call that somebody set it up with the White House that said she was vice president, that said Barbara Bush was gonna donate a cake and we’re gonna auction off a cake. So Harden and Weaver are pushing it, and they sent me down to pick up the cake. They didn’t send me down, they asked me to go down. So I go down to not the mansion, she was vice president then, and Barbara Bush said to me, and we had the cake all ready, she said “I listen to you guys, I know what’s going on” she said “But I gotta tell yeah, I didn’t bake this cake.”
Steven Portnoy: No kidding.
Andy Ockershausen: My steward, you know they were Navy –
Steven Portnoy: Of course, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: My steward baked the cake. So she made the cake and I brought it in and auctioned it off. I got 4 or 5 thousand dollars. It was all charity and Trumbull and Core loved it. But she was a listener to our station.
Steven Portnoy: Janice sends me a note, she goes so many listeners would tell us our dial is rusted on AM 63.
It’s All About the Signal
Andy Ockershausen: I can believe it. It’s a great, great signal. You missed the days of the great signal. You could hear this thing in Buffalo Gap, you could feel it in your teeth, and you could hear it in Baltimore.
Steven Portnoy: You know the last time I saw you actually before we recorded this, was at the decommissioning of the Greentree Road transmitter site.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh I remember that.
Steven Portnoy: For listeners who might not be aware, next time you’re heading up the American Legion Bridge from Virginia into Maryland and you’re making that way around the Beltway, right at the point where the Beltway meets 270 right after that interchange there, if you continue on the beltway to your left, you’ll hopefully by the time people hear this it’ll still be there, four towers, four broadcast towers through the trees, and that is the section of Bethesda where from 1941 to 2018, the WMAL AM radio signal emanated from –
Andy Ockershausen: From the four towers?
Steven Portnoy: From that four-tower array, which means then that every single broadcast of every single president from Franklin Roosevelt, to Donald Trump, radiated from those towers. It’s one of those things, in Our Town, you might not appreciate until you think about it for a second. It’s pretty remarkable.
Strong Signal Made WMAL Competitive
Andy Ockershausen: Steven, I wouldn’t, but you bring a light to something that is a fact that that signal both in the tower and in the ground, you had good copper in the ground too, was so, so important to our success. Now WTOP was our enemy. They were doing all news. They were doing great. But they got a signal problem in guess where, in Our Town.
Steven Portnoy: How about that.
Andy Ockershausen: We could hear them in Nova Scotia.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But you couldn’t hear them at 14th and F.
Steven Portnoy: Oh that’s funny. That’s I guess the luck of the draw.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a true story.
Steven Portnoy: It’s the luck of the draw.
Andy Ockershausen: We had airliners say that they could listen to WTOP when they were coming in over the Atlantic, but they’d switch to WMAL ’cause the signal was so much better. In the airplane.
Steven Portnoy: Well it helps explain that station’s move to FM and WMAL’s move to FM.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Steven Portnoy: Which makes me wonder what you think of the contemporary radio marketplace industry. What would you do differently?
WMAL Experienced Slow Transition Process – Like Peeling an Onion One Layer at a Time
Andy Ockershausen: It’s narrowed demographically. It is split up into many, many divisions. I don’t think, a full service radio station would be impossible now. It’s gone too far. There’s too much narrow. WMAL is narrow now. The all news station is narrow compared to the universe, the rock and roll stations, I don’t think they exist anymore, but there are some music stations. What ever happened to WGAY, was that a great sound to listen to, if you wanted to get away from. Gone. I don’t know of a radio station that plays good music as we know it.
Losing Washington Redskins Live Broadcast
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: No. Well because there’s different distribution points now, people aren’t focused on the radio to get their music from. But I did want to say one thing, in the transition, I was here from 1977 to 2009. One of the things that I lived through, which you might be interested in Steven, is that he had left, Andy left such a big onion with so many layers of product and programming that it was peeled off a little bit at a time. And it took about 14 years really to get where it is today. Because when WTEM came in and took the rights of the Redskins away, that was one layer of the onion that left. And I remember Zamira Jones, my sales manager says, ’cause I was so upset we were losing the Redskins, at that time I was in the sales department said, Janice, most radio stations don’t have what you have now, you had so much product, you still have a great radio station even though the Redskins are gone. So it took like 14 years after that to take the sports away, to take the, because Maryland University football and basketball went away. And then Capitol’s hockey was gone. But there was so much of the richness of our radio station and our product that it took a long time for it to disintegrate or to evolve and to be reborn into the great radio station product that it is today.
Steven Portnoy: And that speaks to the legacy of Andy Ockershausen.
