When the American Public Radio Network asked Jim Russell to design a financial news radio show, he responded bluntly: "Did you guys know I got a 'D' in college economics?"
But he took the job anyway, and on Monday, the resulting program, "Marketplace," celebrates its sixth anniversary on the air. (It is heard at 6 p.m. weekdays on WAMU-FM [88.5] and at 6:30 p.m. weekdays on WJHU-FM [88.1].)
"Business and economics are regarded by most of us as so horribly dull, I regarded it as a challenge I just couldn't forgo," relates Mr. Russell, the show's executive producer, in a telephone interview during a holiday vacation in Florida.
The goal of "Marketplace," he explains, was to provide business news for a much wider audience than business people.
"All we really want to do is provide a picture of the economy that I as a listener can get my arms around," he says, adding he fully expected the show to last no more than a year or two.
He moved his family to Los Angeles from Minneapolis/St. Paul, where he was station director of the cities' public television operations. Previously, Mr. Russell was among the original voices of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
In the early days of "Marketplace," he recalls, "I felt like Castro and the guerrillas up in the mountains."
But he says the show, whose host and senior editor is David Brancaccio, not only clicked with its target audience of nonbusiness people, but those within the business world as well.
"If we aimed at just CEOs, that would be maybe 500 people, and that's not enough to sustain it for a week. . . . But we found out that everybody's in business and everybody's involved in commerce in some way," he says.
The program is now heard by an estimated 2.2 million listeners, airing on 270 stations in the United States and also on Armed Forces Radio.
Musical ghosts of New Year's Eves past, as well as greetings from present jazz figures, including Mel Torme and George Shearing, return to John Tegler's annual special edition of "Jazz Straight Ahead," from 9 to 2 a.m. tonight on WEAA-FM (88.9).
Vintage big band holiday performances from Mr. Tegler's collection of recordings also include this year a segment taped on New Year's Eve 1985 at Ethel's Place, the defunct Baltimore jazz club owned by singer Ethel Ennis. Among the musicians featured are Joe Williams, Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Toots Thielmans, Mickey Roker, Ray Brown and Cedar Walters.
And Mr. Tegler says then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer will be heard counting down the seconds to the New Year.
Catching up on some new voices on the air, and old, familiar voices in new places:
* Brian Wilson, once part of the top-rated "bad boys" team "Brian and O'Brien" at the old B-104, is getting a regular talk slot on WCBM-AM (680), after frequent appearances in recent months. Beginning Monday, he will take the 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekday position at Talk 680. Tom Marr moves to 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Les Kinsolving moves to 9 p.m., and the venerable "Conference Call," with host Ken Maylath, moves back to its original position, from noon to 1 p.m.
* Jo Jo Girard and Kenny Campbell are the new morning team at WWMX-FM (106.5), hosts of what the station calls a "humorous yet informative" show. Mr. Girard comes to Baltimore from WSNX-FM in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Mr. Campbell was on the air most recently at WLTF-FM in Cleveland.
Also at WWMX, Greg Carpenter has taken up the afternoon drive position, pushing Mark Williams from that slot to the morning drive time on sister station the Colt (104.3). Mr. Carpenter has been heard recently filling in the afternoon drive slot on WMIX and also doing traffic reports in the morning on The Colt.
* "Rico and Bert" recently made their debut as the new morning team on WXCY-FM (103.7), the 50,000-watt country music station based in Havre de Grace. They are Rico Richards, who has been the station's midday announcer, and Bert Clay, who has been the morning sidekick since September. Former morning voice Libby Cole moved to middays.
Aircheck is a weekly column of news and highlights from the local radio airwaves. To submit potential items, write: Aircheck, attn. Steve McKerrow, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; or fax (410) 783-2519.