Nationwide hunt is on for the new Tom Marr Big game: WCBM-AM is casting its nets far and wide -- and even locally -- in its attempt to replace its longtime mainstay.

On the Air

April 07, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

How do you replace a 30-year-old broadcasting institution?

If you're WCBM-AM (680), and the institution you're trying to replace is local mainstay Tom Marr, you scour the nation -- but don't neglect your own back yard.

The nation part explains why you've been hearing a bunch of new voices on the air from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily for the past several weeks. So far, four hosts -- including one that's really a team of two guys -- have had a week each to convince WCBM's listeners and management that they deserve to replace Mr. Marr, who left Baltimore in February for a radio job in Philadelphia.

So far, the tryouts have included George Dail, already a frequent fill-in host on the station; Mark Wainwright, a Baltimore native who has done talk radio in Philadelphia and New York City; Bob Kwesell, who has worked for WRC in Washington and at stations in Raleigh, N.C., and Indianapolis; and the duo of Paul Bicknell and Gary St. Ours, who worked as a team for American Radio Network out of Baltimore until it folded about three years ago.

Roger Simon, a former columnist for The Sun, will fill in the week of April 15.

But the real fun starts tomorrow, when five just-plain-Joes, who responded to advertisements and on-air promotions by sending in resumes and tapes, each get a one-day audition. Although the names of the finalists culled from some 250 potential hosts were not available at press time, WCBM program director Brian Casey promised some interesting voices and personalities.

"We're looking for people who are not afraid to have an opinion on the air," Mr. Casey explains, "not necessarily an expert, but someone who can be an entertainer and who can have fun on the radio and actually [serve as] a conduit who promotes and stimulates thought."

While scouring your listening audience for a new talk-radio host is certainly a grand publicity gimmick, WCBM's search is more than that, Mr. Casey says. It's an effort to get some new blood into a profession that could use it.

"I had just come in from a talk-radio seminar two weeks prior to Tom leaving," Mr. Casey says, "and one of the main topics was finding new personalities around the country."

The emphasis on nonstop music at so many stations, he believes, is making it harder for radio to establish personalities, to find people who are more than mere ciphers when the microphone is on.

"The industry is now bringing forth people who are comfortable reading cards, but not necessarily comfortable being personalities. We're looking for people who can be articulate and passionate in their beliefs, people who can entertain, inform, persuade and inspire, and can do all that within the confines of a talk-radio program. It's tough finding somebody who can do all of that."

Some people who sent in applications had second thoughts after being approached and asked to actually go on the air, Mr. Casey notes. Which is better than the people who have their second thoughts when the mike is turned on -- like the guy who was the host for a travel show on WCBM back in 1988, ran out of things to say in about five minutes, got up and left.

"You just don't know what you're getting," says Mr. Casey, who had to fill the time himself on that travel show, and has no desire to repeat his performance as a beyond-the-last-second replacement.

The folks at WCBM hope to have their new host in place by the first week in May.

Changing owners

Manhattan-based Infinity Broadcasting is buying two Baltimore radio stations as part of a $400 million deal.

Both WXYV-FM (102.7) and WCAO-AM (600) were owned by Dallas-based Summit Broadcasting Corp. Once the deal is completed, Infinity will operate 45 stations nationwide.

Neither station plans to change its basic format. WXYV plays predominantly black artists, while WCAO concentrates on gospel.

WJZ news

Two bits of news from the folks at WJZ, Channel 13:

"Brother to Sister & Sister, Too: Baltimore Youth TV," featuring the video work of 27 middle-school students from the Baltimore area, will air from 11 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. today.

Four students will be interviewed by WJZ's Kai Jackson as part of the program: Shawna Grady, from Mount Royal Middle School; Jerome Alexander, from Harlem Park Community School; Joseph Held, of Canton Middle School; and Melanie Sentz, of Hamilton Middle School.

Students from Fallstaff Middle School also will have their work featured on the show.

The 27 students participated in the Maryland Institute, College of Art's Baltimore Youth Television (BYT) project.

WJZ will be joining the weekend morning news show wars beginning in July, with a program airing from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sundays.

The show will use a format similar to the weekday-morning "Rise & Shine/Morning Edition," with hosts Marty Bass and Don Scott. Hosts for the weekend show have not been chosen yet.

The move puts WJZ on equal footing with WBAL, Channel 11, and WMAR, Channel 2, which already have weekend shows in place. WBAL has programs that run from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sundays, while WMAR airs a Sunday news show from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Pub Date: 4/07/96

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