Andy Ockershausen: Well to all the cast and crew and to everybody that worked so hard, it wasn’t easy, but Janice makes it. I recall how important the Redskins were. Not the team, but to have that relationship. It was chemistry. The Redskins have lost that chemistry. They still haven’t gotten it back.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: I think it might be making a comeback now.
Steven Portnoy: We’ll see how they do this season.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: They’ve been winning.
Andy Ockershausen: But they’ve won before. This ain’t the first time they’ve been 5 and 2.
Steven Portnoy: As we tape this.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yes.
Audience Unifiers – Weather and Traffic
Steven Portnoy: The thing of it is, there are few unifiers in Our Town. Perhaps the weather.
Andy Ockershausen: Well we were doing hockey before anybody else too, I want you to know that. We were broadcasting hockey games with Ron Weber because of the relationship I had with Abe Pollin. So we had a little bit of everything and maybe too much of one or the other, but all the talent was involved. Trumbull and Core did a Redskins broadcast without ever being anything but the Redskins. And when the team won, WMAL celebrated.
Steven Portnoy: But when you think of Our Town, you think of obviously the District, Montgomery County, Prince George’s county, Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria, the outer suburbs. You think of varying ethnic and social groups, economic groups, vast disparities between them. There are only a few things that unify everyone in this community. They include weather, really lousy traffic, sports, but for the latter half of the 20th century, WMAL was a big part of what made Our Town one.
WMAL Brought Airborne Traffic Reporting to Our Town
Andy Ockershausen: When you mention traffic. I had been listening to the guy in Chicago, and they had a crash out there and they lost their helicopter, but I went out and talked to them how they did it and they said they gotta have authority in the air, so we need a cop. So I had to go to the police department and beg them to lend us one of their traffic officers to fly in their helicopter to do, we were doing it before anybody else.
Steven Portnoy: I was gonna say you essentially invented airborne traffic reporting.
Andy Ockershausen: Not me.
Steven Portnoy: Well, I mean you could have said it was a bad idea.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah. That’s right. We started it here with policemen and didn’t try to do it cheap. You know somebody was doing it against us and eventually we hired him to fly the airplane. They called him Captain Dan. He was on WWDC. But Lieutenant Humphreys was a member of the Metropolitan Police Department and then we got permission to fly over Montgomery County, to fly over Alexandria, to fly as far up as Upper Marlboro to the bay. We were doing it when nobody else was doing traffic.
Howard Stern and The Greaseman Got Their Start in Our Town
Steven Portnoy: Speaking of things that sort of got their start in this market if nothing else, and you mentioned WWDC the call letters, on WWDC FM in the early 1980s, there was a gentleman by the name of Howard Stern, perhaps you’ve heard of him. What was your impression of that period and if you have any memories in the early ’80s, if at all, was he something that entered your orbit.
Andy Ockershausen: He was in the ’80s actually. I think he was one of the most talented people I’d ever heard. Along with the Grease Man. They were talented people in their own way, with different attraction. Howard Stern was funny, funny, funny, and smart, man he was smart. But he was a little bit on the I’d say the –
Steven Portnoy: The edge?
Andy Ockershausen: The crude side.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah sure.
Andy Ockershausen: But the Grease Man was an actor and he did all his show was acting he had the cop that he talked to, he had the ranger, I mean what a talented man in radio and then he went too far with his talent.
Steven Portnoy: But you obviously, as a broadcast professional, you admire …
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, absolutely.
Steven Portnoy: Well, all right.
Andy Ockershausen: They were moneymakers for ’em.
Steven Portnoy: That’s true.
Andy Ockershausen: They did all the funny stuff, but they didn’t do traffic, they didn’t do weather to the extreme that we did.
Steven Portnoy: Well, not with the seriousness, at least.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s extreme. We did it extreme. You know?
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Frank Harden never missed a break in the morning show when he didn’t say what the time was. I used to say, “Frank, you’re driving me crazy. You just have done the time 10 times in the last 5 minutes.” He said, “Everybody’s interested in time.”
NABET’s Impact on Broadcasting
Steven Portnoy: Right. When you had Burt Cohen, the Duke of Derwood, on in Season 3, I remember he … The subject of labor-management relations came up. You never had any kind of difficulty with any of the unions here, did you?
Andy Ockershausen: We got along well with the unions because I felt that, in the strictest sense, unions were a great part of what we were. To keep labor peace was important. To make sure the guys were happy. And we never had a union problem that wasn’t our fault. Seriously, now. Like guys missing lunch hour, improper scheduling. Send them out somewhere without proper information or clothing. We never had a problem. And when we did, we solved it. And we made sure everybody made money. That was important to everybody.
Steven Portnoy: I feel like I need to fill in one of the gaps of that fantastic show that you had with Burt for anyone who didn’t quite catch it. But he referenced something called the letter. Do you remember what it was? Because my recollection of it, as he described it to me 15 years ago, was the idea that we … He was a member of the NABET Union, and he could never lose his job because he had that letter.
Andy Ockershausen: All right. I will tell you about that letter. We’re going to take a break right now with Portnoy. You’re bringing up Portnoy’s Complaint. This is Andy Ockershausen with Steven Portnoy.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
WMAL Engineer Burt Cohen and The Letter
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, and this is Our Town. I have a robust conversation with Steven Portnoy, who reminded me of a situation we had in our labor negotiation with a company called the NABET, the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians. I don’t know what they call them now, but it was a great relationship.
And the world was changing, and our performers … Always we had engineering people, our technicians, behind the microphone. They did not play their own music. They did not play their own records. They were all babied. So the company said-
Steven Portnoy: Babied.
Andy Ockershausen: The company let them know that we’re changing, we’re getting away from the help, and teaching the talent to run the boards themselves.
Steven Portnoy: We’re going combo, as we say in the business.
Andy Ockershausen: We’re going combo. We do everything.
And we had people … Like Felix Grant had been in the business for 50 years, he never touched a record. He wouldn’t touch one. He didn’t know anything.
We were worried about Ken, Ken Beatrice getting a hold of it. Who knew what he was going to do?
And Harden and Weaver was a little easier, because they had been in radio … Frank had been in radio a long time when he ran his own board, so it wasn’t new to him. But during that transition, there were some changes in the union, and they were going to change one of our technicians named Burt Cohen, and he was going to preform another duty, or get fired. He came to me, and somebody in our Program Department said, “We can’t lose Burt.” I gave him a letter from management saying that this job was irreplaceable, or something. The language was, whatever he was doing was irreplaceable, therefore I recommend he never be … Not recommend, I announced that he’ll never be discharged from his job.
Steven Portnoy: And you put it in writing.
Andy Ockershausen: A letter.
Steven Portnoy: Right. And you left in ’86. Burt didn’t leave for almost another 20 years. They couldn’t fire him, because you wrote a letter. Not that they would.
Andy Ockershausen: They would have fired him.
Steven Portnoy: Oh, geez.
Andy Ockershausen: He was a part of the show. He ingraciated himself. He was the best guy we ever had doing football, because he became part of the team, you know? Frank, Sam, and Sonny, and Burt, and that’s the way it was. He was with them, and they were all like this. And having that technician was so important to the broadcast.
A Little WMAL Trivia – The Music Library
Steven Portnoy: Right. Speaking of which, as I look across the glass into what was then the WMAL master control room when I first started here in 2003, I remember when I first started. There were literally still racks of carts on the wall with the Barbara Mandrell and the Johnny Mathis songs still on them. And I think it was Randall Bloomquist was the PD who finally insisted that those carts had to go away. I thought it was the coolest thing, that the music library was still in the studio. Just in case. Because you never really know.
Andy Ockershausen: A music library was very important. Janice ran the library for a while. We used to have problem with the morning show, with the music, so I made Frank … Before Janice got in touch of it, take Bill Trumbull’s music from the day before, and play it the next morning.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Flip it over. Play it in a different order.
Steven Portnoy: First, right.
Andy Ockershausen: The audience was always different. It was an a.m. show and a p.m. show, so we flipped it over. Made it so much easier. I said, “Don’t be a genius. He’s already a genius. Take his playlist, pick it up, and play it.” And they did. It made it easy for them. But they didn’t play much music. Maybe three to four times an hour, they’d have music.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And the hymn and the march.
Steven Portnoy: Of course. Yes.
Harden and Weaver’s March and Hymn
Andy Ockershausen: That was not music. That was public service.
Steven Portnoy: What was behind that? Whose idea was that, and why did you keep doing it?
Andy Ockershausen: I think it came about … it sort of grow out of its own. I think they played the band one morning, and somebody called them and said, “That was great. We love band …” I love band music. I thought it was great.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And it was also a chance for Jack to use his character, The Senator.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, he could take off, you know. And the hymn was doing something that they felt good for people early in the morning, to have a hymn.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: And in the early ’80s, we tried to take the hymn and the march away, and there was a public revolt.
Steven Portnoy: Huge uproar.
Andy Ockershausen: They came out of the woodwork.
Steven Portnoy: You invoked the name Ken Beatrice a few minutes ago. What was it like working with Ken?
Andy Ockershausen: Listened to him in WBZ in Boston at night, and we had tapes of him. I said, “This guy’s got the worst voice I’ve ever heard. He sounds like he just got out of a lobster pot.” But he’s authoritative. He thinks he knows what he’s talking about, so let’s give him a shot.
Ken Beatice Entertained His Audience, Everyone but Tony Kornheiser
Steven Portnoy: Yeah. About that, what happened with him and Tony Kornheiser? Do you remember that?
Andy Ockershausen: I don’t know what happened, but Kornheiser did a lot of research, and couldn’t find these scouts. And he went through hell with it, and Ken got really upset and decided that he couldn’t take it, so he got sick; mental sick.
Andy Ockershausen: But I told Tony, I said, “Tony, Rodney Dangerfield doesn’t have a wife, but he talks about her all the time.” Ken doesn’t have any scouts, but he talks about it all the time. And the public likes him. Why is it a problem to you? He said, “Because the guy’s a phony.” I said, “Have you read your newspaper? It’s a phony.” I said, “You can’t criticize the man for being an entertainer. That’s what he is. Don’t look at him as a journalist.”
Steven Portnoy: As a capital “J” journalist.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s an entertainer.
Steven Portnoy: Right.
Ben Bradlee Listened in to Ken Beatrice on the Ride Home
Andy Ockershausen: And the people love him. There was a big guy at the Washington Post. You remember the name of Ben Bradlee?
Steven Portnoy: I do.
Andy Ockershausen: Told me, he said, “Many times …” He would listen. He was driving to the office, because he lived out in the suburbs before he got married for the second or third time.
Steven Portnoy: Oh geez.
Andy Ockershausen: And he would drive home. He said, “Some nights, I’d sit in the parking … in the garage, or the entrance to the garage, listening to Ken to see, what is he going to do next?” About his scouts. What did he say about these people? He said, “I waited to hear what he was going to do. And then I went into the house.” That’s pretty good testimony.
Steven Portnoy: As we speak, last night … Literally, just last night, I was sitting at home, watching on HBO, The Post. The movie with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks about Watergate. And obviously, you see Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, driving in his car through the streets of downtown DC. He’s listening to the radio. They should have approached to see if they could get an air check at WMAL, if one exists, from the air.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: That would have been very cool.
Andy Ockershausen: Who made that movie?
Steven Portnoy: Some guy named Spielberg, I think.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Oh, okay.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: We used people at the Post. They used us, even though we were the Star station. That was a friendly rivalry until television killed the Evening Star. You know that?
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Two things; traffic, we talked about that. They had a tough time delivering the afternoon paper.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, of course.
Andy Ockershausen: And then the viewership. They were watching television. They didn’t have time to read the paper.
Steven Portnoy: But this radio station also did a lot of news in the evening, right? You had an hour long news hour, right? In the early ’70s.
WMAL Was A “Mixed-Up Conglomerate of Nothing I’ve Ever Heard” – But It Worked
Andy Ockershausen: We did Today in Congress with Joe McCaffrey. Paid commercial, half hour, every single night congress was in session. Unheard of. People would come to Washington and say, “I listen to your station. It’s the most mixed-up conglomerate of nothing I’ve ever heard.”
Jazz and Ed Walker’s Playlist
Steven Portnoy: And then Jazz at seven.
Andy Ockershausen: He said, “What are you doing?” He said, “You got a guy on Sunday that’s dead, named Ed Walker, playing music that nobody’s ever heard before.” I said, “His audience has heard it. They listen to it.” Ed Walker was another talent. He had his own radio show, playing old music.
Steven Portnoy: God bless him. How about that? And for those who don’t know, was blind. How did he operate a radio show? How did he read copy? Braille typewriter, the whole bit.
Andy Ockershausen: Fabulous story.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah. Let me ask you, what do you make of podcasting? You’ve been at it for a while.
Andy Ockershausen: Janice has suggested to me, “We ought to do a podcast because we know so much and have so many things going.” And I said, “What’s a podcast?” She was going to help me. It was summer two years ago, I’d never heard the word. And then, we simplified it, but made it a radio without a transmitter. It’s a radio show, and we tape it and put it out there. But now it can be delivered in 4,000 different ways. I think it’s the future. But the future is now.
Ric Edelman – Brought People to the Station with Excellent Programming
Andy Ockershausen: We quote Ric Edelman, who’s one of our stalwarts. In addition to the talent, we had people like Ric Edelman. It’s talent on this radio station. Now, he brought something else that we’d never thought of before.
Steven Portnoy: Brokered programming. No.
Andy Ockershausen: No, the thing-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: It was. Yeah, it was a first for us.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, sure.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: He was the model.
Andy Ockershausen: He brought people to the radio.
Steven Portnoy: But also good programming.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Excellent program. As a matter of fact, I think John Lyon discovered Ric Edelman as a guest on his show. And then, I was listening to … And then he came as an advertiser on the station. And then, I convinced Jim Gallant, after a year’s worth of working on him, that Ric Edelman deserved his own radio show. He was on every Saturday morning right before Paul Harvey.
Steven Portnoy: And now, it’s a national show.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: It is a national show.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, he’s got 80-some markets, I think, with that.
Steven Portnoy: Huge.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, ABC.
Andy Ockershausen: Paul Harvey is another voice out of the blue. But he was a big part of WMAL. He was a big part of our morning show, even though he was in Chicago, because Frank and Jackson would talk about him. And guess what? He started talking about us.
Steven Portnoy: That’s true.
Andy Ockershausen: It was incredible. Paul Harvey. We just had so much talent. Michael Collins doing his show about …
Steven Portnoy: The law.
Andy Ockershausen: The law. But he has a great theme, doesn’t he?
Steven Portnoy: Oh, it’s the LA Law theme.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, the LA Law theme. And he’s in titles and settlements-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Estate planning, wills, and trusts.
Steven Portnoy: And probate. Exactly, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a talent.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: They came to us.
Steven Portnoy: But that ties into what you were saying earlier about the importance of good creative. Making sure that if people are on the radio station to sell a product, that they do it in a way that is not going to scare off or alienate the audience.
WMAL – Programming Driven By What Andy O Wanted to Hear
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Steve, I got to tell you, the beauty about Andy was, and what made this radio station so great, is he was just … He was dictating what he wanted to hear. That’s the beauty of our radio station, because he had such a wide range of interests and a variety of things that he was interested in. All the talent at WMAL, really he directed it, doing it for his likes and dislikes.
Steven Portnoy: Was that any more difficult, Andy, after 1977, ’78, when ABC came in and bought the station from Evening Star?
Andy Ockershausen: No, no. They were better. They were broadcasters. They were better to work with than the Star. And they brought their talent to us too, you know? I had a deal with, what’s his name?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Ted Koppel?
Roone Arledge | Ted Koppel | News Entertainment
Andy Ockershausen: I had a deal with Ted Koppel.
Steven Portnoy: I’ve heard of him. Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, sure.
Andy Ockershausen: He and I had to come to an agreement. He was going to do an interview with Trumbull and Core four or five times a week. Talk about what’s coming up, and so forth.
Steven Portnoy: Like a promo for Nightline.
Andy Ockershausen: He said, “I better check this out. Roone doesn’t want me to do it.”
Steven Portnoy: Oh. Roone Arledge, the . . .
Andy Ockershausen: A legend. The people criticize Arledge because they put him in news, and they said, “Well, he’s a sports guy.” No, no. Arledge was an entertainment guy.
Steven Portnoy: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: He believed that news was entertainment.
Steven Portnoy: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: And that changed the whole complexion of the news group company. You got to entertain people with the news.
Steven Portnoy: And not just changed, but change for the better. ABC was never what it was after Roone left.
Andy Ockershausen: No, I know that. They’re a genius.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Affiliation ChChChChanges – It’s a Crazy Business
Andy Ockershausen: But Steven, you’re doing so great with CBS. They got all that talent now, but I’m still mixed up by listening to Channel 4. It used to have CBS news. Now, they got ABC news.
Steven Portnoy: On Channel four?
Andy Ockershausen: No, on WTOP.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: WTOP.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, I know. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: What is that all about?
Steven Portnoy: I don’t know. That’s our crazy business.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you get what you can get. There must be some money involved.
Steven Portnoy: But it is. . .well, yes. But talk about the craziness of our business, I never thought I’d see a day where WABC in New York was not an ABC affiliate, but that’s where we are.
Andy Ockershausen: Radio 77.
Steven Portnoy: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: Isn’t that incredible?
Steven Portnoy: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: WTOP was not a CBS affiliate.
Steven Portnoy: Yeah, 85 years.
Andy Ockershausen: I don’t know why. I’m going to find out from Joel why they fell apart. I don’t know. That was because they owned a radio station here. 88.1.
That’s a Wrap!
Steven Portnoy: Oh, we’re getting the wrap queue.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but you’re used to it, I’m not.
Steven Portnoy: Ken wants me to sign off, because I hijacked the show.
Andy Ockershausen: You can do it.
Steven Portnoy: Oh, you want me to do it?
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Steven Portnoy: All right. I don’t know the formatics, but I’ll say it. This is Our Town. This is Steven Portnoy interviewing Andy Ockershausen.
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